Costa hit by taste for artisan coffee

Britons are turning to more expensive and better quality brews in what is being called ‘the third wave’ of coffee drinking by experts.

The new trend is seeing drinkers shun espresso machines for more sophisticated coffee and lighter brews, with greater emphasis on the quality of the harvesting, roasting and brewing process.

It has forced the UK’s largest coffee shop, Costa, to pin its hopes on artisan brews in order to fight back against flailing sales.

Sophisticated coffee and lighter brews are thought to be behind the slowing in growth at Costa coffee chain 

Sales at the chain, which has 2,326 stores across the UK, slowed from 2.3 per cent growth last year to just 0.6 per cent in the six months to August.

It is now looking to capitalise by catering to customers who are willing to spend more per cup for ‘quality.’

Likened to fine wine and whiskies, the process puts more emphasis on the subtleties of flavour and single-origin coffee, rather than blends and latte art.

It has already introduced the Cortado, a Spanish-origin coffee or espresso mixed with roughly an equal amount of warm milk and had also added a selection of cold pressed brews to its stable.

Its brews are made from a single-origin Colombian blend of coffee and are brewed in-store for 20 hours before being served over ice.

The absence of heat during the alternative slow brewing process reduces the acidity sometimes found in coffee, and gives it a sweeter taste.

Alison Brittain, chief executive of Costa, said the number of Britain’s drinking coffee grew by about 5-6pc this year and the firm has a ‘prime opportunity’ to capitalise on the artisan trend.

The UK is currently ranked 45 among the world’s biggest coffee drinkers, with America ranked 26th Finland ranked 1st.

Craft coffee has so far been popularised by American rivals Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia, which have targeted quality-minded drinkers by preparing coffee using a variety of uncommon methods such as siphon brewing.

The coffee chain is looking to appeal to customers who are open to paying more for 'quality'

The coffee chain is looking to appeal to customers who are open to paying more for ‘quality’

This involves using two chambers of vapour pressure and vacuum to produce a clear brew.

It marks a stark departure from first wave coffee which can be traced back to the 1800s, when entrepreneurs saw a market for providing coffee that was both affordable and ‘ready for the pot.’

The movement spurned the rise of mass-market instant coffee, dominated by Nestle’s Nescafe in the 90s.

Starbucks is widely regarded as the pioneer of ‘second wave coffee after distinguishing itself from other venues by prioritising taste, customer experience and darkly roasted coffee.

Words like espresso, latte and cappuccino became everyday vernacular as the firm embarked on a rapid expansion in the 2000s.

Now, keen to jump on the wave for craft brews, the chain has launched its own premium coffee chain Reserved, where an 8-ounce coffee package can sell for as much as £41.

While total sales at Costa were healthy, up more than 9 per cent to £622m in the period, thanks to the addition of more than 108 new branches, profits slumped 9.8 per cent to £59million due to increased costs.