Business Opportunity

Watching Starbucks digging itself ever deeper into the Pit Of Social Justice, I can’t help thinking that there’s an answer to all of this idiocy:

Yup, these guys are all over Europe and Britain, and are expanding into the Far East. Here’s one outlet in the Philippines (despite the red phone booth):

…but they’re all over the place:

That one’s in Prague, despite the English signage.

I encountered them last year in Britishland — remember, it had been nigh on fifteen years since I’d been Over There before, and as I recall, Costa was still a small presence back then. Now, of course, they’re pretty much ubiquitous, whether in malls, stations, on High Street and in service stations (thanks to a pretty nifty dispenser which gives you almost a dozen options).

Best of all, Costa’s offering isn’t at all like the hyper-pretentious nonsense from Starbucks — their sizes are Small, Medium and Large, for one thing — and best of all, their coffee is damn good (also unlike that of Starbucks). Because I’m a wussy, I drink their “Americano” (diluted espresso) whereas Mr. Free Market gets the super-strong unsweetened because he’s a manly man (and no sarcasm intended, either; I tried drinking his choice once, and had to quit after half a cup because hallucinations).

People think that Costa isn’t Over Here because of the strength of the competition (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Caribou and what have you), and that’s a fair point: Costa came into the U.K., for example, when there were relatively few Starbucks outlets around and most Brits were still drinking instant coffee [pause to be sick], so their entry into the market wasn’t too difficult. In fact, I think they succeeded where Starbucks failed: to turn Britain from a tea culture into a coffee culture.

However, I still think Costa could make it here. Their menu is more Starbucks than Dunkin’ Donuts, but cheaper and (of course) less pretentious and self-conscious. Ordinary people like you and me go to Costa and drink coffee, as opposed to the hipster-yuppie-soccermom filth who prefer to pay too much for their triple-chocolate-low-fat-soymilk-double-decaf lattes. (I’m not making that last one up, either. I think the cost was $7.50 for a “small”, probably because of the labor cost involved in just making the stupid thing.)

It’s time there was a decent alternative to the Scum From Seattle anyway, and seeing as it’s not going to come from Greggs (more’s the pity), it should be Costa. As long as they don’t turn their outlets into shelters for the homeless.

8 comments

  1. I second your emotion. Starbucks bad, Costa good. The Costa at one of the LGW exits has saved my sanity several times after a redeye flight from Canada.

    Over here in Canada, Costa has made what I think is a huge mistake by starting out in gas stations. Gas stations do not serve good coffee and people who buy in gas stations are not looking for good coffee.

    Unfortunately, Italian and Spanish coffee shops are both generally better even than Costa, but that’s not on the table.

    I have started drinking the tiny cups of strong espresso because my old bladder won’t handle any large amount of surplus fluids for very long. I started out by heavily sugaring them and now mostly have them black. The good coffees, Italian, have some natural sweetness.

    1. > people who buy in gas stations are not looking for good coffee.

      We are, we just don’t expect to find it.

  2. Community Coffee is sold at gas stations in Texas and it is very good. Moved back to Washington State a couple years ago and am enjoying the little coffee stands that are every where. Gave up on Starbucks a long time ago. Triple shot Americano and I am a happy girl.

    1. Community’s okay, but it just has a little too much chicory in it for my taste. What tastes so great with beignets at CafĂ© du Monde in Nawlins doesn’t translate too well outside there.

  3. Ummm. British?? Coffee?? …that’s drinkable?

    Hmmm. Been a while since I was there.

    Talk to me about toilet paper. Does it still have the calendared surface that makes it so easy to clean for re-use?

    1. You need to get out more, Stenc. That said, I know: it took me a while to get used to the concept of non-instant British coffee, too.
      As for the TP, I think it’s improved since they allowed Kimberley-Clark to do business Over There… I even saw paper towels on sale at Waitrose last year.

  4. Kim, are you sure it wasn’t the doctor visiting that Costa in the Philippines? That looked an awful lot like the TARDIS.

  5. Costa? I first encounted them in China. Not bad! (It didn’t hurt that the barista was pretty and wanted to practice her English)

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