If you think the coffee house is a new phenomenon, you might be surprised to learn that the first one opened in Damascus as long ago as 1530. Hitherto a secret known only within the admittedly not insubstantial borders of the Ottoman Empire, by the mid seventeenth century they had spread to such diverse locations as Venice in Italy and Oxford in England.
Of course it was still to be a long time before coffee houses dominated our high streets in the way that they do today, both in the guise of giant chains and of quaint independent shops. As is so often the case, supply has been fueled to a large extent by demand, although there is an argument that at least to some degree the inverse has been the case. Whichever it may be, nobody can dispute the impact that coffee has had on our culture in the twenty-first century.
Instant Coffees from the Supermarket Shelf Are No Longer Enough
But it isn’t just about quantity. According to Forbes, the National Coffee Association (NCA) has reported that 59% of the coffee consumed in the United States would be classified as being of the “gourmet” variety. Where once coffee was a fairly standard drink whether sourced from the supermarket shelf or the local café, we have in more recent years become far more sophisticated in our tastes. “Artisan coffees” are much the rage today, with specialist providers at pains to stress their own expertise.
Many suppliers concentrate their entire focus on providing for the gourmet market. One such is Anthony’s Espresso Equipment at https://www.anthonysespresso.com/Coffee, which sells not only specialty coffees but also an exhaustive range of equipment for making it, and parts for maintaining and servicing that equipment.
The Coffee Revolution Has a Place for Small Business
Whilst it is perhaps inevitable that much of the increased demand for coffee is being met by the mega chains such as Starbucks and Costa, there will always be many consumers who instinctively baulk at feeding the monsters and will naturally gravitate towards the small, friendly family-run outlet. The small shop accounts for a significant proportion of the coffee trade, defiantly clinging on to its market share and offering a refreshing alternative to bland corporatism which some find attractive.
What is significant is that even the small players are competing in the large and growing market that is gourmet coffee. Little shop need not mean little choice, as the means through which to offer variety become more widely available as opposed to remaining the sole preserve of an elite. Independent suppliers such as Anthony’s have played an important role in making the playing field more level and providing the tools with which independent outlets can compete.
The winner is inevitably the consumer, who has the choice of sticking with the certainty of the universally recognized brand or of seeking out the quiet shop on the corner offering quality coffees along with its own unique ambiance.