Just What London Needs: More Starbucks

By SallyB2 Last edited 109 months ago
Just What London Needs: More Starbucks

3003.starbucks.jpg Bunch of suckers, us Brits. Show us a dream and we’ll buy into it. Especially if it hails from Stateside. We watched Friends, and suddenly we all wanted to be 30 something, carefree and urbane. Which was clearly best epitomized by our schlepping (whatever that means) on a couch and schlurping coffee all day.

Starbucks was always going to work in London. It offers coffee with knobs on, somewhere to chow stuff over, and lots of naughty stuff disguised as trendy/aka healthy stuff (just thinking about the calories in a panini or a frappuccino makes our belts feel tighter). A mugful of marketing. Out of London it has become a Mecca for the nation’s aspirational female teens: nothing says ‘I’m hip’ to a fifteen year old quite as strongly as the act of hanging out at Starbucks with mates. The firm’s combination of foam, cream and sugar and the occasional whiff of a coffee bean is bound to appeal to trainee grown-ups.

Well now it seems we can buy into the image for less. Instant Starbucks. Yup, we had to roll it around our heads for a few minutes to grasp the concept. But it’s not an early April Fools - the stuff was launched at Heathrow yesterday (sorry we weren’t there - we’d have put it straight on a plane home). Someone needs to tell the coffee mammoth the truth: their coffee really isn’t anything special. In fact, we find it leaves a real nasty after taste and makes our stomach gurgle. Their paninis are greasy, their cakes over-priced, their staff often miserable and stressed, and their loos invariably dirty. There: we said it. For proper caffeine, happy baristas and edible food give us Pret or Costa any day. And we are prepared to bet that the nation really doesn’t want instant anything from Starbucks: we tolerate them because we want to sit on battered couches and pretend to be clever for a wee while.

The invasion continues as they’re also opening more branches. We were slightly amused by the so-called Starbucks Effect when first the expression was coined, but we reckon the pendulum is swinging the other way now. The trendiest parts of town are the ones that are Buck free.

Image by Space Monkey via the Londonist flickr pool.

Last Updated 30 March 2009


Everyone in my apartment block got a free sachet of this a few weeks ago, courtesy of Mr. Postie, including a card saying that they were 'trialling' the sale of it from local branches.

Most entertaining of all were the instructions: "Add 177ml of water"

As if someone is going to stand there measuring out precisely 177ml...

"Sorry, your coffee tastes crap"
"Well, did you add exactly 177ml of water?"
"Well, that's why"

To be fair, it actually tasted pretty nice... but I don't think I could face the social ridicule of serving Starbucks coffee as opposed to the Sainsbury's instant variety. Or would be prepared to pay the obvious premium.


And yes, I realise that it might say something about the demographics of where I live if Starbucks think we're the sort to buy their coffee...


Schlepping actually means going somewhere. So you can't really do it on a couch, even if a couple of people are carrying you somewhere on it. Because, in that case, you would be being schlepped.

Arguably, the most famous instance of schlepping would be the recent Great Schlep, where comedian Sarah Silverman urged all the Jewish New York grandchildren to schlep down to Florida in October 2008 and convince their grandparents to vote for Obama.


Yeah, I was also gonna point out the sloppy schlepping.. You could technically schlepp onto a couch, though.


I could understand if we were anti chain coffee stores, but boo-ing on Starbucks while cheering on Pret (owned by Macdonalds) and Costa?!


I got a sample too. My partner made me do a blind taste test of the Starbucks instant compared to my normal filter coffee. It wasn't very difficult to tell which one was the real coffee.

I don't dislike Starbucks - as Talia said it's no worse or better than Costa or Pret. I'd say Caffe Nero has a slight taste advantage, but it's negligible. Monmouth coffee though --- now you're talking.


I take Talia's point about coffee chains - but the fact remains that the quality of coffee and grub at Pret and Costa seems much higher.
I do genuinely find the taste of Starbucks coffee vile, and their staff always seem unhappy. Whereas I've not yet met an unhappy or unhelpful Pret person.
But I've decided I really need to get me to (schlepp over to?) New York to gen up on my street speak.


MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmonmouth coffee...


Pret isn't actually owned by McDs anymore - they sold out to private equity, which is possibly even worse on the evil capitalist scale. Their coffee is a lot better than Starbucks - not as nice as Monmouth (or Tinderbox in Islington) though.


It's all about Flat White on Berwick St. Or, if you're in Wanstead, the Olive Branch on the High Road, which is just over the road from a Starbucks but happily still doing a roaring trade.

Monmouth Coffee is very fine, though. Starbucks is foul, Costa's is drinkable but not much else.


The problem is, is that to date most Brits don't know what good or great coffee is as they've not had exposure to it.

Unfortunately, many people think this crap dished up by Pretacostabucks is actually decent coffee. But it's not - horrid stuff. You're probably better of grinding up dead beetles and passing hot water through it.

However, this is changing for the better. But not thanks to Starbucks.

Personally, I've had some good experiences with coffee over here though, but the difference is, is that in Australia and New Zealand, your average Joe Barista can make a half decent cup of coffee. Here's it's only a handful.

The best I've had so far was at Nude Espresso near Brick Lane yesterday, and I've had pretty good coffee at Flat White, The Espresso Room, Le Peche Mignon, Prufrock and Monmouth Coffee Company.

So, if it's coffee you're after - avoid the chains and go somewhere that actually knows what they're on about and support it. Or if you actually like Domino's Pizza and McDonalds, stick with your Starbucks. It's quite simple!