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March 13, 2023 (Updated )
Journalists and coffee have been linked together ever since the bean made its way to the UK. When the first coffeehouses opened up in England in the 17th century, they were the home of writers, poets, and journalists looking for gossip. Fast forward to the present century, and organisations from The Guardianto Courier Magazine have tried their hands at opening coffee shops.
Four out of five Brits say they spend part of their working day in a coffee shop — some closing deals that add up to contribute an incredible £14.5 billion to the economy. They’re clearly part of our working lives, especially for freelancers, but why?
A 2021 BBC Worklife article posing this very question, explains how “the combination of noise, casual crowds and visual variety” in coffee shops can provide us with “just the right amount of distraction” to enhance our sharpness and creativity.
They cite an academic study from the Journal of Consumer Research that concludes while people are always distracted by noise, the degree of distraction created by different noise levels affects creativity differently.
So, if you’re distracted only slightly by the “ambient” noise in coffee shops (distant conversations, low-level music, the humming of a coffee machine etc), your abstract thinking ability is increased — which can lead to increased creativity.
Matching Your Playlist To The Vibe
José De León Guzman is the Managing Director at Kofra Coffee Roasters, an independent coffee shop in Norwich — the home of Coleman’s Mustard, The Canaries, and Alan Partridge. It’s also where I’m based. Guzman’s shops have an incredibly warm and welcoming atmosphere, so it makes sense that “Kofra” comes from the Spanish word “Cofradia”, which translates to “community” or “brotherhood”.
José De León Guzman (L) (Image credit: Deryn Corbett photography) and Ash Appleton (R)
When we ask Guzman what he thinks generates this warmth, he immediately brings up music, explaining: “We decided that actually what we are selling is caffeine. So we can’t have something that is downtempo, it has to be something that goes accordingly”.
He adds: “We calibrate the music to the point that it goes just above the grinder because we want to create a combination of people talking, grinders, music — that creates a vibe that, at least in our shops, has proven to work.”
Guzman says that when Kofra first opened, they tended to play the same few playlists on loop, which got slightly repetitive. So, the staff created a Spotify playlist, “Kofra Beats”, to which the baristas regularly add songs.
Guzman says that if the baristas like something, it’s on there. “They play according to the mood, and according to what they feel like”. Customers and former staff also make suggestions when they visit. “It’s a collaborative thing. But it’s definitely always upbeat,” he says.
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For your at-home coffee shop, you could try to collaborate on a playlist with friends or colleagues to play when you’re working alone. That way, you’ll never know exactly what’s coming up next. Spotify also has a plethora of playlists with a cosy coffee shop ambience — and there’s always JR’s coffee shop bops.
Creating A Coffee Shop Look
As well as playing music that matches the vibe of the drinks Kofra serves, Guzman also uses colour in his shops to enhance the customer experience. One of his favourite design aspects is the brightly-coloured walls.
Guzman also underlines the importance of comfy seats. “We’re talking about comfy seats — not seats that look good,” he clarifies. “My brief with any new shop is cold tables and warm, comfy seats. But when I say comfy, I mean they’ll keep your back straight and make you look at the world.”
"When I say comfy seats, I mean they’ll keep your back straight and make you look at the world."
José De León Guzman, Managing Director of Kofra Coffee Roasters
Dan Child, director of Bom Bom Patisserie in Loughborough, says that a good coffee shop working location “provides a calming atmosphere with just the right level of white noise so that workers can feel part of something without being distracted by surrounding conversations.”
Child says the addition of plants has brought warmth to Bom Bom’s most recently opened café. They sell the plants they used for decoration, which he says is an “idea that is now being used elsewhere more and more often.” So perhaps see if there are any independent coffee shops in your area selling plants and bring them into your own space at home.
‘I Enjoy Feeling Like I’m In A Friend’s Living Room’
Ash Appleton is an interior designer and photographer who focuses on home interiors. A self-proclaimed coffee addict, Appleton loves coffee shops with a personality that tells a story. “I enjoy feeling like I’m in a friend’s living room, whether it’s modern and vibrant or rustic and low-key,” she says.
Appleton (who begins her day with a black Americano before switching to a soy Cappuccino later on) says: “I like the idea of being able to relax and hang out on a sofa, work at a table, or grab something quick at the counter. I’m always drawn to establishments that feature local artists and display handmade goods on shelves.”
