Tag Archives: latte

Starbucks 4 : Costa 2

Oh yeah, it’s getting fierce now! We have the combination of food and drink.

On test is Starbucks’ salted caramel mocha latte and the chicken and roasted tomato panini.

I was excited for this salted mocha, I won’t lie. Salted caramel is a huge flavour at the moment and the combination of sweet and salty is a risky but wonderfully complimentary one should you pull it off. Incorporating chocolate is, again, dangerous but definitely doable. Starbucks didn’t do it. The drink was overly sweet with barely a flake of salt. The drink was too thin and runny, as if the milk hadn’t been frothed enough, the name latte devoid of meaning. Better with cream? I doubt it, though apparently it’s salted. I don’t want to imagine what that’s like. To Costa!

Hold up though, if you’re hungry anyway. Remember that ham and cheese panini from Costa? Starbucks’ panini was, in general size, bigger I believe and had more filling. Classic combination of chicken and tomato worked well with a hint of cajun spice but nothing overpowering or even dominating. The rocket was a fresh addition adding colour and balance. The panini was well-toasted; a bit too floury but thick and foccaccia in style though definitely still a panini – don’t worry, nothing too fancy.

Yep, this panini held its own so a point each.

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Starbucks 1. Costa 0.

I am someone who shops on principle. This means I don’t go into Topshop because I think the prices are beyond a rip-off and I don’t like the monopoly of the Green’s; it also means I am currently boycotting Tesco milk because they continue to buy from areas that support the badger cull.

For some reason though, I find myself unable to resist the lure of Costa and Starbucks, the premium leads in the UK coffee market. For me, coffee shops are a haven; be they peaceful (admittedly not at 4pm on a weekday when students descend like seagulls on chips) and somewhere for my creative mind to whir, or vibrant, warming places for me to meet, socialise and unwind.

Costa in Aylesbury, Bucks, has the unusual luxury of having no nearby Starbucks with which to compete. It does have a Caffe Nero but counters this by providing mini-Costa’s in the town’s Odeon Cinema and Tesco Extra. Yes, it is true, Costa are pursuing world domination. But that doesn’t stop me from going.

This visit had more of a purpose though. Yes, I was meeting a friend but I was also drawn by the prospect of a new drink: the caffe caramella. Cafes and shops like this are forever re-inventing their menus to keep new-comers rolling in while re-engaging with their regulars. Starbucks’ Spiced Pumpkin Latte, for example, has recently become the new poster-boy for their Autumn drive.

I will gloss over the staff and interior; it’s not that they aren’t worth mentioning, (the staff were both good-humoured and efficient) it’s that you don’t go to these places for the service, you go for the atmoshphere. And the coffee. I am no coffee geek; I do not have a favourite blend and I do not have an extensive knowledge of the historical grounds that coffee came to us on but I do know what makes a good cup and what doesn’t.

“This new indulgent treat tastes every bit as good as it looks.” Yeah right. How many times has that come true anywhere? And, sorry, but it’s not ture again. The frothed milk and caramel sauce was indeed deliciously sweet and foamy but the coffee was too bitter, the caramel syrup barely kissing the Mocha Italia blend. It’s no match for Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiato. I’ll stick to my flavoured lattes thanks; admittedly, Costa has always impressed me with these.

So the attempt to re-engage with a regular has failed. Will it stop me going? Probably not, but if a company can’t develop successful products to move forward with to match competitors, we’re looking at a very interesting autumn and winter indeed.


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