No matter where you live in the UK you will almost certainly have either a Starbucks or a Costa or a Caffe Nero in your local town centre.
If you live in or around a larger city then you will likely have two or all three present and in London and the largest cities it is not uncommon to have a Starbucks in one street and another one literally in the next street down less than 50 metres away.
With over 3600 coffee shops in the UK alone between the three of them, there is no getting away from them so which one is the best and should you consider boycotting all three in favour of better and cheaper coffee?
Which is the biggest coffee chain in the UK?
Although Starbucks is by far the biggest coffee shop worldwide with a mind-blowing 30,000+ shops in 78 countries, Costa Coffee is the biggest in the UK by some distance with over 2000 shops compared to Starbucks 1000 and Caffe Nero in 3rd place with around 650.
The big 3 have a monopoly on the market with no one else even coming close so how do you decide where you should go?
Is coffee overpriced at Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero?
Yes, it is. These companies are a business and they are of course in it to make money. It is common to spend £3 on a coffee of your choice and when you start to add extra shots and flavoured syrups the price can rise even further so how can you pass judgement that this is a lot of money to pay for a cup of coffee?
In our opinion, the biggest reason why coffee is overpriced in the big three is a lack of consistency. If you are paying that kind of money for a coffee you want it to be the same, every time.
Unfortunately, the turnover of staff is so high that almost no-one ever actually gets to become a Barista and they don’t have a passion for coffee and they quite literally do not know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte
Ok, I am a coffee snob, I accept that and therefore my expectations are higher than most people but think about the last time you went to Nando’s, was the food the same as the time before? And the time before that? Yes, it was and that is the reason why I am happy to pay more for chicken and chips – because it tastes good, the service is quick and you get the same thing every time.
I like a strong Cappuccino so I ask for a dry cappuccino which should result in almost no milk and lots of foam on top of a double espresso but over and over again I end up with a milky latte with the milk just filled up to the top of the cup. I now have to ask for a double espresso with the milk separate so that I can add it myself to get a cappuccino that I paid a lot of money for.
If you want a pint of milk you should just go to Tesco and pick one up for pennies rather than go to Costa and ask for a large latte which pretty much gets served up as a pint of heated milk – you can’t even taste the coffee.
To put the price into perspective, if you choose to make a Cappuccino or Latte at home you can pick up 200 grams of Starbucks Blonde Roast coffee beans for around £3 in most supermarkets which will easily make 10 double espresso’s so you are looking at around 30p per cup and another 5p for milk and that gives you a coffee that you actually want to drink and can consistently be made the same at a 90% discount to the price you pay in Starbucks or Costa or Caffe Nero.
Although there are 30,000 Starbucks worldwide do you know how many there are in Italy? – 3. Italy is the home of coffee and the Italians take their coffee very seriously.
One of the biggest reasons that they have no presence in Italy is that the Italians do not do takeaway coffee. Coffee is a drink to be served in a proper cup not a cardboard takeaway version. It is a drink to be savoured and enjoyed with friends, not guzzled down without flavour and without thought. It is an experience.
Walk down any street in London during the morning rush hour and you will see loads of people grasping their morning caffeine fix but take a look the next time you are in Milan – None.
To that end, Milan is one of a handful worldwide where Starbucks has opened a Starbucks reserve Roastery where you can experience coffee on a totally different level where you get a true coffee experience that explores and teases the senses with high-quality coffee available and different options not available in standard stores like pour-over coffee and coffee cocktails and much more – to have in of course.
How to save money in a coffee shop
If you visit any of the big three coffee chains on a regular basis it is well worth considering bringing your own cup. At Starbucks and Costa, you will get money off every purchase that will quickly pay for the cost of the cup and at Caffe Nero, they give you double stamps so you get a free coffee twice as quick.
You will also be helping the environment as well because most takeaway coffee cups cannot be recycled.
Are many different types of reusable coffee cups including ones that will keep your drink hot for 6 hours and if you don’t have much space you can even get ones that collapse and fold down so you can fit it in your pocket. If you want more detail we have compiled a list of the best reusable coffee cups for you to take a look at.
How to save a lot of money making your own café quality coffee at home
You can certainly save money by bringing your own reusable cup when you buy a coffee at Costa or Starbucks but you can save an awful lot more if you make your own coffee at home instead (it will taste better too)
If you have never owned a coffee machine before don’t be put off by the huge contraptions you see them making your drink with in a coffee shop.
There are many different options to consider for a home coffee machine and the prices range from £10 to £1000 or more.
If you are looking for a machine that will replicate what you get in a coffee shop then you can start with taking a look at some of the best cheap espresso machines that will quickly pay back the investment with a saving of at least £2 on every coffee you make.
The important thing for a great cup of coffee is to buy whole coffee beans and grind them just before making your coffee for maximum freshness and flavour.
If you don’t want the hassle of doing that yourself you can consider a bean to cup coffee machine that does everything for you at the touch of a button.
Which is the best out of the three?
It really is a matter of personal preference. They are all much of a muchness in terms of price and it just depends which one suits your palette the most. If you like a large latte then they all serve up pretty much the same thing – a double espresso with a pint of milk.
My personal preference is Caffe Nero because they have smaller cappuccino cups and seem to be the most consistent in serving a cappuccino the way it is supposed to be.
In our opinion, by far the best way to go is to get yourself a coffee machine and make a better coffee at home for a fraction of the price you will pay on the high street.