I love coffee, I really do. I drink it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I drink it at home, at work and on holiday. I probably drink too much of it, to be honest. I’m drinking a cup as I write this.
Despite the often ridiculous amount of coffee I consume, I wouldn’t say I’m one of those sneering coffee snobs we all love to hate. You know the types, the ones who just wouldn’t dream of ever drinking a cup of instant, oh god no. The ones who’ll happily spend 20 minutes lecturing you on the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans and are constantly harping on about how their vintage coffee mill grinds their fresh Colombian beans to just the perfect consistency for their new, state-of-the-art French press.
I don’t know enough about the stuff or care that much to be that condescending. Sure, I’ll question your judgement if you drink your coffee with 6 sugars and half a cup of milk, but really, come on, who are you kidding, that’s not coffee.
When it comes to coffee chains, I don’t really have a preference, because I rarely buy coffee when I’m out and about. At home I have a cafetiere for ground coffee, one of those fancy machines with the little pods, and a big jar of instant coffee. At work we’ve got a big filter machine and yet more instant. I don’t often find myself spending my free time in high street coffee chains. I’ve drank in them all at one time or another, but not often enough to have really formed an opinion on any of them.
So when Greggs contacted me to ask if I wanted to take part in the Greggs Coffee Taste Test I was intrigued. Would this be a defining moment in my coffee drinking life? Would I have a sudden epiphany and become a new man, swearing to stick to just one high street brand for the rest of my days?
Well, at the very least, I’d get some free coffee, and I love free stuff, so that was reason enough for me.
So, every morning for a week I set off for work 5 minutes earlier than usual, armed with a pocket full of gift cards and a thirst for caffeine.
I started my week at Starbucks, the tax avoiding, Christmas hating, write your name on your cup but spell it in a weird way so you take a picture and upload it to Instagram like “LOL My name is Becki, not Becky, silly Starbucks”, big daddy of high street coffee chains. I ordered my regular Americano and waited to see what fun name they’d give me. Would I be Mark? Martin? Marshall? Who knew?
Well, it turns out I didn’t even get that. My coffee arrived nameless. I guess if there’s no queue, they don’t see the need in writing names on cups. Disappointing start to the week, if I’m being honest. What’s a man got to do to get an Instagram-ready coffee cup, Starbucks?
For the rest of the week I hit up the other major chains. Tuesday saw me turn down the offer of a loyalty card in Café Nero, while on Wednesday I discovered that Pret a Manger only offer one size of coffee, and apparently think it’s fine to serve it lukewarm. It’s not fine, by the way, just so you know.
Thursday saw things take a positive turn, as I was served by possibly the happiest Geordie barista in the world – it’s pretty much impossible to not find cheery Geordies endearing. Even though Costa Coffee had by far the biggest queue of the week so far, this guy was powering through orders like a machine, all with a skip in his step and a permanent grin on his face.
Finally, on Friday, it was time for Greggs. Oh dear sweet Greggs. I take no shame in my love for Greggs, I bask in it. If you want something cheap and delicious, day or night, Greggs has got your back. Give me a sausage roll and a steak bake and consider me a happy man. Forget about the Coca Cola Santa, Christmas isn’t truly here until Greggs unleash the first batch of festive bakes on an eager, hungry public.
Greggs offered the cheapest coffee of the week at £1.50 for a regular Americano (compared to £2.35 at Starbucks, £2.05 at Café Nero, £1.75 at Pret a Manger and £2.30 at Costa Coffee). However, Greggs also offer you the unmissable deal of a breakfast sandwich and a coffee for £2. So obviously I got a bacon and sausage butty with my coffee for an extra 50p, because it was Friday and I’m not a mug.
So as I reached the end of the week, with a belly full of coffee, do you know what I discovered? Are you ready for the hot take? All high street coffee is basically the same, and anyone who tells you differently is clearly just a sucker for branding.
I’m sure a coffee snob would try and wax poetic about the subtle differences between the brewing methods used by these chains, but to the average coffee drinker, there’s not much difference between them all.
I’m not going to run out and start spending £10 – £15 a week on coffee when I can just as easily brew it myself at home or at work. However, when Friday rolls around and I fancy a treat, it’ll be Greggs that I choose. Unpretentious, reliable old Greggs.
Because Greggs is always there for you, like a warm hug on a cold day. Ready to ease the pain of your 9 to 5 troubles with hot pasties filled with meat, beans and cheese, and now a pretty good selection of coffee too.
(Disclaimer: My coffee throughout this week was paid for by Greggs, but the opinions and my love for Greggs are all mine.)