"I've just roasted this coffee and I've ditched some booze out of this whisky and I've put the coffee in it and I've shook it. It's about an hour old, it's an experiment."
I'm speaking to Mike, a coffee roaster from Tilbury. He has just offered me a questionable looking shot and is listing its ingredients, shouting to be heard over a brass band cover of "Sexual Healing" that plays from the speakers. We're standing in a room full of picnic tables at London Coffee Festival, held in the Old Truman Brewery event space on Brick Lane. I'm here to try and work out whether coffee is becoming more popular than alcohol.
Because Mike is far from being the only one hopped up on java. Britain has gone coffee crazy while social drinking seems to be on the wane. Studies show that students nowadays prefer flat whites to cheap beer and sales of traditional brown tea are down as people develop a taste for artisan coffee.
This newfound coffee obsession is having an impact on alcohol sales. Local Data Company figures analysed by the BBC show that between 2011 and 2016, the number of bars, pubs, and clubs in our town centres fell by about 2,000. Although there are still more pubs than coffee shops in the UK, the number of cafes, fast food outlets, and restaurants has risen by 6,000 across the country. Pubs, on the other hand, are closing every week.
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