Tuesday, 24 November 2009

It's Frothy, Man

Phew! I'll have another Grande please
Sainsburys used to corner off a section where the old ladies and gents could come and have a natter and a cup of tea, for the princely sum of 30p. It was all a bit greasy and the tea was cold, but they'd warm it up in the microwave at no extra charge, and they'd wipe the old lipstick off the cup if you asked nicely. It had a rather pleasant, chatty English feel to it.

You could get a bacon sandwich if you stumped up a bit more. As a bonus, when your teabag broke, they'd read your fortune in the tea-leaves. ('You will feel slightly queasy this afternoon...')

But a couple of years ago they wiped all that away and put in a shiny new Costa Coffee.

I don't like it. £2.79 for a coffee. Two pounds seventy-nine! The word 'Costa' seems a cruel irony. And you can't get tea at all.

I resisted for a long time, but I thought I'd finally try it. I went in today and joined the queue of yummy mummies with Nasa buggies, and serious-looking business guys. (The old ladies and gents have gone somewhere cheaper). After a long wait it's my turn at the vacant-looking serving person. I ask for a coffee. Coffee? Blank face. Do you want Latte? Cappucino? Americano? Al-caponeo? No, if I want pasta I'll go to bloody Italy, I just want a coffee-o.

Will that be Fair Trade, she asks? No, I say, it's daylight robbery, but I'm thirsty so let's not argue any more.

Much scratching of heads, and whispered negotiation with the 'manager'. How can she be a manager? She's only 12. They duck behind the bar and do something very loud (whooooosh!). Clouds of smoke billow up. I'm just casting around for the fire extinguisher when they pop up and present me with an enormous mug. I negotiate a quick re-mortgage on the ole' mobile phone and pay up.

I sit down with the daily rag and a refreshing curly-wurly, and take a sip. Or rather I don't. No matter how much I tip the mug nothing comes out. This is strange. There's a lady wiping tables. I aske her if ther's something wrong with my coffee. Oh, she says, you'll have to ask the barrista, I'm only the wipe-ista.

Barrister? I only want my coffee, I'm not pressing a lawsuit. Yet.

No, barrista, she says, patiently, they're the schoolchildren who make your coffee.

Enlightened, I return to the bar and politely ask why they've given me coffee-flavoured shaving foam instead of the coffee-o that I asked for. More blank faces. The manager puts down her colouring book and looks sternly at me. Ah sir, she squeaks, our customers like their coffee this way.

I'm your customer! I just handed over my life savings! And I can't find the coffee!

It's there in the bottom, sir, she says, be patient. If you'd wanted less froth you should have asked for it dry.

Eh? Dry coffee? Once when drunk, nearly hung over, and desparate for food, I tried snacking on undissolved instant Nescafe. I have to report that it's not good, although on the plus side your head clears pretty quickly.

I hand back my cup of froth with a haughty sneer. Never mind, I say. I'm off to Tesco. They've got a nice old-fashioned Starbucks.


  1. I don't mind Costa - it's good. But Pizza Express is excellent - they will do you a 'bambinocino' for the nippers - **at no cost** which basically involves frothy milk with chocolate sprinkles. No, you can't find the coffee - but you know you're not supposed to!

  2. You'll fare no better at Starbucks, UG. They started the whole frothy milk nonsense. So much for Cool Britannia adopting continental cafe culture. Instead of a decent cappuccino in the morning and an espresso in the afternoon we get 500 calories of sweet FA.

  3. As the grumpmeister knows very well, these are the economic realities of our time - it's globalisation and it is comforting for me to know that there are some things in life that cost the same in the provinces as they do in London. Coffee has the highest mark up of any retail product so if you have the mugs paying £2.79 already you might as well do away with the coffee - it's the emperor's new clothes (mmm my latte is so 21st century...). Ah well at least the VAT paid should make a sizeable hole in the national debt (I just knew Gordo had a plan)

  4. Excellent post Mr UG. I know exactly how you feel. My other half likes the hot chocolate and cookie combos they do there. £2.50 for a cookie!


  5. That sounds like a rough deal. Almost as rough as this weeks lady. I bet she's never served coffee. What's going on uberG?

  6. My big sister gave me my first ever mocha maker. A coffee revelation. I've never looked back. Yes you can make good coffee at home without help from George Clooney, Nestlé or a barrister. Good coffee beans, water and no froth whatsoever...

  7. Very funny! It seems the people employed in the service industry keep getting younger and younger. Soon we'll be forking over our cash just for the "opportunity" to change their diapers. On the flip side, perhaps they aren't getting any younger, I'm just getting older. Either way, it's totally bumming me out.

  8. Oh! Oh! Oh! I want a Curly Wurly. I want it right now. Damn you for putting that into my head. Instead of my hand.

    I used to work next door to a Costa Coffee. It always smelled of strong foreign coffee and despair and the counter was always manned by a lady with one leg.

    Sadly I haven't touched a frothy drink since my sister told me that it got that way because a haughty Frenchman was employed to spit in it. But then she was the one who almost put me off Sol because she said it was made from Mexican man's spunk, so I'm confused now...

  9. Where did you come from? I love this post. Having been a Costa victim in the past, I share your pain. I was new to the country, searching for a coffee shop to look "busy" and "social" in and Costa left me reeling with "WTF, where's the coffee in this country?"

    But man oh man, do they make a tasty sandwich. Trust me on this and invest next year's stock dividends on a panini.

  10. funny i'm resisting starbucks for the same reasons you just listed.

  11. Like it, Grumpy! At least the manager was pubescent! The world has changed, while I haven't aged at all. Something is wrong somewhere..

  12. I am thinking of investing in my own coffee maker for the exact same reason!

  13. Couldn't agree more. I think there are a group of people who work for these coffee place,Mc Donalds and Kentucky fried chicken who invent ridiculous names for all their product just to have a good laugh at us. I cring when I order a "super dooper delux crunchy crispy bacon extravaganza"!!! I noted mention to curly wurly again! Is it your fettish or are you doing promtion for them!? Kate (the other Kate)

  14. Ubergrumpy, you've got it all wrong again!
    Just hang out in the coffee shop in C&H fabrics or Beales and you'll feel right at home.
    Leave Costa coffee to me. I speak their language and drink their coffee. Well, technically it's a Double Macchiato with Fairtrade certified coffee and a dash of vanilla.

  15. Oi! Minigrump, I'm not that old.

  16. I take my caffeine carbonated. I'm glad I never acquired a taste for coffee. I can't afford it.