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Why are coffee shops so important to 'young professionals'?
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robin orton

Posts: 716
Joined: Feb 2009
Post: #1
24-02-2011 11:30 AM

I've got an amateur interest - part avuncular, part ethnological - in the folkways of the group who now seem to prefer to call themselves 'young professionals'. (I assume 'yuppies' is now thought to be un-PC.) On the frequent discussions in this forum about gentrification, whether FH/HoP on the up and up, house prices etc, coffee shops seem to feature prominently. Two recent examples form the 'HoP house prices' thread

but I do think that our area is above average for London in so many ways (green space, views, connections to Central London and Dockland, coffee shop index, quality of schools, etc)

there are no chains such as Prezzo and Caffe Nero that attract young professionals like us.

I can understand the attraction of coffee shops when one is travelling away from home. But I rarely if ever feel the need to go to a coffee shop in FH where I live. If I want a cup of coffee, I make it myself at home - much cheaper and more convenient. So I assume that coffee shops must have some special signification in 'young professional' culture which outsiders like me find it difficult to read. Has anyone done any research on this?

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Posts: 364
Joined: Dec 2005
Post: #2
24-02-2011 01:25 PM

The allure of the coffee shop doesn't appeal to me either, so I understand your curiosity. I think it's because:

(i) socialising: basically they're renting space, not just drinking coffee. Either meeting friends or relaxing by themselves, reading the paper etc. People's socialising habits and demands have changed (consider the decline of traditional pubs and the rise of gastro-pubs), so people can meet in coffee shops at any time of day, in an alcohol-free environment.

(ii) disposable income: they can afford expensive coffee etc.

(iii) status symbol: ie coffee shop vs. greasy spoon cafe. I've noticed people often bemoan the absence of coffee shops in an area and don't acknowledge the existing traditional cafes. I suspect it wouldn't occur to them to frequent such places (too down-market).

As for why they like to have coffee shops close to where they live, I have a pet theory that modern accommodation is so small and pokey that people are willing to pay to sit on a sofa in a coffee shop or pub for an hour or two (in the same way that people who don't have gardens will go to a park for open space).

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Posts: 65
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #3
24-02-2011 02:51 PM

Tend to agree with all of the above. Although I would add that the sort of person who would style themselves as a young professional, eagerly and without irony, may also be the sort of person who's prepared to pay a pleb-exclusion-premium on their latte to ensure that they're only drinking it in the company of 'young professionals like us'.

As definitions of 'us' go it's quite a narrow one...

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Joined: Jun 2008
Post: #4
24-02-2011 03:33 PM

I am neither young nor professional, but I'll tell you when and why I use coffee shops - to meet friends in a pleasant environment and to have the sort of coffee I can't easily make a home. To say you could just as easily have a coffee at home is like saying: why go to the chip shop when you can just make fish fingers and oven chips at home?

As it happens, since I work from home, I have bought a Gaggia machine and can make a very decent latte, cappuccino and even a flat white when the milk co-operates (it's surprisingly tricky). To make these coffees at home you need to invest in a decent machine, have room to keep it and be prepared to learn the skills required. And making more than one decent cup at a time is impossible because I like my coffee with three shots of espresso. So, if I want to have coffee with friends, I go to a coffee shop.

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Joined: Jul 2010
Post: #5
24-02-2011 03:38 PM

Maybe you should visit the coffee shops during the working day to find out!

Apart from the need to attract Young Professionals to work in local businesses, I would put it towards the changing "yuppie" work ethic. More and more of the workforce that are typically office based now operate outside of the office environment. I work from home quite frequently, only making the trip to work when meetings demand it. The availability of coffee shops in the local area can be as important as it is close to most office buildings. And more, since some will bring their laptop to do some work. Pop into the Teapot to see how many coffee, sandwich and laptop combinations you see.

Unfortunately, their connection is quite flaky so I don't use it very much. But I do prefer an independent coffee place to any chain.

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Posts: 80
Joined: Mar 2007
Post: #6
24-02-2011 04:45 PM

people go to coffee shops rather than drink coffee at home because it gives them a break from home! my husband works from home and goes out to work in jam circus or hop scotch just for a chance to be around other human beings during the day. nothing to do with being a young professional.

plus people tend not to go to greasy spoons, not necessarily because they are snobs, but because you come out smelling like an egg and bacon sandwich and the chairs/tables are not very comfortable. plus they dont really make very good coffee nor do they have wifi.

