how the uK drinks coffee
The popularity of coffee in the United Kingdom has increased dramatically in recent years. Only a decade ago, the UK's coffee consumption peaked at around 70 million cups per day. However, up to date research carried out by the British Coffee Association shows that the UK is now enjoying 98 million cups of coffee every single day.
By comparison, the UK Tea and Infusions Association states that tea, the nation's favourite beverage since the 1750s, is currently being consumed at a rate of 100 million cups each day. If the trend for drinking aromatic coffee continues, could the unthinkable happen and coffee actually replace tea as the national hot drink?
Coffee Consumption per Capita in the UK
The annual coffee consumption per capita in the United Kingdom is currently standing at 2.9 kilograms. But how does that compare with the rest of the world?
America has been famous for coffee drinking ever since the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Today, the average American currently consumes approximately 4.4 kilograms of coffee per year.
Over the border in Canada, coffee consumption per capita is even higher, standing at 6.5 kilograms. However, the North American love of coffee is completely overshadowed by Finland where an astonishing 12 kilograms of coffee per head are enjoyed every year! In fact, Nordic countries occupy five of the top six spots when it comes to annual coffee consumption per person.
Average Coffee Consumption Per Capita (kg)
Why is the UK Turning to Coffee?
According to the latest research, British consumers appear to be transferring their allegiance from tea to coffee. A major influence could be the caffeine content. Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in plants such as coffee beans and tea leaves. It is well known for increasing concentration and alertness. Tea has been traditionally enjoyed for its invigorating qualities, gained from around 11 mg of caffeine per cup.
Coffee is even more stimulating. On average, it contains around 40 mg of caffeine per serving. However, while coffee is believed to offer a number of health benefits, nutritional experts warn that it's relatively easy to overdose on caffeine and recommend limiting its intake by drinking only four cups of coffee per day.
Caffeine Content by drink type
The most popular time for enjoying an invigorating cup of coffee is during a mid-morning break when attention spans begin to decrease. Breakfast and lunch are the next most popular times, although not everyone shares the same preference. 90% of older people prefer coffee first thing in the morning while younger people are more likely to wait until midday.
Average Coffee Consumers in the UK
Recent research has discovered a few interesting facts about the United Kingdom's coffee drinking habits. To begin with, 80% of UK households purchase coffee, but surprisingly, it's the older generations that are drinking the most.
Baby Boomers aged between 53 years and 71 years, and Traditionalists aged 72 years or more, are all enjoying an average of 2.2 cups of coffee each day. Not far behind are people aged between 38 years and 52 years who belong to Generation X. They manage a daily intake of 2.1 cups of coffee. Youngsters in the Generation Z and Millennial age groups of up to 37 years of age, are the most restrained, and only drink between 0.5 and 1.3 cups of coffee each day.
However, it appears that some people in the UK are finding it much easier to adjust to drinking tantalisingly aromatic coffee than others. A recent investigation carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research discovered that 6% of people can't resist drinking at least six cups of coffee every day.
Meanwhile, the average Brit likes to drink around two cups of coffee a day. However, there is still a stubborn 30% of people in the UK who prefer to completely avoid coffee altogether. One other interesting fact that has emerged, is that men turn to coffee drinking more often than women, at a rate of 54% to 46%.
Average weekly expenditure on coffee in the UK
Why Coffee is Becoming More Popular in the UK
A clue to coffee's surge in popularity lies in the type of coffee that is being drunk, with around 75% of the UK's coffee intake consisting of instant coffee. This type of powdered or granulated coffee has been dried and roasted before being ground. It is incredibly quick and easy to make. It often takes less than thirty seconds for a cup of instant coffee to be ready for drinking. Tea has to steep for around four minutes for its flavours to be released.
However, the 25% of coffee enthusiasts in the UK who prefer to drink connoisseur blends made from freshly roasted coffee beans, argue that there is more to coffee drinking than impatience. Coffee has an immense range of rich yet subtle flavours depending on where the beans are grown and how they are roasted.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are two main types of coffee bean; Arabica (Caffea Arabica) and Robusta (Caffea Canephora Robusta). Arabica is the most popular, contributing to approximately 70% of global supplies. It's generally smooth and sweet with a hint of chocolate. Robusta has a much stronger, bitter taste.
The Fairtrade Foundation lists almost seventy coffee growing countries. These are mostly located around the equator where the climate is consistently warm, growing a range of FairTrade coffee for the UK market. However, the worldwide coffee growing industry is dominated by just four countries, namely Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Together, they produce up to 70% of the world's coffee beans.
Coffee plants can reach a height of six feet although like tea bushes, they are often pruned to half that size to make them easier to manage. Coffee bushes generally have a lifespan of between forty and fifty years, with some plants surviving for a century.