If you’re able, try to switch between workspaces throughout the day — the sofa, kitchen table, or a breakfast bar if you have one. This said, try to steer clear of places that should only be used for rest — you wouldn’t typically find a bed in a coffee shop, so it shouldn’t be part of your home-working rotation either.
Appleton adds: “The coffee shop vibe is all about affordable luxury and a bit of respite from the hustle outside.” It’s also worth remembering that just because you are working remotely, it doesn’t mean you have to be productive every single second of every day. In a physical office, you’d be surprised how often you stop and chat with colleagues, so afford yourself those breaks at home too.
Take a moment to briefly pause and appreciate a hot drink and snack, as the Swedish tradition of “Fika” proposes. Grab some frozen pastries from your local supermarket to spice up your mid-morning coffee, or put some headphones in, pretend you’re in a ’90s Rom-Com, and walk to a local bakery to pick up a coffee and pastry to go.
When creating a coffee shop vibe at home, Appleton suggests creating “a space that feels like a living room.” She says mixing and matching can be a good way to achieve this — “a vintage desk with a modern chair”, for example.
“Bureaus make wonderful desks because they look great, especially if they’re vintage. The beauty is everything can be shut away at the end of the day,” she adds.
If you can, she also recommends hanging original art and photography on your walls and creating a notice board for organisation and motivation. For a fun weekend activity, you could go somewhere you love locally with a disposable camera, buy some cheap frames, and hang them on the wall.
"Warm colours like terracotta, orange, rust, mustard, aubergine and chocolate help to create a cosy vibe. Choose colours that put you in the right frame of mind to work efficiently.”
Ash Appleton, Interior Designer
Appleton suggests basing your colour choice on how you want to feel and behave in the space. She explains: “Red, for example, is stimulating, while blue is more chilled. Warm colours like terracotta, orange, rust, mustard, aubergine and chocolate help to create a cosy vibe. Choose colours that put you in the right frame of mind to work efficiently.”
Elevating Your Coffee Game At Home
But what about what goes in your actual cup? Child has a few recommendations: “For a modest investment in equipment, most people can get somewhere close to cafe-quality filter coffee at home.”
Espresso, however, “is a different game” and somewhere where café venues will always reign supreme. This is down to the significant equipment investment required, which Child says can cost more than £8,000 — just a tad outside my at-home coffee shop budget. So, the opportunity at home, he says, lies with high-quality filter coffee.
To achieve this he recommends: “Combine a competent grinder with a filter method and anyone can get a very capable filter setup to last a lifetime.
“Pair with quality speciality coffee beans, and some basic recipe knowledge (30g of coffee to 500ml water).” This way, “anyone can elevate their coffee game at home with relative ease.”
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Just tell them exactly what you’re looking for, the best way to get in touch, and your deadline — and sit back and enjoy your coffee.
In terms of grinders, the Wilfa Svart is a good option, coming in at about £100 and also giving bonus cafe vibes sounds too. Filters such as the Aeropress (£25), or Chemex (£50), complete the kit. Typically, a bag of decent coffee will set you back about £10 for 250g, which will give you already 18 cups of coffee for 55p each. A milk frother can go a long way in achieving a café-style drink.
But don’t stop at coffee — Guzman also recommends a hibiscus iced tea, which offers something “refreshing, delicious and sweet”.
With the help of Tas from Very Craftea, an online subscription service, I had a go at making some loose-leaf tea, and would highly recommend it. I mastered the pumpkin spice latte, matcha iced latte, and something called a butterfly blue lemonade.
But whatever you’re putting into your mug, make sure you crack out the fancy crockery and take the time to enjoy it.
This content is editorially independent and put together by the Journo Resources in-house team. It was funded and made possible through the support of ResponseSource, one of the UK’s leading services to help connect journalists and PRs.
One of their key tools for journalists is the Journalist Enquiry Service, which helps thousands of journalists connect directly with experts, charities, companies, and PRs, to give them the information they need quickly. It’s a completely free tool for journalists to use.
Hannah is a recent graduate from Loughborough University, where she studied a BA in English and Sport Science and an MA in Media and Cultural Analysis. Alongside her studies, Hannah was on the editorial teams of several student magazines, and in 2018, was awarded ‘Best Student Journalist, Midlands’ by SPA. She was a BBC Sport Kick Off Reporter in 2019 and in 2021, co-founded and edited a one-off 40-page print and digital magazine in celebration of International Women’s Day. Along with her work for Journo Resources, she is currently studying the NCTJ diploma at News Associates and freelance writing.
Header image courtesy of Louis Hansel via Unsplash