An English seaside town completely devoid of coffee chains is waging a war to keep out Costa Coffee, a British coffeehouse company with about 1,700 stores across 28 countries. It plans to open on Fore Street, a main tourist thoroughfare.
The Guardian tells the story of the Devon town of Totnes, a place known for "sustainable living and imaginative local politics." Several vocal members of the 7,500-person population have taken up the cause of giving Costa Coffee the boot. It makes sense when you consider the town's other causes:
[Totnes] is also the home of the Transition Towns movement, focused not just on the way that people and places use fossil fuels, but how to make local economies more resilient by encouraging independent business, and fighting the kind of big interests that tend to take out more than they put in. Their most famous innovation is the Totnes Pound, a home-grown currency that is accepted by more than 70 local businesses.
Transition Town Totnes (TTT) manager Frances Northrop is vehemently against the arrival of Costa Coffee, but she stresses that her opposition isn't about hating chains:
"...it's actually that they're like Tesco," says Northrop. "They're an aggressive, extractive industry. We've got 42 coffee outlets, all independently owned, a lot of which are struggling, like anywhere else –- and if you bring in a retail unit with the buying power and familiarity of Costa, which is the size of three coffee shops, you're damaging not only those independent businesses, who might go out of business, but their supply chains: growers, producers, drinks suppliers."
The community's Costa Coffee protest website, www.NoToCosta.co.uk, is in step with Northrup's assertion, stressing that the fight is "about localism, not capitalism."
So why does Costa Coffee seem intent on opening in a town that doesn't want them? A spokeswoman told The Guardian that the chain aims "to complement the local offering and support the local community" without posing a threat to the dozens of existing retailers.
Despite initial reports that Costa would be kept out -- the town council rejected its plans to move in back in May -- the BBC wrote earlier this month that the area's South Hams District Council approved the plan.
Mayor Pru Boswell told the publication that he was "an extremely cross mayor and very disappointed and upset," adding that the chain is "so alien to what the town's about."
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Coffee By Design
Sixteen years ago <a href="http://www.coffeebydesign.com/" style="font-size: 17px; font-weight: bold; " target="_blank">Mary Allen Lindemann and Alan Spear</a> opened this tiny coffee shop in Portland, Maine with the idea of building a place for the community. Over the years, the shop has grown from their original Congress Street location to three other shops and a micro roaster where they process all their beans. But despite their mini-expansion, the independent store remains homey and popular for Mainers as they continue to serve the community one cup of Fore Street coffee at a time. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/05/best-barbecue-restaurants-in-10-us.html" target="_blank">The Best BBQ Restaurants in 10 U.S. Cities</a>]</strong>
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/cafe-el-beit/344929228819" target="_blank"></a>The name El Beit means "home" in Arabic, and that's precisely the vibe this Brooklyn café exudes. The shop opened in early 2008 and since then has served a constant flow of killer coffee made with the ubiquitous Clover machine or with a French press. The beans come from 49th Parallel, a roaster in Vancouver, but all the pastries they serve are made locally at their sister store. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/05/10-surprisingly-awesome-strip-mall.html" target="_blank">10 Surprisingly Awesome Strip Mall Restaurants</a>]
Seattle has always held the reputation of being the coffee king, so picking one of their numerous cafes wasn't easy. <a href="http://www.espressovivace.com/" target="_blank">Espresso Vivace</a> was chosen for its rich history in the Seattle scene, and for their rich Northern Italian espresso. Since 1988, owners David Schomer and Geneva Sullivan have made the art of espresso their life and have delved into roasting, pulling, preparing, pouring and grinding for the perfect shot. Each of their three locations remain unique too, one is a sidewalk bar, another a European style café and the third a more modern coffee shop featuring a cool design. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/05/craziest-thing-ive-ever-eaten-epic.html" target="_blank">The Craziest Thing I've Even Eaten: Epic Tales of Bizarre Meals</a>]</strong>
Firestorm Cafe And Books
Coffee shops have often been associated with poets, activists, college students and any artistic type looking for a caffeinated connection. And, given that the <a href="http://www.firestormcafe.com/" target="_blank">patron saint of Firestorm </a>is writer and feminist Voltairine de Cleyre, this stereotype fits perfectly with this café in Asheville, NC, and not in a bad way. The cafe opened in 2005 with the goal to be worker-owned, and for the past six years, they have achieved that goal while also using Counter Culture Coffee to make a mean cup of joe. <strong>Also see: <a href="http://www.zagat.com/buzz/8-things-you-can-do-to-make-your-server-hate-you-0" target="_blank">8 Things You Can Do To Make Your Server Hate You</a></strong>
