Bean there, done that

UK coffee culture owes much to a tiny country on the other side of the world

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The high quality coffee on offer at the likes of Sheffield’s Tamper has become such a fixture in our cities that few stop to think where the influence has come from.

Outstripping the likes of Costa and Starbucks for flavour and no more expensive – although not cheap – indie coffee shops have flourished in recent years, and it’s been driven in part by aficionados from Australia and New Zealand.

According to the British Coffee Association, coffee consumption hit 95 million cups a day in 2018, an increase of 25 million cups in a decade. But that’s still less than the tiny country of New Zealand, which ranks as the 13th highest consumer of coffee in the word, above not only the UK, but Australia, Canada and even the US.

The now ubiquitous flat white, less diluted than a latte, arrived in the UK from the Antipodes in 2005 – with New Zealand and Australia both laying claim to the innovation. In 2011, New Zealander Jon Perry and his wife Natalie moved to Sheffield and opened Tamper Coffee, capturing the Kiwi tradition of taking time over coffee, not merely grabbing a caffeine hit on the go.

“We lived in Auckland together for about 10 years and we loved the Kiwi cafe scene,” says Natalie. “I’m from Sheffield, where we met in 1995. We were always frustrated with the lack of cafes in Sheffield when we would come back to visit my family. You just couldn’t get a decent coffee anywhere back then
so we decided to open our own.

“I think what is different is the attention to detail. Kiwi cafes just seem to get it all right – unusual but simple products served by knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff.”

Tamper’s success has led to it opening two new locations.

In Manchester, Pot Kettle Black has also expanded, after opening in Barton Arcade in 2014. Its founders are rugby league stars Jon Wilkin and the Australian Mark Flanagan. Players like Flanagan from Australasia are responsible for spreading coffee culture among their northern teammates who more traditionally have relaxed with a pint of lager.

David Burton, owner of Jack’s Coffee in Auckland and president of the New Zealand Speciality Coffee Association (NZSCA), says the coffee industry took off in his country after a late start. As coffee roasters flourished, each tried to improve on the quality, setting a high standard early on. New Zealand now has more roasters per capita than anywhere in the world and some of them have made the move to the UK, including companies Allpress and Ozone.

Burton says his members adhere to high levels of quality control at every level of production, from growing to roasting to brewing, and he adds that New Zealand milk is high quality too.

“There has been a slight increase in single origin coffee and that’s mainly because roasters are beginning to open their own cafes,” Burton tells Big Issue North. “They are using these not only as a place to sell their coffee and increase brand awareness, but some of them also have areas to sell a range of origins through different filter systems. So customers have the choice to go to the main board and order their regular flat white, or go somewhere else in the store and order a Nicaraguan filter or espresso.”

Ozone coffee roasters set up in London in 2007. “There was an independent coffee shop culture emerging and roasters and baristas were pushing boundaries and breaking new ground,” says chief operating officer Lizzie Gurr. “There were amazing coffees being imported, specialty roasteries were on the rise and there were world barista champions hailing from a tea drinking nation. We couldn’t not be part of that,”

She adds that it is an important part of the UK set-up that customers understand they work with farmers to ensure a sustainable future.

Back in Sheffield, Natalie agrees with Burton about the need for high-quality milk to make lattes and flat whites, and believes Kiwi-style hospitality will continue to grow.

“The New Zealand and Australia cafe scene as a whole is a real source of inspiration to still be tapped into. We were lucky to experience it first hand for so long and continue to do so when we return to visit our family and friends there. Their approach to everything in hospitality is exceptional and the UK still has a long way to go.”

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