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Bitcoin your way to a double espresso

By Katie Pisa and Natasha Maguder, for CNN
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A cafe in London has installed the country's first Bitcoin ATM machine
  • The machine takes money and dispenses Bitcoin which is then used to buy cakes and coffees
  • Owner says the machine is one step further in controlling our own money

Editor's note: Future Finance is a new series showcasing future trends related to the global financial system. The show complements CNN's business coverage by examining everything from a cashless society to high-speed trading that employs the power of laser beams.

(CNN) -- By now we're all familiar with the term Bitcoin, the notorious digital currency with dozens of copycats.

But most of us would find it difficult to imagine actually using this crypto-currency or even picturing what it looks like.

In fact, only a handful of venues in bustling London actually accept Bitcoin as a means of payment.

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That could be changing though, as the UK's first Bitcoin ATM machine arrived earlier this year at The Old Shoreditch Station café and bar in modish East London.

CNN set out to find out more about the machine which allows customers to buy coffees and cakes in the café.

Jaguarshoes Collective founder and café owner Nick Letchford was already using Bitcoin as a form of currency when he decided to install the machine after meeting a fellow enthusiast who pitched the idea to him.

"I am quite a sci-fi enthusiast and well, immediately I was captivated by the idea of it. I saw it as very much the way forward," Letchford told CNN's Nina Dos Santos, at the café in London. "I mean, a virtual currency or a digital currency is definitely the way the future of finance is headed," he said.

The owner of the machine, Joel Raziel, said he had the idea to install a machine in Letchford's café after seeing one at a convention several months ago.

"I was so amazed by the machine. I thought someone might bring one to the UK," said Raziel.

"The reason I really like Bitcoin is our financial system is very limited. We can send music, we can send messages, we can send any type of information, the only thing we can't send is money without having to go through banks," Raziel told Dos Santos.

If it sounds too much like a movement of the anti-establishment, Raziel is quite sure it's grown into something much greater than that.

"It's about freedom, it's not about trying to go against something, it's just about trying to make the world a financial place we'd like to operate in," he explained.

It's just about trying to make the world a financial place we'd like to operate in
Joel Raziel, owner of Bitcoin ATM

So how does it work?

"We can put a 5 pound note into the Bitcoin ATM and it will give you a value of Bitcoin that exchanges to that value of 5 pounds," explained Letchford.

Letchford said he trades in thousandths of a Bitcoin, meaning it is perfectly acceptable to pay for coffees by paying 0.001 of a Bitcoin. Each milli-Bitcoin is a thousandth of a Bitcoin.

"It's a very simple process," said Raziel, who explained that after pressing the start button, the consumer then scans a QR code on their phone which is linked to their Bitcoin wallet online. The final step is to simply insert money into the note acceptor.

While only about 1-2 per cent of Letchford's customers currently buy with Bitcoin, he still sees this as the way forward.

Raziel couldn't agree more. "We now have online banking, we now have chip and pin, we pay with wire transfers over the internet. In fact, very few people are using cash these days," says Raziel.

"Bitcoin is just a smarter step into empowering ourselves to control this digital money," he said.

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