Who would have thought the idea of sitting down in a cafe or coffee shop would be something we remember with nostalgia? Chilling out in a coffee shop feels like another lifetime ago now.
Looking back, I feel like I took Chester’s thriving coffee shop scene for granted; you’d often find me in one with mates, co-workers or by myself studying. I even got interviewed for my role at amble over a cup of coffee in Chalk.
Even before BoJo demanded pubs, clubs and cafes pull their shutters down, our coffee drinking habits were changing, as more businesses began to work from home. Coffee shops had time to evolve and look for new ways to bring in revenue.
Let’s be honest – our independents are bloody awesome. In this time of crisis, they’ve stepped up to find new ways to hustle hard and keep the community we love thriving. Here are a few of my faves fighting the good fight:
Thai by Thai
Whitmore and White
Chester Beer and Wine
That Beer Place
Goat and Munch
Just to name a few!
But of course, they wouldn’t be here without us devoted Cestrians. Choosing to shop local instead of big chains wherever possible I don’t know about anybody else. Still, I’m incredibly proud of the way we’ve banded together in this to support one another.
As our businesses begin to lift their shutters for the first time in months, it’s time for us to start asking a big question.
We’ve started stumbling out of our houses, blinking back into the light of Eastgate street. There is no denying the fact our lives will still be different for a bit. But how will Chester’s infamous coffee shop culture survive in a post-lockdown world?
Here are my thoughts:
Open plan seating
We’ve seen the idea floating about a lot on social media. Mainly due to Liverpool BID announcing a £450k project that will reimagine the city centre in an outdoor European style.
Chester has plenty of open spaces which could be converted into social distance seating areas. It’ll be some time before we see tourists flocking back to town so we’ll have spaces like The Racecourse and Grosvenor Park to ourselves. Not to mention the outdoor seating we usually see dotted through the city in summer.
Takeout coffee is here to stay
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but we think we’ll be drinking our signature lattes out of takeout cups for a little while longer. No need to worry too much about the environment on this one; a lot of coffee shops now use biodegradable takeout cups or plant-based cups that are safer for the environment.
But that doesn’t mean you should invest a couple of quid in buying any you see in your favourite coffee shop. You’ll be able to use them again, just not right now.
We’ll appreciate our coffee shops more
If you’re a coffee shop freak (like us), then the idea of spending months on just instant coffee would have been too much to handle. Luckily, throughout lockdown Bean and Cole, Jaunty Goat and Chalk all turned to clear their supplies of coffee (and merchandise) on social media.
So sure, those who are used to high-quality coffee may consider themselves baristas after lockdown; but this will only go to make our trips to the coffee shop feel all the more special.
Instead of nipping out for a small black coffee, you’ll be more likely to make a day of it. Perhaps you’ll pick up a latte instead?
Walk and drink
We’re so lucky to live in a place like Chester, and for the first time in what feels like forever, there are no tourists! So why not take a stroll with your coffee? Try to imagine you’re exploring Chester as a tourist. You’ll find a whole new appreciation for the place, trust us.
Until recently, the idea of walking outside with a cup of coffee didn’t feel like that big of a deal. But now, taking a stroll with a latte and chatting with a friend could be considered a leisure activity!
I think one of the reasons we love coffee so much is that it adds a bit of joy to the humdrum of adult life. In the mornings, it gives us the ability to turn us from despondent creatures into semi-adequate humans.
Walking with your flat white (perhaps popping safely into one of the indie shops that’s just reopened), will enhance your experience in the world. In buying it, you’ve encouraged yourself to face the outside world, had a bit of exercise and helped out your favourite cafe.
There’s no denying that our future is one of uncertainty. But as restrictions are slowly being lifted across the country; it’s time we start discussing our own next steps. How will our little city look in a year or even five years? What can we do to preserve our culture of independent businesses?
We’d love to know your thoughts.