As our baristas stand behind a £10,000 Victoria Arduino Eagle One espresso machine, tinkering with the extraction, getting the most out of some of the finest coffee produced in the world, roasted by our good friends at Round Hill Roastery. Why is the queue not forming outside our place? What’s wrong? Is it the price? Well, we’re actually the same price as a faceless Costa Express vending machine, except we’re not owned by the Coca-Cola Company and don’t turn over £270m making millions in gross profit.

Actually, we’re employing local people, some with over 10 years coffee experience, using highly ethical and environmentally conscious, specialty grade coffee, roasted in Somerset, with a fridge full of local organic, unhomogenised milk from Riverford Dairy. Essentially we’re ploughing money back into the circular economy, rather than facilitating a broken capitalist system, where the rich get richer. Perhaps the general public just don’t care about this, which is ok, they just need a morning coffee.

But surely, when it comes to value for money people would choose a Ferrari over Toyota Yaris if they were priced the same? Even if they knew nothing about cars, it’s not hard to see one is the equivalent to a commodity car, sold to the mass market and the other is a hand crafted, beautifully built vehicle, verging on being a work of art. But again, people just need a coffee in the morning and something caffeinated from a vending machine is a perfectly good vehicle to scuttle the work force of Exeter off to the office.
 Green coffee beans from Roundhill Coffee Roasters.

Speciality grade coffee beans being processed by Roundhill.

I think there are two possibilities of why people are still choosing to purchase coffee from a vending machine, over a specialty coffee shop. Firstly I think I could be down to flavour. When a good coffee roaster is using expensive green beans, they want to retain the characteristic of the bean, which normally comes in the form of acidity, fruitiness, sweetness and sometimes a bit of funk, when the coffee is naturally processed. This is not the typical flavour associated with coffee. Most people are looking for bitterness and sometimes more complex flavours in the form of chocolate, biscuit or nutty notes. In brief specialty coffee tends to be roasted a little lighter and can come across as being sour, as cheaper commodity coffee is generally roasted dark and comprises of a familiar bitter flavour. People like the comfort of familiarity, it’s what we’re used to, otherwise our perception is challenged. However I feel this is the unlikely reason why people choose to buy low-grade coffee. The second reason is the probable cause.

 Coffee beans being roasted by Roundhill.

Speciality grade coffee beans being roasted by Roundhill.

I think the likely reason the mainstream customer gives specialty coffee shops a wide berth, is due to customer interaction. Someone who just needs a fucking coffee in the morning does not want a dialog with a snooty barista about where the coffee is grown or how it tastes, they just need a coffee and don’t want to be judged. There are certainly parallels with the wine world here, and there is a good reason why supermarket wine is so popular, no judgement when you pick up a £6 bottle of red to glug back on a Friday night. But if you’re going to a dinner party and want to impress the hosts, you might pop into a good independent wine shop. It’s all about judgement. The irony is, the Cost crowd are being judged by the coffee elite anyway, and carrying the Costa cup is a reason for judgment, at least use a reusable cup to disguise the purchase.

Or for those that want to get their hands on the good stuff, without anyone telling them we’ve used the perfect ratio of magnesium and calcium in our water or that they should watch the latest video by James Hoffman, brewing at home is the solution. If you buy pre-ground coffee from a specialty roaster, a 250g for £8 will give you about 16 cups of coffee at around 50p a cup (based on a 1:15 brew ratio Coffee to Water). This isn’t espresso, but can take the form of a cafetiere, V60 filter or Aeropress. Brew it however you like, splash of milk in there? Who gives a shit. Pop it in an insulated bottle, cup or flask and its fuel to kick-start the day and it will save you some much-needed cash during this cost of living crisis. Before long you will also give you exclusive membership to the Coffee Wanker Club and you can start telling people how to drink their coffee, so our baristas don’t have to.