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By 2018 the number of coffee outlets in the UK is to increase from about 16,500 to 20,500, according to the Project Café13 UK report by Allegra Strategies. 

The latest statistics show the lead in Briton’s hot drink preferences. Sting’s lyrics: “I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear” do not fit anymore. But have they ever?

The first English coffee house Grand Café opened in Oxford in 1650 three years before the UK’s first teahouse was established. Women, however, were not granted entry in coffee houses, while teahouses welcomed customers regardless of their gender.

Back then coffee houses were also named Penny Universities. Having paid the entrance fee of one penny, people could listen to vivid discourses of different generations; especially the younger generations were fond of these informal learning environments. It has even been claimed that students spent more time there than in school.

Today, the idea of a coffee business within British society is different. Since 1675 the number of English coffee houses has almost grown six times, according to the report. But at the same time the number of independent coffee stores has decreased. Consequently, people have attached great importance to fast service involving minimal communication with the sales person, much like ordering food online.

“I go to franchise coffee stores because it is quick. For me, London is a coffee culture.

“I am aware of that having a coffee is also linked to having a conversation. But for me, nowadays coffee is an intellectual inspiration. It’s like a medicine to push myself,” said Yuan Sekino, 24, a postgraduate student who has lived in Japan, China, Germany, and now lives in London. She has between one to three coffees per day, dependent on her workload.

“ I think my generation drinks more coffee than the generation of my parents. In comparison to us they enjoy every sip of it and mostly have it in company – they don’t drink it in a rush.”

Even though British coffee house culture still creates a lively environment for social gatherings, the high popularity of take-away coffee has reduced the time people spend sitting together exchanging their daily thoughts. Walking, talking and drinking at the same time is obviously not working.

Victoria Café is one of the few profitable small coffee stores in the capital. The coffee store is located between the tube and train stations at London Victoria. It is cheaper than the large branded coffee franchise outlets, such as Costa Coffee, Café Nero, Prêt à Manger, Starbucks, and supermarkets stores, at £1.50 for a cup of black coffee (with or without milk), and £1 for a tea. The coffee prices at franchise stores vary from about £1.50 up to over £2. The taste of different coffee stores is debatable – but not the price difference.

Business for UK coffee sellers is getting tougher as sales continue to increase. But the fact is that more than 7,000 million cups of coffee are already sold per year in Britain.

The growing popularity of the coffee culture has also changed the urban architecture in metropolises as a result of the franchisisatsion of coffee stores. Especially in London red, blue and green coffee store signs variegate our view of the streets. The numerous people running around with a paper cup of coffee in their hands has contributed to the impersonification of the city’s atmosphere.

A coffee a day does no harm – but what if people start consuming one too many on a regular basis?

The health risks – such as addiction – are clearly not explained to British consumers by coffee stores, or by the British Nanny State. As long as consumption behavior benefits the free market economy of Great Britain everything is good, but what if additional health care costs annihilate the financial surplus?

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