A YouTuber enjoyed a surge in interest from locked down caffeine-lovers desperate to discover how to replicate the high street coffee shop experience at home.
Londoner James Hoffmann said coffee drinkers had become more “discerning” and hoped to create the barista taste themselves — but hopes there will be a “strong desire” for people to venture out again for a professionally-crafted latte.
He said that as the high street slumped, his industry contacts in the capital reported a “lockdown lift” of a tripling in online bean sales, while retail analysis by Kantar showed supermarkets and corner shops gained an extra £24million in tea and coffee revenues sold over the past month.
Mr Hoffmann saw a spike in his YouTube traffic with more than 1.5 million people watching his ultimate French press technique video and trendy dalgona sugary whipped coffee attempts, while about one million viewers tuned in for his thoughts on the merits of sprinkling a few grains of salt to perk up the “brutal” office brew.
The industry veteran also used his technical approach to test Aldi’s £299 Italian-style cappuccino machine to see “how bad could it be”, and was unimpressed.
Mr Hoffmann, 40, from Hackney, is a former World Barista Champion who once wowed judges with tobacco-infused coffee and his expertise was requested by illusionist Derren Brown for a bean-counting trick.
He said: “The moment that coffee shops closed, the next day everyone was run off their feet.
“We’ve seen espresso and filter coffee grow massively and there are people who’ve taken this as an opportunity to pick up a new hobby.
“Espresso is great in a café but it’s tricky at home.
“People, quite wisely, understand that espresso at home is more money, more investment, more effort to get a decent flat white.
“Whereas if you like the taste of coffee you can make filter coffee at home very cheaply and it will be really good.”
But Mr Hoffmann, co-founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, added he was anxious about the post-pandemic future of London’s coffee shops.
He fears central London’s “saturated” hot drinks sector will be among the worst hit in the economic fallout from the pandemic, which has already seen Pret A Manger announce plans to close 30 UK branches, 11 in London, with 1,000 jobs at risk after revenues dropped dramatically.
Coca-Cola last month revealed tea and coffee sales in its temporarily-closed Costa cafes had dived by nearly a third in the past three months.
Mr Hoffmann said: “I don’t feel hugely confident for the sector as a whole.
“Going into this, we were in a period of extreme competition, there had never been more competition among coffee shops or places to drink coffee.
“Therefore the industry was to some extent saturated.
“But then I live in London and don’t have an enormous kitchen, I don’t want an espresso machine in my kitchen and if I did have one it’s a bit of faff and effort to get my coffee made in the morning, so paying someone £2 or £3 to do it for me feels like a bargain.
“I think there will be a strong desire for coffee out, but I think we will struggle to get back into the social aspect of that, sat near to strangers in enclosed spaces.”
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