Manchester is a unique city. It’s certainly up there in terms of culture, architecture, music and sport and has earned its place in history many times over.
From the birth of the Industrial Revolution (born in Ancoats nonetheless), the formation of Rolls Royce, the theory and splitting of the Atom, the formation of The Football League (and home to both Manchester United and Manchester City of course) plus musical greats such as Oasis, The Smiths, New Order, Happy Mondays, James, The Stone Roses, not to mention the Hallé Orchestra (based in Ancoats) – the list goes on and on. It now seems that coffee is taking over the city in a big way!
When asked what is Britain’s choice of drink, you would reasonably expect ‘Tea’ to be the common answer and it probably still is. As a nation, we have been synonymous with the drink for centuries but coffee has certainly played an important role over time and its popularity continues to thrive and grow here in the UK.
Coffee became available in England no later than the 16th century, mainly through the trading efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company and by 1675, it is thought there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses throughout England.
During the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, these coffeehouses were ideal meeting places for the intellectuals of the time. Here they would engage deeply in discussion of their beliefs, ideas and the challenging of tradition itself via scientific study and observation. This was such a worry for the monarchy, that Charles II made an attempt to crush coffeehouses in 1675!
So the next time you sit with a friend, discussing the latest film, book, music gig or even the ‘meaning of life’ itself – just remember you are part of a centuries old tradition!
Even with all this history of coffee in Britain, it seems that as a nation, we still fall way behind others in terms of our coffee offerings and understanding. We are all aware of the existence of the big chains on the high street and for many, this is as good as coffee gets, which is a shame.
We recognise however, that these chains are if anything, educating the general public as to what constitutes a ‘Latte’, ‘Flat White’, ‘Cappucino’ etc. and as much as we are all about supporting independent businesses, many of which are springing up all over the city, this can only be a good thing in some ways.
As people’s coffee experience and knowledge develops, they will be more encouraged to try ‘that independent place on the corner’ and move away from brand association and we are certain in most cases, it will blow their socks off and alas the big high street chain will lose another customer to a better cause.
We think we are on the cusp of a retail-revolution here in Britain. People are simply getting tired of all our high streets looking the same and losing their individuality, charm and personality. I also think the ‘horsemeat scandal’ could well be the best thing to have happened to this country in some ways. It has made people far more aware of what they eat and drink, where it comes from, how it’s made/processed and we feel sure this overspill will be felt in the coffee sector.
Manchester and Melbourne
My love affair with coffee began in Melbourne when travelling a few years back and I’ll be honest, my understanding of coffee was pretty much zero up until that point. My notion of coffee was essentially a bitter, tasteless instant coffee with lots of sugar (to make it palatable) and a dash of milk – zero might be being generous actually.
What first struck me about Melbourne was the lack of high-street coffee chains and the focus on independent businesses, whether it was for that morning coffee and baked eggs on the way to catch the train/tram, lunchtime catch-ups or one on the way home – it was that virtually everyone seemed to know about the best coffee shops across the city. If they found themselves in a particular area – they knew where to go.
Whilst in Melbourne; I worked for an independent coffee company and it genuinely opened my eyes to the world of ‘speciality’ coffee, this developed into a full-blown passion and ultimately set me on my coffee-journey. I feel very privileged for having the experience, had lots of fun and met many friends along the way.
Melbourne does have a few things on it side, so to speak. During and after the Second World War, Melbourne saw a large influx of immigrants from Italy and Greece where coffee was well established. These people brought their cultures with them and this ultimately helped develop the independent coffee scene that runs through it’s veins today. It is not uncommon to see the older generation sat outside a coffee shop at 10pm or later, chatting and tucking into a coffee – obviously Manchester is a little cold for this and most people would rather be having a nice ale or wine at that time of the day (me included!) but it spoke volumes to me.
What also struck me is that whilst I was travelling there, many of those I met had the inclination to head to the UK to work and travel, primarily in London. I’m sure any of you Londoners reading this will vouch for the Aussie/Kiwi invasion! So in turn, some of these have settled and brought the independent coffee culture to our shores. London has certainly seen a revolution in independent coffee companies springing up over the last few years and it’s safe to say, many of them seem to be Aussie/Kiwi owned.
However, Manchester is definitely starting to pull its weight, Melbourne and Manchester are very similar cities in respect of the people, culture, architecture, sport and music. Recent developments for the city, such as the BBC relocating to Media City, the influx of foreign students to Manchester Universities, sporting prowess and general development of the Greater Manchester area is fueling its own little coffee revolution and Ancoats Coffee Co. is very proud to be part of it!
There are now a handful of roasters, ourselves included, based in the Greater Manchester area and with lots of exciting independent coffee shops/bars continuing to spring up in the Northern Quarter, Ancoats, Chorlton, Didsbury and elsewhere in the city, I can safely say: ‘the future is bright, the future is Manchester!’
Support local, buy local, keep your identity.