In the UK the coffee market is booming.
According to a report in the Financial Times last year we consume 1.7bn takeaway coffees each year from 18,000 retail outlets, and it seems we haven’t reached saturation point. Gregg’s (the bakers) and JD Wetherpoon (the pub chain) want our custom too and it’s expected that in the next 5 years there will be almost 21,000 places to get our caffeine hit.
Most of those coffees sold will be in large cardboard cups with plastic lids, and whilst when I say large we still haven’t reached American size servings, but Costa’s Massimo is apparently 20 0z. A pint. Really? A pint of coffee?
Perhaps this just offends me as a lover of tiny espressos, but my usual choice is a cappuccino, which when served from one of those big chains becomes a large cup of foamed milk with a submerged shot of bitterness in the bottom. Why did that become the acceptable option? I guess the global power of Starbucks is the answer to that question.
Costa promote themselves as “Britain’s favourite coffee shop”. I’m not sure on what basis they claim that status – is it because they sell the most, which would hardly be surprising since their outlets are ubiquitous, or because the nation prefers their product to the alternatives? I find it hard to believe it’s the latter.
Costa of course is an Italian name, and so it alludes to authenticity in their offering. The language of coffee is Italian; espresso, cappuccino, Americano, latte are all familiar to us, but in Italy you can add in ristretto and corretto. All very well until you remember that Costa is simply a brand belonging to Whitbread, the former brewers who also brought us Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre. Not quite so Italian.
And so to my recent visit to Bologna, a city that thrives on food
production, but the emphasis on taste doesn’t stop there.
Order a coffee here and you get something very different to the bland milkiness of the cardboard cup. A cappuccino is still made with foamed milk, but not so much as to dissipate the flavour of the espresso at its heart. And that flavour is important. So much so that to ensure you can fully enjoy it, you will also be served a small shot glass with each coffee you purchase; not full of grappa (unless you specified caffe corretto) but of water, and probably sparkling water. It’s the perfect palate cleanser so you can taste your small, flavoursome, and often beautifully presented coffee.
Another reason for me to love this country. Now what to have with it…?