The plight of a good cup (I)

Well, some say it is, but how true is this really? A good coffee shop can be a multitude of things - from an epic social-inclusive space where creatives come together or a more refined and intimate platform for a more traditional audience to tuck into some literature.

Is it all in a cup?

The ambience of a coffee shop can really make all of the difference, as can the music played, the decor, the coffee, how it is roasted, where it came from as well as the decor. There are a variety of factors which ultimately can dictate the personality, branding and perception from others.

Branding can often be everything for a coffee shop, as can personal connections. Customers still tend to gravitate to brands that foster a sense of belonging to something beyond a simple transaction. Ultimately a memorable customer experience within your walls is imperative to people connecting with the brand and ultimately the product. As such, a holistic approach when considering a brand identity and strategy, as a brand is the sum product of all its interactions with a customer.

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Doing it right, some might say!

The definition and values are important to a business, as they are when you brand yourself on a personal capacity. So in an industry that has say, an uncountable amount of competitors, how do you actually stand apart from them?

Let’s take for example one of the most well known (and country that some might say loves coffee the most) - Italy and the number of coffee shops. It has been estimated that there are 6+ billion of espresso/cappuccino sold in Italy in a year. If you calculate this, with the mean of 175 espresso/cappuccino served each day by each bar/café - it suggests that there could be 100,000 to 140,000 coffee shops employing over 300,000 baristas in the country alone!

The reality of needing to stand out is real. This urge to ‘be different’ is a global trend - especially in places where a more informed coffee culture is developing. So how do you manage to do that, in cities and locations that might not have an established coffee culture, or perhaps is home to too much competition?

Coffee culture to suit everyone?

Coffee culture is the social atmosphere and social behaviours which surround coffee. The term can also refer to the diffusion and ultimate adoption of coffee as a widely consumed stimulant by a culture of peoples.

We see that in the 20th century, especially in the West and urbanised areas, espresso being an increasingly dominant form. Can you guess where it originates from? The culture around coffee, as well as the popularity of coffeehouses, dates back to 14th-century Turkish society.

After which point, the coffeehouses found in Western Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean became core social hubs, as well as centres for artistic and intellectual excellence. London became a popular meeting place for artists, writers and socialites, and was also the centre for much political and commercial activity in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In a lot of the coffee shops today, you will feel the elements of the historical coffeehouse ambience. Some of these include tastefully decorated environments or slower paced gourmet services for example. The traditional coffeehouses continue to form parts of the concept of modern coffee culture.

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So what is in a space?

Space is everything. It can breathe or suck out all of the air in a room, which when you want to create a dynamic and engaging space is really not something you want. Again, branding and design are crucial in ensuring the success of a coffee shop and business. With customers growing ever more conscious to packaging, the use of plastics, sustainability and ultimately values held - the dynamics at play is changing.

Nowadays we are seeing and participating in what some call the ‘Third Wave’ a term coined by Timothy Castle in 1999, referring to a focus on quality. This is an eclectic form of coffee culture within the modern age, which seeks and aspires to the highest form of culinary appreciation of coffee, so that one may appreciate subtleties of flavour, varietal, and growing region. It also focuses on the location of where the beans were harvested from, which conditions they came into being as well as the sustainability of such beans.

Typically one of the most distinctive features of third wave coffee is the direct trade coffee. It can also include the selling and sourcing of high-quality beans, a focus on the use of single-origin coffee, the establishment of lighter roasts, and latte art. All of this is important when considering the branding of a business, especially in such a fast developing industry that is coffee.