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Celebrating the rise of the humble coffee bean

By Pete Madeley | Dining out | Published:

Tea lovers look away...coffee has officially taken over as the nation’s favourite hot tipple.

Given the popularity of café culture, it is perhaps not surprising us Brits now buy twice as many cups of coffee than tea when we are out socialising.

But it is something of a shock that we are also spending more money on the humble black bean in supermarkets.

Overall, tea consumption has dropped by nearly 20 per cent since 2010 as coffee sales have headed in the opposite direction.

And while the expansion of chains such as Starbucks and Costa is evidence of coffee’s growing appeal, there has also been a huge rise in the number of independent coffee houses.

Here in the West Midlands coffee is on the up, with cafés appearing across the patch that specialise in high quality artisan brews served by highly skilled baristas.

To celebrate our new found obsession with the java, the region has even got its own coffee festival, the second annual running of which is due to take place in Birmingham next month.

It is the brainchild of Dudley internet entrepreneur Joshua Burchell and his coffee blender business partner Tom McCormack, who have lined up more than 40 exhibitors, demonstrations by world class baristas, musicians and tasting competitions for the three-day event geared towards celebrating all that is great about coffee.

Tom, who runs Kingswinford-based Cole & Mac Coffee Roasters and last month opened the Blends Coffee House in Stourbridge, said that coffee houses had gone some way to replacing local pubs in modern day Britain.

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“The pub used to be a place for people to gather and enjoy a pint, and coffee shops have stepped in to fill the breach,” he said.

“It is the new thing to do. There is a personal touch in many of these places, where people can go and feel at home but still get hold of some great tasting coffee.”

He says the health aspect of coffee has also attracted people to the drink. Researchers believe coffee is good for the digestive system and lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.

It also contains plenty of antioxidants, nutrients which can repair cell damage and reduce inflammation – the driving force behind illnesses including heart disease and stroke.

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And business is booming at Blends Coffee House on New Road. Within a few weeks of opening Tom says he had to take on extra staff to cope with demand.

While his latest venture is aimed at families, Tom is looking at the possibility of opening another coffee shop elsewhere which caters for a more artisan crowd. “Instant coffee is on its way out and there is definitely a growing interest in things like ‘legit’ coffee and cold-brewed coffee,” he said. “There is a growing number of people who want to see coffee made in front of them with a bit of care and attention and not just poured out of a machine in 20 seconds

“They are happy to spend a bit more time and money and buy into the theatre of it all.”

Looking ahead to the festival, Joshua says he hopes to build on last year’s event which drew 3,000 people through its doors, with some coming from as far afield as Paris.

“The festival is all about showcasing the humble bean and to provide a platform for traders to show off their diverse range of coffees, cakes, breads, front of house, coffee machines and alternative beverages,” he said.

“Spiced turmeric latte, exotic chocolate drinks and teas along with special treats for vegans will also feature alongside speciality coffee brews from all over the world.”

l Birmingham Coffee Festival takes place from 10am to 6pm at the Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Digbeth from June 8 to 10. For tickets visit birminghamcoffeefestival.com or pay on the door.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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