The surprise of the UK barista championship being won by an operator of a coffee-cart rather than a traditional bricks-and-mortar café has sparked renewed interest in the already-growing sector of mobile coffee services.
The powered-mobile sector has been showing increased interest for several years now, with newcomers to the coffee business taking this relatively-inexpensive entry route, and finding business in venues as disparate as shopping centres and business parks.
One of the popular wagons for a coffee business is the three-wheeled Piaggio Ape, a kind of cross between a motor-scooter and a small van, and these are now available under the Lavazza brand through a deal with Big Coffee of Yorkshire, the company which converts the vans into mobile espresso bars.
"The mobile coffee-to-go industry is one of the few faring well," says Big Coffee founder Rob Dixon. "The rewards can be great and working for yourself is a great achievement alone, but it is always hard work. With the Lavazza brand comes strict standards all operators must continuously achieve, so working a mobile is not an easy option."
Bikecaffe, a pedal-powered espresso bar based on a Dutch delivery trike, which is converted in Stratford on Avon.
When offered as a franchise operation, the Bikecaffe is presented as 'a whole new concept in environmentally-sound business'. The bikes now use vintage-style lever-operated espresso machines from Astoria and are very low on energy use - mobile coffee carts often use gas for the heating of their water.
Bikecaffe uses a Fairtrade coffee, the Integrity blend from Metropolitan Coffee, and all used coffee grounds are donated to local allotments as a fertiliser aid. Teas are brewed from compostable tea-bags, and there will soon be a 'bring your cup back to be recycled' incentive.
By Ian Boughton