The spread and popularity of Britain’s chain coffee shops would be nothing without its counterpart – the independents. With every clean-cut Costa, Caffe Nero, and Starbucks store you see, there’s likely to be a cozy little hole in the wall nearby, offering a very different experience. Rivaling the big competition, indie coffee shops are being rolled out all over London, and with one likely to be coming to a high street near you: is an indie coffee shop to be preferred?
The nation’s favourite coffee shops are currently run by the big chains. There are just approximately 2000 Costa operated stores in the UK alone, as well as over 1500 Starbucks and Caffe Nero outlets combined. While there are only a total of 2000 indie coffee shops in the UK. But there is a reason why we tend to side with the big chains. While your gut may be telling you to support your local and smaller businesses in defeating the capitalist monster, that is international corporations, you should first think of you. The decision requires a degree of selfishness, and a consideration of the things you hold dear as a habitual coffee drinker.
So with that being said, if you’re anything like me, and the no-nonsense and accessible approach to coffee is important to you, then stick with your favourite chain. Whether you opt for Starbucks, Pret A Manger or my personal favourite, Caffe Nero, these chain coffee shops are easy to access, and provide an ‘easy’ experience overall. The quick in and out experience often created by a chain coffee shop is appealing. The venues of these chains are generally pleasant and welcoming, sharing a typically ‘Italian coffeehouse’ interior design, with a range of comfortable seating options. Their reputation and established relationship with the public ensures a degree of trust, within their service and products. Though they aren’t overtly unique, some of the chains do have their quirks, such as the collection-by-name operation in Starbucks. Overall, a chain coffee shop provides everything a coffee drinker could ever need, a good range of choice at solid prices in a welcoming and easily accessible environment.
An independent coffee shop is perhaps the dramatic and creative sibling of the chains. The experience is exaggerated, and rather eventful in comparison. Hot beverages at an indie coffee shop might as well be served with a sprinkle of fairy dust. When you think of these stores, think of delicate little images illustrated out of the froth from your cappuccino, and admittedly, think of extortionate prices. The fact that a lot of these indie coffee shops are currently situated in inner London is a turn off, no one should have to travel far and wide for their favourite cuppa. If your the least bit indecisive like me, the range of the independent coffee shops that can be found in a Shoreditch or a Brick Lane may have you wandering the High street for hours on end trying to pick the right one. Their uniqueness also seems to be both a blessing and a curse, the experiences created by the indies hold a risk of becoming less ‘special’ upon daily or even frequent visits. This doesn’t mean that the animated atmosphere of the indies aren’t to be appreciated, everyone appreciates the extra trimmings now and then.