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Dee Woffaz

Posts: 8
Joined: Jan 2011
Post: #7
24-02-2011 06:01 PM

I regard a decent coffee shop locally very important. Im not a big alcohol drinker and I live on my own. It is far more socially acceptable to go into a coffee shop on your own than it is the pub and sit at the bar on your own. Greasy Spoons invariably sell the kind of coffee that comes in a large tin that you mix with water (dust) I do and can make nice coffee at home but if we all stuck to the poster of the threadís comment restaurants, pubs, Greasy Spoons and coffee shops would all go out of business. Tesco & Sainsbury would be winning the battle over small local businesses far more than they are doing already.
PS Decent coffee and surroundings isnít just for the young professional set.

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Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #8
24-02-2011 06:59 PM

Do people 'tend not to go to' caffs? Which people? The Oak Cafe on Honor Oak Park, for example, seems to do quite a decent trade. My partner and myself are both quite fond of it. (It's probably fortunate that I find the smell of chips alluring on a woman...). And the neighbourhood as a whole manages to support four caffs within walking distance. Somebody's going to them!

Personally, I'm glad that Honor Oak Park is home to both the Oak Cafe and Hop Scotch. I use them both and they're both good at what they do. Although Hop Scotch could take a few tips from the Oak on getting the food to the table inside of an hour.

I take the point that it's good to have alcohol-free non-threatening spaces for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable hanging around a pub. And I don't have a beef with 'young professionals' per se. But browsing this forum, and it's East Dulwich equivalent, has made me aware of a little subset of the species who can sometimes seem a bit over-invested in the whole notion of being a 'young professional'. And I wonder whether coffee shops don't have a symbolic attraction for this subset that goes beyond pure utility?

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Joined: Apr 2005
Post: #9
24-02-2011 08:07 PM

I am not young or professional but enjoy the relaxed atmosphere , nice cup of coffee and usually courtesy newspapers

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Posts: 1,790
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #10
24-02-2011 10:05 PM

I love the refreshing builders tea and unpretentious atmosphere of the caff on the corner of Stanstead Road opposite the co op. I try and visit all the cafes in Forest Hill including those for young professionals, but particularly think this one is extremely clean and serves fantastic egg and chips at half the price of some others in the area. We could do it at home but its nice sometimes to have some one else cook and not necessarily pay a fortune for it! I don't even mind the company of blokes from the construction sites ( nothing wrong with real work) and the occasional Sun reader. It is however all about getting out of the house sometimes!

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Posts: 458
Joined: Dec 2010
Post: #11
24-02-2011 11:50 PM

I'm neither young or professional but I find it relaxing treating myself to a cup of coffee superior to the kind I could make at home, in a nice local cafe or coffee shop.
Its my 'treat' after cleaning my house or doing the grocery shopping.

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Posts: 69
Joined: May 2008
Post: #12
25-02-2011 12:11 AM

wow! the only treat I can afford after doing basic every day domestic chores is to sit down for ten minutes. Good for you x

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robin orton

Posts: 716
Joined: Feb 2009
Post: #13
26-02-2011 10:31 AM

Interesting responses to my original query, thanks. I suppose what I had in the back of my mind was, as 'Spud' put it, 'whether coffee shops don't have a symbolic attraction for this subset' (YPs) 'that goes beyond pure utility.' But I can see they have practical attractions as well.

Sean reaonably suggests I should overcome my natural laziness (and stinginess) and actually try sampling FH cafe culture myself. But it sounds as if I did so I'd be less likely to find the FH intelligentsia smoking Gitanes (only at the tables on the pavement, of course) and arguing fiercely about Heidegger (which was the picture I sort of had in my mind) than a kind of open plan office with everyone at separate tables tapping away at their laptops. Doesn't sound all that tempting!

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Posts: 25
Joined: May 2010
Post: #14
26-02-2011 06:06 PM

Hello there,
I like coffee shops as I find pubs too loud. In fairness I can find some coffee shops too loud aswell. But if I want a chin wag with a friend then we'll head for a coffee as it has a more relaxed and generally quieter feel to it.

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