When I first tried instant coffee as a child my reaction was one of disgust. Although I later grew to consume instant coffee on a regular basis, I never enjoyed the taste. Instant coffee serves a useful purpose in a society which is always on the go. Coffee can be used as fuel for late night study sessions, before a long day at work or in the midst of a hectic schedule as a pick-me-up. We live in a fast paced world where a high value is placed on speed, sometimes at the expense of quality. The purpose, at least in part, of independent retailers is to address this issue and place quality back at the forefront of the industry.
Since first tasting coffee as a child I have learned that coffee is a lot more nuanced than instant high street brands suggest. Whilst at the University of Manchester I had ample opportunity to explore the city’s Northern Quarter which is packed with independent coffee outlets. The diversity and different types of coffee on offer in each of these shops is impressive and has opened my eyes to the coffee industry as a whole.
The purpose of an independent coffee shop is about more than just financial profit. It is about education. As I have recently discovered, the range of flavour profiles available to a coffee drinker is extremely diverse. I regularly buy coffee from York Coffee Emporium who divide their coffee blends between a staggering 10 flavour profiles. The geographical spread of locations that these single origin and blended coffees originate from is equally wide spread. High street coffee shops are renowned for their mainstream coffee blends; they barely taste different to instant coffee from high street supermarkets. And although some high street chains have introduced alternative coffees that you can select at the counter, the emphasis is still on providing a mainstream recognised taste rather than exploring the vast number of coffee beans and resulting flavours on offer around the world.
The brewing method of a coffee also has a huge impact on its flavour even if the same coffee beans are used. Brewing methods on offer to coffee drinkers include: Instant, Caffetiere, V60, Aeropress, Chemex and French Siphon. Part of my fascination with coffee is learning about the impact that changing the brewing method really does have on the end product. I have used the Aerobie Aeropress to make coffee at home for the last two years yet I have refined how I use the Aeropress on the advice of different baristas over time. Coffee is not just a drink to be hastily consumed, it is something to be savoured and appreciated.
Visiting a coffee shop is about much more than simply downing a hot caffeine-filled drink; the atmosphere and welcome you get when you enter, the speed of service and food on offer also play a big part in the experience. Many independent shops in Manchester have a very unique feel; no two independent coffee shops are the same.
In the coming weeks I will write a series of shorter blog posts detailing some of the best coffee shops that I have visited along with my favourite coffee suppliers. I also intend to detail which coffee I drank whilst visiting and why I feel it deserves a mention as one of Manchester’s best coffee outlets.