The artistic aura that Austin puts out has been drawing people in for decades and, like any good, creative-minded person, they need caffeine. <a href="http://flipnotics.com/" target="_blank">At Flipnotics</a> they get that and for the past 19 years this quirky café has served the needs of musicians and artists with cups of steaming Fair Trade organic coffee and by hosting live bands. Also, while the shop remains laid back, that doesn't mean the baristas are lazy, in fact, the coffee mavens here make some of the best lattes and cappuccinos out West. <strong>Also see: <a href="http://www.zagat.com/buzz/the-10-most-annoying-restaurant-trends" target="_blank">The 10 Most Annoying Restaurant Trends</a></strong>
As independent coffee shops started closing up in Denver after the corporate coffee boom, <a href="http://www.pabloscoffee.com/" target="_blank">Pablos has remained strong</a> since 1995. Owner Craig Conner first catered to the theater crowd at his original location next to the Denver Performing Arts Center. Now the shop has moved and taken root in the historic Alamo Placita neighborhood and not only serves up quality cappuccinos, lattes and café solo, but they roast their own beans daily. Aside from keeping the community caffeinated, they also host an annual pancake brunch extravaganza for their customers. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/05/10-high-end-bbq-spots-around-us.html" target="_blank">10 High-End BBQ Spots From Around the U.S.</a>]
<a href="http://www.philzcoffee.com/" target="_blank">Owner Phil Jaber </a>has been researching coffee for almost 35 years, and nothing shows off his aptitude for the bean more than his system of "by the cup" brewing he does at Philz in San Francisco. First, you pick your beans from a detailed list that includes options like the medium-blend Philharmonic or the dark-roasted Jacob's Wonderbar. Then they grind and set it to drip. For the past eight years this has been the drill, and though they have added a few more locations, it's still a personalized and true coffee shop experience, right down to the worn out couches and strategically placed laptops littering the joint. <strong>Also see: <a href="http://www.zagat.com/buzz/the-six-hottest-coffee-trends-happening-right-now" target="_blank">The Six Hottest Coffee Trends Happening Right Now</a></strong>
Customers flock to this <a href="http://www.facebook.com/PressCoffeeBarDYT" target="_blank">Dayton, Ohio coffee shop </a>for a number of reasons: One, they hire skilled baristas to make outstanding drinks; two, the beans they use change constantly to keep things fresh; and three, they don't cater to the masses with silly drinks like the frappuccino (because really, that's not coffee). They use beans mainly from Counter Culture and newcomer Dogwood, and the shop sports numerous plugs for those hard at work freelancers, and of course, they also hang local art on the walls. All of this adding up to the perfect indy coffee shop. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/04/cheap-eats-5-crazy-restaurant.html" target="_blank">Cheap Eats: 5 Crazy Restaurant Promotions</a>]
They had us with their<a href="http://ristrettoroasters.com/" target="_blank">Beaumont blend espresso</a>, which gets described as a "deep dark chocolate and ripe berry" blend. Yum. But it's not just their beans that make this Portland spot jump out, it's the pure love and joy owner Din Johnson put into his shop. Johnson first got into roasting coffee in 2000 in his home. That hobby grew until he needed an actual store to house the roaster, so, in 2005 he created his coffee shop by hand, picking out everything that gives it the clean, cozy vibe. Though they have two locations now, Johnson can be seen entombed in the glass-walled roasting chamber at his original shop.<strong> <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/05/cheap-eats-10-high-end-chefs-go-low-end.html" target="_blank">Cheap Eats: </a><a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/05/cheap-eats-10-high-end-chefs-go-low-end.html" target="_blank">10 High-End Chefs Go Low-End</a>]
It appears that most great coffee shops have started roasting their own beans and this rings true for this <a href="http://www.starloungecoffee.com/" target="_blank">Chicago hot spot</a>. In 2008 they started firing up their DarkMatter [sic] brew to sell in the quaint shop and quickly fanfare followed. Not only that, but by sourcing independent purveyors, Star Lounge also makes a huge effort to support small businesses like their own, giving customers another reason besides the drinks to feel warm and fuzzy. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/06/8-wackiest-bbq-commercials.html" target="_blank">The 8 Wackiest BBQ Commercials</a>]</strong>