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Coffee: A fundamental part of our culture?

The UK is becoming a nation of coffee drinkers and aficionados with the beverage becoming an essential part of British culture.

With more than a third (36 per cent) of women in the UK claiming they must start the day with a cup of coffee and Britons spending £730 million on coffee in 2012, the drink is an important part of daily life for millions of people.

Although coffee is often more associated with those countries where it is grown, such as Brazil or Colombia, or nations such as Italy and France that have a long tradition of cafe culture, it has been part of the fabric of life in Britain for centuries.

Coffee drinking dates back more than 1,000 years and the first coffee house opened in England in 1651, earlier than the first coffee house opened in Paris, with coffee now the most popular drink worldwide.

UK Coffee Week is currently taking place and runs from April 7th to 13th, seeing coffee shops across the country marking the occasion and promoting their offerings to coffee lovers, with the event aiming to raise £100,000 for Project Waterfall.

UK coffee scene to grow even further

While Britain clearly already has a long love affair with coffee, a recent study predicted this will continue to grow over the coming years.

There are currently an estimated 16,500 coffee shops in the UK, with the industry worth £6.2 billion annually.

According to a recent report by Allegra, this figure is set to rise to £8.7 billion within the five years to 2018, with around 20,500 outlets expected across the country by this date.

The Project Cafe 13 UK study predicted the coffee shop market will grow by 4.5 per cent a year during the period under analysis, significantly in excess of the nation's rate of economic expansion.

One in five people in Britain now visits a coffee shop daily, almost double the amount who said the same four years ago. Men currently drink an average of 1.7 cups per day and women 1.5.

Coffee becomes part of gastronomic culture

In addition to coffee shops and drinking coffee at home, the drink is increasingly becoming part of dining out.

Providing the perfect end to a meal, quality coffee that is well sourced and crafted is more and more popular with consumers in the UK.

The World Barista Championships and other similar events are raising the profile of the art of making and serving coffee, with restaurants gradually realising the importance of offering an excellent finale to a fine meal.

And it is not only as a hot beverage that coffee is working its way into Britain's restaurant culture, with coffee cocktails proving popular with drinkers and beans being used as an ingredient in gastronomy to create new dishes.

Indeed, in a recent interview with Barista Magazine, coffee expert and International Coffee Cocktails Champion Victor Delpierre said: "I would love to better establish the barista culture into the gastronomic circle because I think that today, in addition to being the last touch to an excellent meal, [quality coffee] is as essential as the quality of the wine or the cuisine we serve to our customers."

Ethical coffee drinking

In addition to embracing coffee culture in the UK, British coffee lovers are also increasingly interested in where the beans that make their drinks come from.

From importers such as ourselves bringing Fairtrade products to the UK, to major chains and independent shops embracing ethically-sourced ingredients, the trend for coffee drinkers to look at ways for their custom to benefit growers around the world looks set to continue.

So it would appear the UK has a well-established coffee culture that is growing and flourishing as coffee becomes a firm part of many aspects of daily life – and long may it continue to thrive.