ON a trip along any high street, it’s almost impossible not to be confronted with the trademark signage for big-name coffee brands.

But with the big brands taking up such a prominent space in our towns, smaller independent establishments have to try that bit harder to attract customers.

Costa was the largest coffee chain in the UK as of last year, with 2,655 stores in operation. Its familiar red signage and its trusted food and drink options can provide a reliable choice for customers.

Hexham has three of the big brands to contend with. Costa and Caffe Nero take up spots on Fore Street while the more recent addition of Starbucks attracts a steady stream of customers at Bridge End.

But some independents in the town have taken the decision to shut their doors, most recently the Tea Temple on Priestpopple and Grape and Bean on the Market Place.

And it seems that coffee shops are facing competition not only from the big chains, but from an increasingly saturated market.

Research from Direct Line for Business, carried out last year showed more than a third of all change of use applications submitted to councils in the county in the last financial year were to convert a shop into either a restaurant or cafe.

But some have been able to weather the storm. The Rising Cafe on Hexham’s Beaumont Street opened last year, and those running it say it is now completely full on most lunch time periods.

It is run by national charity Betel House, which helps people who have experienced homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and long-term unemployment into work.

Brenda Cox, director of Betel House Hexham, said: “I think being a charity and being run as a charitable cafe initially made people come in and support the charity, but now we are finding people are coming in because they are pleased with the quality of the food and the prices.

“We continue to be overwhelmed and very pleased with how well we have been received by the community.

“I think how we are a little bit different to the likes of Costa as everything we do is done on site.

"We don’t buy any of the cakes in and the other things on the menu are home-made and freshly prepared on site.”

And while Hexham is peppered with big-name coffee chains, Prudhoe is a town which hasn’t seen that influx as of yet.

Caffe Ginevra, on the town’s Front Street, is a firm favourite with many locals, and business is going so well that the owners plan to open another branch in Prudhoe in the near future.

This would become their fifth shop, as owners Amy and Anthony Finn have already expanded to Blyth, West Denton and Wynyard after first launching in Prudhoe.

Their new shop will take residence on the new retail development in Low Prudhoe, which is planned to include an Aldi and a B&M so far. They were offered the opportunity by developers Northumberland Estates.

“This one at Low Prudhoe is a massive opportunity to be involved in and we felt like we had to take it as we would much prefer it was us than a national chain coming in.

“I think Prudhoe not having the big chains is what makes it easier than Hexham.

“But I think people like a mixture of things about coming here. A lot of people say they love the coffee and we import it ourselves so you can’t really get it from anywhere else. A lot of people who say they don’t drink coffee say they like ours and also I would say it’s just a really nice atmosphere.”