March 23rd, 2018


Beanz Meanz Coffee, Leaves Mean Tea

When Coffee #1 opened on the Gloucester Road 14 years ago it wasn't their very first branch, but it was one of them. I seem to remember that one of the founders was an ex-student at UWE, so I felt a degree of vicarious pride in its success. I used to go there a lot with my ex in the early days - then, after we split up I left it alone ("Who gets the coffee shop" is key aspect of many divorces), eventually settling at Lashings half a mile up the road. However, a few years ago Lashings closed down and shortly afterwards my ex moved to Brighton, so I took up residence in Coffee #1 again, where I've been happily drinking green tea and writing ever since. Sometimes I buy a ciabatta for lunch, tuna and cheese being my flavour of choice.

Then, last week came the grim news that the branch was being closed down. Apparently it's too small, and doesn't make enough profit - for, in the intervening years the company was sold, and Coffee #1 grew from being a very small chain with three or four branches to a regional chain with more than 80, an empire stretching from Swansea in the west to Birmingham in the north, Torquay in the south and Gosport in the east. Most of those new shops are pretty big, and they're located in places where they can maximise profit by selling takeaway coffees to salarymen. The Gloucester Rd branch, as intimate as a snug in a pub, no longer fits the profile, it seems.

So, tomorrow I will have my last pot of Jade Tips tea there - a cause of mourning indeed. All week I've overheard the same conversations from bereft punters, saying how much they're going to miss it, and asking after the future of the staff (mostly a diaspora to other Bristol branches).

The good news is that Tincan Coffee, a tiny chain with only current shop (and before that some vans that catered to the festival trade), will be taking it over, and opening up within the month. Apparently they too sell loose-leaf green tea, so all may not yet be lost.