We’ve spent two days recently at the newly revamped and relaunched Caffe Culture show at The Business Design Centre in Islington. It was a fantastic rebirth onto the coffee calendar after being absent for 2017.

Over the course of the show, we talked to hundreds of potential coffee shop owners, discovered some new and exciting suppliers, as well as catching up with some old friends.

Both Claire & I were onstage talking about how to find the perfect site to open a coffee shop and the 13 reasons why coffee shops fail. we also spent time on the Boughton’s Coffee House Magazine stand, supporting their pop-up advice centre.

In between, we caught as many presentations as we could, delivered by a who’s who of the UK coffee scene.

The first order of proceedings was about “The death of the Barista”.

Or the death of the barista caused by the development of automation where coffee machines can regulate all the variable temperatures, pressures, weights, and grind, without human intervention, to produce a consistently good cup of coffee.

The panel was hosted by titans of the coffee industry; Nick Maby of Q Graders Coffee and Maxwell Colona Dashwood of Colona Coffee.

After a lively discussion, all parties came to an agreement that:

  • Automation will improve the quality and consistency of coffee produced by the typical busy cafe, so making the Barista able to deliver a higher quality cup of coffee.
  • The role of a Barista in a speciality coffee shop will evolve. They will be like a concert violinist playing a Stradivarius and be able to fine tune the coffee shot like never before, able to control and analyse every aspect of the extraction process immediately.
  • Automation will not replicate hospitality. A machine will not be able to engage a guest in conversation and make a personal connection in the way a human can. Remembering what they like to drink, how it’s made, where they went on holiday, the name of their kids & dog, as well as their everyday struggles.

We have always preached that the role of a coffee shop is not about selling coffee but about creating a community, a third place, a home away from home where you are welcomed by the hosts and fellow guests in equal measure.

In his book ‘The Great Good Place’ Ray Oldenburg describes a coffee shop at the heart of the community, a levelling place where your status is irrelevant and where the conversation is the primary activity.

The Barista plays such an important part in delivering the above so with apologies to Mark Twain,

The report of the death of the barista is greatly exaggerated.


This article first appeared on CoffeeBi.com