In March, this writer was enjoying a fine meal (and wine) in a beautiful french restaurant high up in The Alps, when all of a sudden the owner dashes over to us and says ‘Enjoy your meal, as we close tonight, France is in lockdown’, this was of course in a beautiful French accent. Little did our group know, when we returned to the UK we would follow suit, along with the rest of the world. The cafe culture of France was just so ingrained into everyday life there that nobody was expecting such a move. Not many people were expecting the coronavirus either though!
A new revolution
So how shall we start a new coffee tradition which retains the true spirit of an experience while still maintaining our social distancing? Well, one way is to copy the Thai’s and their now infamous cafe 'Art of Coffee’ who have installed a rope and pulley system to deliver coffee to their patrons. It’s this kind of ingenuity that can bring the spark back to an industry that was thriving before lockdown but had become a bit dry and commercialised. It would be safe to say that folks were tiring of manufactured cafes and ‘cool’ chains. Bringing in novel techniques like these can only be a benefit to the experience, and bring back some fun and ingenuity.
Since we met Corona there has been a rise in take-out culture, but this must be complemented by a more experience led approach and a re-imagination of 'space' in our coffee shops and cafes. One of the oldest and most famous cafes in the world Café Procope re-opened in Paris to the delight of Parisians but for outdoor table service. If we are to move forward we must make more use of outdoor environments.
A fantastic thing to come out of this crisis is the turn to delivery services. We can now receive grommet food to our very doors, what took them so long? In London if you have the cash you can make use of the supper app and have some very nice nosh delivered to your discerning door. The online supermarket / delivery service Ocado has also boomed during lockdown and is expanding its fleet of vehicles to provide even more delivery slots, and there are even making their fleet electric. Could we see coffee deliveries in the near future?
What is coffee culture and why do I need it?
If the world needs to know what coffee culture is forget the Italians and look at the UK. Although tea is consumed in good quantities every high street is now littered with coffee shops and cafes serving all ranges and varieties of coffee. Coffee can be the finest accompaniment to our simple pleasure, like an indulgent piece of French Toast for instance.
To go further, London brings you locally roasted beans and delights that stake their essence from Scandinavia to Italy. London has cherrypicked the best coffee experiences and thrown them within easy grasp of its citizens. There is such variety now that you could make an argument that London has become the coffee capital of the world. If anything, it’s pure indulgence and escapism that nests itself in these immersive experiences.
So what is London doing?
London is renowned for its vibrant markets and it has to be said that they offer an opportunity to retain the ‘experience’ of great food and drink while allowing people to keep a respectful distance. It is regrettable that many of these stalls remain closed but this doesn’t have to be the case. From the stats that the public have been presented with it appears that we are safer outdoors so let's support these small traders and get the economy (and our taste spuds) moving. The UK government launched a new campaign recently (Hands, Space, Face) which highlights the fact we are moving into the traditional flu season, which is spread indoors. Let's get outdoors! As someone who relishes a good Christmas market I have no fear of the outdoors, I love these outdoor experiences (even if they get nippy).
We are glad to see that popup café experiences are alive and well and if you want to experience a great indulgence then look no further than Covent Garden and The Gentlemen Baristas as they have launched Afternoon Tea picnics. Such a good idea as you can grab one and consume some luxury in a nice and safe way.