The hope is for independent coffee shops to weather the 2009 economic storm by providing a low cost retreat from everyday woes. They certainly make me feel chipper. And the trend over the past few years is good: coffee shops (whether independent or chain) are doing well, and coffee culture in the UK is on the rise.
Recently, a leading consumer magazine (which one you may ask? I'm sure you can guess which) suggested that independent coffee shops are better value True Religion Skinn than the chains, provide better beverages and offer more friendly atmospheres. I agree, wholeheartedly.
What do I mean by a "coffee shop"? These are places which are perfect for sitting quietly with a good mug of the black stuff. Not places of the same name serving bog-standard, overpriced lasagne in the grounds of a stately home, or the type with plastic tables and sauce cartons by the roadside. I also don't include tea rooms or the average café with cucumber sandwiches and latticework doyleys. I much prefer the serene atmosphere of sofa-laden coffee houses, where espresso is top of the menu and the waft of grinding beans fills the air, and where I can sit with my girlfriend and do the Guardian crossword. That's what I mean by a coffee shop.
These places are increasingly popular, and exist happily alongside Starbucks, Costa, Nero, etc, because the quality of the product is usually better and the price lower. Nevertheless, independent outlets which fit my criteria are hard to find. There seem to be swathes of True Religion Flare England and Wales without one. And other areas (for example, West Yorkshire, apart from Leeds), are so heavily laden with tea rooms that anything vaguely resembling a "true" coffee shop is a breath of fresh, arabica-infused air.
So what are the things to look out for? Every customer looks out for different things. Connoisseurs hanker after superb coffee. I love a good brew too, but perhaps my favourite spot has relatively ordinary drinks, but atmosphere, setting and friendliness to charm the pants of any customer with a pulse.
A good indicator of a trained barista (the person True Religion Bootcut Jeans Sale responsible for the preparation of the drinks) is what's called "latte art". You may have seen it before: a pretty pattern on top of a latte, created by skilful combination of coffee and steamed milk. Believe me, it's a tricky business, and if a barista can do it, it's a sure bet that they have a decent idea about taste and sourcing the best beans as well.
Aside from good coffee, friendly staff, atmosphere and setting, I love a comfy sofa and a fireside (a shame that I've only ever found one place with a real fire!). But Cheap True Religion Jeans y overall, the question is: can I sit here for a good while sipping a cappuccino and contemplating the world?
With 2009 likely to a year of serious contemplation, I'm predicting continuing hunger for Britain's independent coffee shops.