There’s an awful lot of coffee in King’s Lynn. A walk around the main town centre shopping area reveals around 42 separate places where people can purchase a cup of coffee (or tea).
Never has there been a greater choice of places in Lynn town centre offering coffee (or tea).
It seems that meeting for a coffee in Lynn has never been more popular with the independently-run coffee and tea houses located cheek by jowl with the national chain coffee houses. Each one offers customers a varied selection of coffee (and tea) at varying prices.
Lynn clearly reflects the national trend of soaring numbers of coffee shops on UK High Streets so that you never have to go far for a caffeine fix.
But according to investment bank, Citigroup, it’s time the big brands woke up and smelled the coffee.
Analysts say that we are about to reach coffee shop saturation point with the current country-wide expansion stalling within five years.
Citigroup predicts only “four to five years of structural growth remain” in the UK coffee shop market.
A decade ago there were fewer than 10,000 places to buy coffee in the UK and fewer than a third of those belonged to the big chains such as Starbucks, Nero’s and Costa, according to coffee-market researcher, Allegra.
By the end of last year there were more than 22,000 coffee shops and branded outlets had doubled in number.
According to Allegra, as a nation we consume around 2.3 billion cups of coffee per year in stores.
The analysts seem to have got it right with people in the Lynn coffee shop trade claiming the town has now reached saturation point, while others say there is room for everyone provided they all offer customers something slightly different.
My survey of the town centre, of course, is not exhaustive, and there are pubs that also offer customers tea or coffee rather than alcoholic drinks.
In the High Street, there are nine different coffee or tea shops – a mixture of independents and chains and including cafes within the Debenhams and Marks & Spencer department stores. There are two Costa Coffee shops in the town centre and two Greggs outlets.
Around the hub of the Vancouver Quarter are six different coffee shops, again with a mix of independently-run outlets and chains.
In Norfolk Street there are five venues offering coffee and tea, including the recently re-opened and re-furbished Eagle pub.
Dotted around the fringes of the town centre are another selection of coffee shops. These include some in more unusual locations like Crofters housed in the vaults of the historic Guildhall of St George on King Street and the Country Line Buffet within the Railway Station with its wonderful nostalgic atmosphere, evoking images from the famous Brief Encounter film.
These days the coffee shop is far more than a place to be served a Cappuccino or a Latte, it is also a social hub where people socialise, work, and meet Tinder dates.
Long-time residents of Lynn will have fond memories of the town’s coffee shops and names such as Ladyman’s, Woodcocks, Purdy’s and Wagg’s evoke nostalgic memories. People still speak of the strong coffee aroma that oozed from the Ladyman’s store and wafted down the High Street.
Whether your preference is for a Latte, Cappuccino, Americano or you would rather have a traditional English blend of tea, it can be found in Lynn’s shopping centre.
Lynn is fortunate that it has an old established café within the Railway Station. Every morning, as people rush to catch their trains, they manage to find time to grab a coffee or tea. Established customers know the cafe’s proprietors, Alan and Betsy Gajdzik, as friends and some of the staff, like Merryl, have worked there for many years.
Among the other unusual venues for coffee shops include Crofters housed in the undercroft of St George’s Guildhall. There customers can sit and enjoy afternoon tea beneath the stage of the historic Guildhall of St George where Shakespeare himself is reputed to have trod the boards.
One of the town’s most popular museums, True’s Yard, has a delightful tea room so you can combine a stop for a coffee and a home-made scone with a look back at the bygone world of Lynn’s rich maritime heritage.
The Duke’s Head Hotel has also long been regarded by many to be the town’s most iconic hotel designed by Henry Bell, the architect also responsible for the town’s Custom House. At the Duke’s Head you can relax in the spacious lavishly-decorated lounge and enjoy a coffee or a tea.
Across the historic Tuesday Market Place you can enjoy your coffee or tea at the Globe Hotel – in the summer months sitting out in its attractive garden (an old bowling green) stretching back to the riverbank.
As mentioned earlier, some of the independent coffee shop proprietors feel Lynn has reached coffee shop saturation point.
Tammy Dean has been at the Norfolk Tearooms in Norfolk Street for 20 years and feels there are now just too many coffee shops in Lynn. She says that her takings are 40 per cent less than a decade ago and finds it difficult to compete with the national chains.
“The Borough Council has given us a year off paying business rates otherwise we would have struggled running the business,” she said.
Sharon Boldero has just celebrated a decade running her charming tea rooms, Florence Café, on St James Street.
She has a loyal following of regular customers. Mrs Boldero feels that with the number of coffee shops and tea rooms in Lynn she survives by offering something a bit different. The shop offers 100 different flavours of tea.
At Norbury’s on Tower Street proprietor Simon Dye has been running the family business for 20 years. “We are known for our home-made scones and everything we sell is made here on the premises,” said Simon. One of the newest coffee houses on the block is the Soul café and restaurant, occupying what was the old Willow Tree coffee shop on Tower Street. Front-of-house manager Tamsin Payne feels the town has almost reached saturation point regarding the numbers of coffee houses, but at Soul something different is offered customers, including special themed nights.
So, with such a choice of places to go for a coffee in Lynn town centre, chances are that, whatever your taste in coffee, it will be met in one of these premises.