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Coffee Island - a new kid on the block
08/03/2017 - 16:23
Coffee Island is delivering its tailor-made approach to coffee to enthusiasts in London with the opening of its first UK store in November 2016. Since its first shop opened in Greece in 1999, the chain has grown to 341 stores, making it the seventh largest coffee chain in Europe. Isabel Finch reports.
Headed by Konstantinos Konstantinopoulos, who joined the company in 2010 and became chief executive in 2013, Coffee Island has landed straight into the heart of London on Upper St Martins Lane to deliver bespoke coffee blends to suit the customers’ taste.
Coffee Island retail customers can purchase a tailored blend of coffee, choosing flavours and acidity level to suit their preference, which are ground depending on the favoured method of brewing.
Joao Almeida, head barista at Coffee Island, says: “It’s about tailor-making your coffee experience. One of the things we feel we do differently is that we engage with the customer in this coffee intelligence. Not everybody knows the extraction process but you know what you like.
“We start with what you like and from that we try to guide you in knowing how to ask for it. We all know with wine people will say they like a French wine or a red wine so they know how to ask for it. If you like a coffee that is nutty or silky or smooth you’ll maybe like a specific area or country.
“It’s about working around you so if you like nutty or smooth coffee we’ll give you a name so you can go anywhere and find what you like.”
Single origin coffees, from Ethiopia, Columbia, El Salvador and Brazil, are priced between £26 and £32 per kg. Espresso specialty blends are £26 per kg and flavoured coffee, including amaretto, vanilla and hazelnut, are £27 per kg.
For those wishing to drink-in, a broad choice of single origin coffees, flavoured coffees and the guest coffee is available and brewed using the preferred method. Where most coffee shops use one or two brewing methods, Coffee Island is using at least five.
The Siphon, invented in the 1840s and the oldest coffee brewing apparatus, relies on a vacuum and to lamp heat - but not boil - water to 92-94 degrees Celsius. Chemex and cold drip methods are also used and for Ibrik coffee, coffee is placed on hot sand to produce a thicker, more intense flavoured coffee.
Coffee Island addresses a growing demand from people wanting both quality and efficiency, exemplified by the popularity of Deliveroo or Uber Eats. The opening of London’s Starbucks Reserve in 2015 also demonstrates a coffee chain, which focuses the delivering and enjoyment of speciality coffee, investing in coffee products based on its origin and artisan production methods, to meet this demand.
Coffee Island responds to the demand of tailor-making quality products around the lifestyle of the consumer as their specialty, single origin coffees are available as Nespresso capsules. Home-brewing manuals placed around the shop shows the store’s focus on home brewing with the intention of making specialist coffee flexible and more convenient for customers’ lifestyles.
Those most interested in what Coffee Island offers are usually between 30 and 35-years-old with rarer sightings of under 25s. Almeida explains that younger people tend to view coffee as an alternative to sugary drinks rather than for the taste and quality of the coffee itself.
As millennial purchasing patterns drive the coffee sector to focus on quality and artisan methods, Coffee Island is competing with the growing number of specialty coffee shops in London. Shifting values further emphasise the importance of overall customer experience and company ethics.
Coffee Island addresses farmers by name as the heritage of the coffee becomes part of the larger experience. As part of The Microfarm Project, Coffee Island trades directly with farmers to improve their income and protect their land.
A range of handmade cakes, salads, sandwiches and breakfast items are also on offer in-store including an almond and cream croissant at £2.70, a beef, mustard and gherkin sandwich at £5.60, and a turkey croissant with tomato, cheese and lettuce at £3.20. The salads include vegetarian friendly options as Coffee Island aims to expand its free-from options to include gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian selections.