The latte, latte show: Newcastle’s evolving coffee scene

Each time a Briton enjoys a silky-smooth cappuccino or an aromatic piccolo, he has an Australian to thank. Although top-ranked coffee bars like Lantana and Kaffeine have captured the capital by storm, London’s coffee culture is a fairly recent phenomenon. It wasn’t until after Australian-owned coffeehouse Flat White opened in Soho in 2005 that the Sydney- and Melbourne-based influences have gradually spread through London and the UK as a whole. The Australians have had a particularly significant impact 300 miles north of the capital in Newcastle upon Tyne.

For decades it was almost impossible to get a decent cup of coffee on Tyneside. Insipid, bitter filter brews, or, worse yet, instant coffee with scalded frothy milk were the order of the day. Then something happened.

In June 2012 a new café opened opposite Central Station. Mark Briston, cheery owner-barista of Hatch Coffee, recalls his first sip, “I went in there, got a takeaway, took one mouthful, went straight back, and thanked them for it!”

It was Pink Lane Coffee, and it has led a coffee revolution in Newcastle. Owner Anth Atkinson, a native North Easterner, took his inspiration from the land down under. ‘The coffee bars in Australia took their influences directly from Italy, rather than from the US,” he explains. “They serve small cups at drinkable temperatures and don’t drown it with great dollops of boiling milk. They let you really taste the coffee. That’s what I wanted to do here at Pink Lane.”

Since Pink Lane Coffee opened, top-quality coffee houses have sprouted up all across Tyneside from The Journey, the café in a bicycle shop in the heart of the city, to Café 1901, located in a Methodist Chapel in leafy Jesmond. Not to mention the hipster haven of Heaton: BLK Coffee.

“Coffee all over Britain has improved, but in Newcastle the coffee scene is particularly good,” says Briston. His café, Hatch Coffee, is a tiny temple of caffeine located in an old attendant’s wood hut, just a ten minute stroll from Hotel Indigo Newcastle. “There’s a genuine sense of togetherness here. In Newcastle we want people who do good stuff to succeed. It’s not about rivalry, but about community, about the quality of life in the city itself. ”

Photo by: Hatch Coffee
There’s no truer testament to Newcastle’s devotion to coffee and community than the story behind Flat Caps Coffee‘s second location. Joe Meagher left his job at a high street bank to start the original Flat Caps Coffee in the basement below a gift shop near Haymarket in 2010. He quickly found success—he has won national awards for both his espresso and his cappuccino—and gained a faithful following. His second location in Carliol Square was made possible by £25,000 donated from grateful locals through Kickstarter.

So grab one of the quirky classroom chairs at Pink Lane Coffee or any of its counterparts. ‘These days in Newcastle, you’re never far from a great cup of coffee,” Atkinson says with pride.

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