It takes between three and five years for a coffee plant to mature and begin producing coffee beans. Up to five pounds of green coffee beans can be harvested from a single plant each year. After the beans have been dried and roasted, they usually weigh just one pound.
Most Popular Types of Coffee in the UK
At least two-thirds of the coffee that's enjoyed in the UK is made with milk. Up to 90% of milky coffee drunk in the UK is either a latte or a cappuccino. What's the difference? A latte contains a small amount of foamed milk and a high proportion of steamed milk that's evenly distributed throughout the coffee. A cappuccino has less steamed milk and a definitive top layer of milk that's been worked into a creamy froth, and is one of the most popular types of coffee drinks in the UK.
Dark, rich espresso coffee is regularly drunk by around 13% of people in the UK. It's often served after an evening meal. A quarter of the UK's coffee drinkers prefer to grind their own coffee beans to ensure they produce the highest levels of flavour and freshness. The most popular strength is a medium roast, which produces a well-balanced flavour often with hints of caramel for sweetness.
Where is Coffee Drunk in the UK?
Coffee is enjoyed throughout the UK, but coffee drinking is more popular in some cities than others. Norwich scores top marks for coffee drinking per head, closely followed by Loughborough and Peterborough.
Other cities that adore coffee include Southampton, Manchester and Glasgow. However, London is the best place to head for to enjoy a speciality brew, as perhaps unsurprisingly it boasts the most number of coffee shops in the UK at 1495.
When it comes to the places people prefer for coffee drinking, 65% of the UK public simply drink their favourite coffee in their own home. Three-quarters of them usually turn to instant coffee.
Up to 25% of the UK's coffee consumption is enjoyed during breaks while at work or as an accompaniment to studying. In spite of the high proliferation of coffee shops in every city, just 10% of people drink their coffee in them on a regular basis.
Growth Of Coffee Shops In The UK
Brighton, on the south coast of England, claims to be the 'coffee capital' of the UK. It has 363 officially registered coffee shops serving a population of around 280,000. Coffee shops seem to be a new phenomenon, yet they first appeared in England in the seventeenth century.
The very first coffee shop opened in Oxford in 1650. It quickly became popular with students and intellectuals. Sir Christopher Wren who designed St. Paul's Cathedral was reputedly a frequent visitor. They spent their time in deep discussions about a range of topics while drinking a penny's worth of coffee.
By 1652, the first coffee house in London opened in Cornhill's St. Michael's Alley. Within a few years, at least 500 such coffee shops had been established, they became important centres for hearing the latest news, debating politics and sharing innovative ideas. Modern coffee shops are similar as they have become ideal for socialising.
Size Of The UK Coffee Market
A prime example is Starbucks, the most famous chain of coffee shops in the UK. It was originally founded in the American city of Seattle in 1971. The first UK Starbucks opened in Chelsea in 1998 and has since become so popular that there are now 748 of them. Current statistics state that 80% of customers in the UK's coffee shops visit once a week. 16% prefer to spend some time there every day.
According to a 2022 study, the coffee market in the United Kingdom has a promising future. There are currently around 26,000 coffee shops, including cafes, throughout the UK. During this year, the sector has enjoyed a 2.5% increase in revenue. Using a range of methods to increase profits, coffee shops have seen a general growth rate of 0.5% over the last five years, from 2017 to 2022, While the recent pandemic and economic climate may have taken their toll, the figures show a significant upward trend, which looks set to continue into the next year.
The Coffee Industry in the UK
The UK coffee industry's Gross Value-Added contribution is worth around £9.1 billion to the British economy. For every cup of coffee produced, its value of approximately 76% benefits the UK economy.
There are more than 210,000 people employed in the UK's coffee industry. Many serve in coffee shops, but others are involved in manufacturing and maintaining various coffee machines. Although the majority of items used for coffee are made abroad, there are still a small number of companies that manufacture coffee grinders, espresso and cappuccino machines in the United Kingdom.
Many of the United Kingdom's coffee drinkers have very particular preferences. For instance, organic coffee has grown in popularity and now has a market share of almost £2.8 billion. This translates as an increase of 4.5% compared to the previous five years.
Ecology and the environment are important influences in how many British coffee enthusiasts select their favourite brands. Coffee drinkers in the UK make a significant contribution of approximately 12% per annum to global Fairtrade coffee organisations.
The UK Coffee Market
Coffee consumption in the UK is flourishing. Instant coffee is always sure to be a great favourite, but grinding coffee beans at home is on the increase due to the availability of inexpensive, compact machines designed for home use.
Coffee shops have enjoyed huge interest from customers who want to socialise while drinking their favourite cappuccino, latte or speciality roast.
The financial forecast for the coffee industry appears healthy, with current statistics revealing significant growth. The trend for coffee indicates it could soon be more popular than tea.