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British Coffee Guide: Traditions, Flavors & History

British coffee English breakfast

When you think of British coffee, you may think of weak espresso or watery black coffee. England has long been a nation of tea drinkers, so you may not think they drink coffee at all. But coffee consumption has been steadily rising, and according to the British Coffee Association, Brits consume 95 million cups of coffee every day!

So how do the British drink coffee? Do they prefer American classics like drip coffee or iced lattes — or something else entirely? The short answer is that the British like their coffee somewhat like Americans do, with a couple of notable differences. Keep reading to find our guide to all things British coffee!

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But First, Tea


Before we get into coffee, we need to spend a moment talking about the British obsession with tea. Tea first arrived in England way back in the 1600s, brought by traders from China. A century later, it was the preferred drink of Brits of all economic classes. Even though coffee is gaining ground, tea is still a staple. The average person living in the UK drinks an impressive 4.28 pounds of tea every year.

Many British people insist on preparing their tea — because they can be very particular about the methodology — and are less likely to order it at a café.

SEE ALSO: Black Tea vs Coffee: Which Has More Caffeine?

British Coffee at Home

So what’s the most popular type of coffee in the UK? Instant coffee. 80% of British households regularly buy instant coffee — and that rate is even higher among citizens over the age of 65. In younger generations, single-serve coffee pods and ground coffee are gaining ground — but still not at the levels seen in America.

Espresso powder vs Instant coffee

Why do the British prefer instant coffee? With all that energy going into brewing tea, maybe there just is not time, budget, or kitchen space for more elaborate coffee equipment. Or maybe the Brits are so accustomed to the lighter flavor of tea that they don’t like the bold dark roasts favored by Americans.

You’ll find containers of Nescafé in many British kitchens (next to jars of tea), ready to be stirred into freshly boiled water. It may not be the most delicious way to drink coffee, but instant coffee is certainly easy to prepare!

British Coffee at Cafés

british coffee tea room menu
Image Credit: Unsplash

The Brits drink a lot of instant coffee at home, but what do they order when out at a café? As in much of the world, espresso is more popular than any kind of drip or pour-over coffee. If a British café does offer regular brewed coffee, it will be called “filter coffee” on the menu.

Other than that, the Brits are pretty similar to Americans in their coffee shop favorites. Expect to see classics like cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites in every tea room — and more elaborate drinks at coffee shops in big cities like London.

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The Bottom Line

The British are all about tea, but coffee is steadily gaining popularity. Many Brits prefer instant coffee at home and stick to classics like cappuccinos and lattes at cafés. So if you want to drink coffee like a Brit, take your cues from American coffee shops!

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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