I like coffee. I do. But I am a bit fussy about it. Not for me the spoonful of instant. Nope. I have a little Italian Moka pot, not quite as shiny as it once was, but capable of making me the perfect morning coffee. I use Guatemalan FairTrade coffee, a rich sweet but strong bean that I was introduced to in a restaurant in Belgium many moons ago and has remained my go to coffee bean ever since. I like coffee the Italian way, not a bucket of milk but a short, satisfying hit of coffee topped with foamy milk and NO chocolate sprinkles or other flavours.
I was contacted by Havas PR (working on behalf of Greggs) to ask if I would sample and compare a range of coffees available from various high street brands. To make things fair, I was asked to compare the same drink in each establishment and mark each one on the following: Taste, Value, Fresh, Smell and Aesthetic. I was not paid for this but provided with gift vouchers to use in each establishment.
Obviously this is a personal view and what I find palatable others may not but I was surprised at the results. When I order coffee “out” I usually choose a flat white or an espresso. For this test I went with the flat white.
Starbucks – nice aroma but very creamy. Slight bitter aftertaste, not full bodied. Very hot. Smaller cup that had to be doubled due to not fitting the cardboard sleeve. Most expensive drink.
Costa – good aroma, creamy and rounded taste. My usual gripe is that it’s too big a serving and I rarely finish it. (To declare an interest, this is where I usually buy a coffee if I’m not near the preferred option of an independent coffee place). Not the prettiest of cups but most practical in terms of its corrugated wall preventing scalded hands.
Pret a Manger – good aroma but bitter coffee, very acidic. Didn’t finish it. Almost too hot to drink, was the milk burnt? Needed to sit a little before serving I suspect. Simple cup, but as per Starbucks, so hot it was hard to hold.
Greggs – good aroma. Not as silky as some I’ve had but perfectly pleasant cup of coffee. Coffee used was quite mellow, didn’t leave a harsh aftertaste. Not sure I’d class it as a flat white, more of a coffee with hot milk but best value of the lot in terms of cost and taste comparisons. Simple cup – why not make more of the 100% FairTrade? I almost missed that and it wasn’t highlighted in the shop like it is in Pret. Least expensive drink but also only one that wasn’t made from scratch i.e. barista style.
Caffe Nero* – harsh coffee, left bitter aftertaste. Seemed thin, not rounded, no aroma, didn’t finish it. Distinctive blue cup – like Costa – immediately obvious which brand you have chosen.
*I went to Caffe Nero last and discovered that they don’t serve a flat white. So I had a cappuccino sans chocolate as the closest I could manage.
Taste Value Fresh Smell Aesthetic Total
Starbucks 3 3 4 3 3 16
Costa 4 3 4 4 2 17
Pret a Manger 2 1 3 4 2 12
Greggs 4 4 3 3 2 16
Caffe Nero 1 1 3 3 3 11
So in conclusion, following the marks, Costa came out top, just, but the least and most expensive coffees from Greggs and Starbucks tied. As already stated, Costa is the brand I am most familiar with, but I was surprised by how much I disliked the Pret a Manger and Caffe Nero coffees, clearly I’m not a fan of the coffee beans that they use! I am still going to purchase my flat white from an artisan coffee place (no, I have no beard, nor tattoos), as I like to support local micro businesses but if that option isn’t available, I may revisit Greggs again for a coffee.