Just five years ago Britain’s coffee houses were in a sorry state of decline. Today, and confounding many pundits’ expectations, coffee houses are springing up across the UK’s cities, towns and villages in the form of latte-serving cafes and coffee shop chains. But, what is everyday life like in these new public places in the city? And is Britain’s new cappuccino community livelier than the traditional pub crowd?
Researchers, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and based at Glasgow University have spent three years exploring Britain’s burgeoning cafe sector. “Britain’s coffee house phenomenon is under-researched,” researcher Dr Eric Laurier points out, “and what we wanted to do was take the time to examine, patiently and attentively, what is actually happening in these cafes.” To this end, researchers used a variety of methods ranging from video recording to serving coffee themselves to investigate the relationship between cafes and our everyday life.
In their findings the researchers documented how cafes are a vital part of our public life where we encounter people who are neither our private family and friends nor our colleagues from work. They examined how the barista has emerged as a new form of public personality who de-anonymises our daily life in the city, as well as being a skilled maker of espresso-based drinks. In our ever more mobile lives they investigated the cafes role in providing places for resting but also places for working. Relatedly they took up the importance of scenes in the city, be they business, literary or social and the cafes part in hosting those ephemeral but essential features of our restless urban life.
Alexandra Saxon | alfa
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