Everyday in the UK, around 55 million cups of coffee are consumed. It’s undeniable that we’re a nation who love coffee. But, let me clarify, I don’t mean quick luke warm instant coffee or even a filter coffee, no. We’re a nation who love caramel cappuccinos, flat whites with milk steamed to the perfect temperature or double shot americanos. We’re becoming a nation of coffee connoisseurs, and as a consequence, we’re drifting far far away from our historic title as the ultimate tea drinking nation.
There’s always been a large question mark around the health effects of drinking coffee, with there being a lot of conflicting evidence and so many myths about the effects of drinking it. As university students, we usually reach for a cup to give us that essential caffeine hit; whether it’s to finish an assignment, work late, preparation for going out or helping cure the hangover the next morning. Despite all the heat coffee gets, chocolate, energy drinks, tea and coca cola still have higher levels of caffeine! Yet coffee is what we turn to for a caffeine hit; ignoring all the studies which say that high levels of caffeine have a detrimental impact on our health.
This ‘Coffee Culture’ is a growing trend, with endless coffee shops constantly popping up all over the place. 80% of people who visit coffee shops, visit at least once a week and 16% visit everyday! Maybe this is because coffee shops have become trendy locations to meet friends, to hold business meetings or even just study. Although Costa and Starbucks are the two market leaders in the UK, they are not the only coffee shops filling our high streets; so many independent or smaller chains are on the increase also just to meet this growing demand.
Three years ago when I started University in Southampton, besides from Costa and Starbucks, coffee shops were a rarity – but now they’re everywhere! Meaning that the demand for coffee must have increased massively for all these stores to expand so quickly. For example, there’s the new Coffee 1 in the city centre as well as in Portswood and the new Metricks by the Guildhall as well as the two further down the high street. You might say one is most definitely spoilt for choice.
If you take, the University of Southampton campus alone there are at least 10 different outlets selling coffee; from Starbucks, to Costa to University run outlets. This variety alone sparks strong debates between students as to where the best coffee on campus can be sourced. I’ve even found myself choosing to leave the warmth of the library and venture out into blistering cold temperatures just to get that perfect cup of coffee and additional hit of caffeine to accompany me through the proceeding hours of study I have yet to conquer. Am I mad? Am I addicted?
So, what is it about coffee? Why has it become so popular? For me personally, I just love the smell and taste of coffee. Yet, it wasn’t until I went to Italy about 4 years ago that I actually started to like coffee. It’s ingrained into their culture, so you just can’t not like coffee. Almost like how tea is (or maybe was) perceived as ingrained in our own British identity. Originally in the UK, it was a cultural past time to go and have a cup of tea with friends but nowadays it’s all about the coffee and a catch up with friends (thank you America). Even if we just ignore the newfound social aspect of coffee, there’s also the rise of having coffee on the go and it becoming an inherent part of our daily routine. I’m no stranger to this since I mechanically make myself a coffee each morning – and it’s nothing to do with whether I feel like I want to drink some coffee, it’s just pure habit of mine to make some as soon as I get up. Sounding familiar?
So, what does this coffee increase really say about us as a nation – have we lost the tranquility and relaxed way of life associated with a good cup of tea? Coffee is the drink for seriously fast paced living and it’s the drink for long hours, deep concentration and hard work. So, maybe this increase in coffee shops and general coffee consumption actually reflects how we’re becoming ‘all work and no play’. Can you even remember the last time you felt truly relaxed and not focused on an endless to-do-list (without filling yourself with coffee to find the inner strength to manage it all)? So yes, coffee is on the increase; but then again, so is our stress levels – coincident? I think not.