Are there too many coffee shops in Harrogate?
by
Last updated Jan 12, 2024

“Not another one!” It’s a common refrain whenever The Stray Ferret publishes a story about a new coffee shop opening in Harrogate town centre. But is it justified?

There’s no doubt we’ve seen a fair few come and go in recent years. The Harrogate market is challenging, with stiff competition alongside high rents and business rates.

But there are also some really well-established coffee shops in the town, as well as newer ones making a name for themselves. With a survey in August by data gathering platform Statista showing that coffee has overtaken tea in the UK’s affections, are there really too many coffee shops in Harrogate?

Just how many are there?

Looking at an area of 2.5 square kilometres which covers the main shopping streets, my quick calculation is there are around 40 places serving coffee alongside cakes, pastries and light lunches. That’s over 15 options for coffee per square kilometre. It includes a varied mix of independent and chain coffee bars, cafés, shops and hotels.

Who is drinking all this coffee? 

I headed into town on a cold, miserable early January lunchtime to find out people’s thoughts on the matter. It was a good day for it: Town was surprisingly busy, and the weather grim enough to make going for a coffee seem very appealing. Some of the people I spoke to had either just had a coffee or were just about to. One of them was Sam, 32, who lives in the Oatlands area of Harrogate. He said:

“I’m heading to Bean & Bud right now for a coffee. I go there quite regularly. They do really good coffee, better than the coffee I can make at home. I started going there over ten years ago and so there’s that loyalty to them, but I’ll occasionally go to Baltzersen’s for the food.

“I’ll go for a coffee if I’m in town for other reasons, but I’ll also come in specifically to have a coffee. Are there too many coffee shops here? I suppose if they are all open and busy, it’s better to have coffee shops than boarded up units.”

Sam said the quality of the coffee was important to him, as was supporting local independent businesses. This was echoed by Natalie, 35, from Bilton, whose favourite places to grab a coffee are No35, Baltzersen’s, Hoxton North and Pink Door on Kings Road. She sees going for a coffee as a “bit of a treat” and will go out specifically on a weekend for a coffee if she fancies it. She added:

“I don’t think there is too much choice – everyone likes coffee. It’s important for me that the coffee is nice and that it’s from an independent business as I try to support independents and they have a nice atmosphere, too.”

Jennifer Sanchez, 75, and Leanne Dransfield, 33, both from Killinghall, have very different habits when it comes to coffee. With young children, Leanne rarely finds the time to visit a coffee shop but likes Brood because it has toys to keep the kids amused. Leanne also sometimes goes to Starbucks as it’s her teenage daughter’s favoured hang-out. Jennifer, meanwhile, often goes to Nomad because “the coffee is very nice and the staff are helpful.” She also sometimes goes to M&S for a coffee if she’s there while shopping.

Harrogate resident Cheryl Hutton, 61, had just been for a coffee at Caffe Marconi. She said:

“I’ve been there a few times with friends from work and was walking past and fancied a coffee. Usually I’ll be in town and pop in somewhere for a coffee and maybe some cake. I don’t think there are too many coffee shops – they all seem to be busy.”

It all sounds fairly positive. But how do the coffee shop owners feel? While it’s all very well for customers to have such a varied choice, what’s it like to compete for the affections of Harrogate’s coffee lovers?

The coffee shops

Daniela Genova and Nertil Xhallo at Caffé Lago di Como

Daniela Genova and Nertil Xhallo at Caffé Lago di Como.

Daniela Genova and Nertil Xhallo have had to adapt their offering to compete in the Harrogate market since taking over Caffé Lago di Como on Beulah Street two years ago. Daniela said:

“As award-winning baristas, we started out with coffee at the heart of the business. But that wasn’t enough – you can get coffee and cake everywhere.

“While it is still the foundation for what we do, as the competition has grown we’ve had to offer something more, not just to survive but to succeed. Our street is now full of cafés and coffee shops, and there are more round the corner, down the bottom, right, left, everywhere!”

Although still passionate about their coffee – a blend roasted fresh every week by Darkwoods especially for them – Daniela and Nertil now offer a range of homemade cakes and Mediterranean-inspired lunches. It seems to be a recipe for success, with the café “full every day” with shoppers, tourists and residents.

“We’ve exceeded all our expectations for the business. The location is great for footfall and we also have a lot of regular customers. About half of them come for our coffee and the others for our food. But they also like the consistency and quality of our menu, and we treat all our customers well.”

Over at LMDC espresso bar on John Street, owner Helen Lawson has changed very little since taking over the established venue in September 2021 and many of her customers have been visiting for years. She thinks the coffee shops that have been successful in Harrogate have all had to carve out their own niche by offering something slightly different to each other.

LMDC coffee shop in Harrogate

Helen Lawson at LMDC.

“There are so many places to get a coffee in town but we’re the only ones to offer the Square Mile roast, while other places have their own unique coffee blend or do food as well. Bean & Bud, for example, are known for their pour-overs, while Baltzersen’s have their pastries and cinnamon buns.”

Dan Howard is the general manager of Starling on Oxford Street, which has been open since 2017 and is a coffee shop by day and a craft beer bar by night.

Dan thinks competition is “never a bad thing” and says he has nothing but well wishes for anyone who tries to open a business in the town centre. He said:

“I’ve lived in Harrogate all my life and have certainly seen an increase in coffee shops, but the town has always been hospitality and tourism driven. Personally, I don’t think there are too many. There are a lot more coffee roasters out there now and people have more knowledge about it and appreciate a good coffee. It just means you’ve got to get it right and consistently offer the best-quality coffee, food and service.”


Three historical coffee shop facts: 

  • The first coffee house was opened in Oxford circa 1650
  • By the 1670s the number of coffee houses increased in London and were important places for political debate.
  • By 1675 there were more than 3,000 coffee houses in England
  • 1919  Frederick Belmont opens the first Bettys Café at 9 Camridge Crescent, Harrogate

What do you think? We’d love to hear your views and thoughts on the changing nature of the town centre? Do you always have a coffee when you go into your local town? How do you decide where to get your caffeine hit? 

Please email us on [email protected]


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