Posts Tagged ‘Costa Coffee’

Coffee at Costa

September 26, 2012
coffee at Costa: freddo cappuccino should not look like this!

coffee at Costa: freddo cappuccino should not look like this!

In the interest of scientific inquiry, coffee at Costa in Protaras in Cyprus. Is their coffee as bad as that in England? How does it compare with patisserie amelie?

Freddo cappuccino (iced cappuccino) is strong black coffee. It is bitter, but not an unpleasant bitter. It has a kick. It is an art to make and requires quality coffee.

Two lattes and one freddo cappuccino were ordered at Costa Coffee. They were made in surprisingly short time, not a good sign.

The latte were ok, milk hides a lot.

The freddo cappuccino should have been dark, almost black, topped with brown, then creamy white.

It was not, it was a browny colour, with creamy white clouds swirling within. Topped by an off-white brownish colour.

The girl who made it was clearly not skilled in a freddo cappuccino.

It had an unpleasant bitter taste, leaving a nasty after taste in the mouth. A sign of poor quality coffee.

The cost, a little over ten euros. For comparison, patisserie amelie less than ten euros, around one euro difference in price.

Price though not the only difference. At patisserie amelie quality coffee, looks good, tastes good.

It is difficult to see why anyone in Protaras would frequent Costa Coffee, when just up the road patisserie amelie serving quality coffee at lower price.

Costa has 15 coffee shops in Cyprus. The intention is to flood the island with Costa Coffee, starting with tourist destinations, as only English tourists stupid enough to frequent Costa.

Costa Coffee in Cyprus is a franchise. They refuse to honour Costa Loyalty Cards.

Why set up a franchise? Why not establish quality coffee shops? Why indeed?

There is one quality coffee shop in Protaras, patisserie amelie (outside Sunrise Beach Hotel).

Costa obstructing the highway

September 13, 2012
Costa obstructing public highway with tables and chairs ...

Costa obstructing public highway with tables and chairs …

... passers by forced into single file ...

… passers by forced into single file …

... other side of stall congested but passable

… other side of stall congested but passable

Obstructing the highway, operating without planning consent, it is all the same to Costa.

Thursday is market day in Aldershot. Stalls in the middle of the street, it is quite congested, but just about passable, except where Costa have their tables and chairs illegally obstructing the highway, where passers by have to walk in single file to get by.

Why is the local council turning a blind eye to this illegal obstruction of the public highway by Costa?

Costa Coffee dodgy business practises

August 23, 2012
Costa free voucher cannot even give the stuff away

Costa free voucher cannot even give the stuff away

Costa claim to be listening! Listening to who?

Costa claim to be listening! Listening to who?

Costa Coffee, like Starbucks, will flood a locality with coffee shops to drive all existing coffee shops out of business.

Planning consent is a minor inconvenience, to be ignored. Costa are quite happy to flout planning law and illegally open coffee shops without planning consent.

Illegal Costa Coffee shops: Bristol, Clevedon, Portishead, Southwold, Southend, Oxted, Sevenoaks, Thatcham, Beverley, Aberystwyth, Barnstaple, Darlington, Milngavie in Glasgow, Epping, Crowthorne, Lymington and St Anne’s.

Costa Foundation appears to be greenwash to make Costa look good. It is the customers who make the contributions, not Costa, not even matching pound for pound what the customers donate. Were Costa and other multinationals to pay a fair price for coffee the coffee growers would be able to earn a fair living and be able to afford to send their children to school.

Costa do not even seem able to give the stuff away. Out on the street giving out vouchers for a free coffee. Not only Costa, I saw McDonald’s doing the same today, out on the street handing out vouchers.

Naomi Klein in her excellent No Logo (a must read if you have not read), exposed the appalling working conditions at Starbucks (one reason I would never frequent Starbucks). If there was a slack period, staff would be ordered take a break, clock off, then clock back on when busy. This means you could be there ten hours but only get paid for two.

A con many companies are now employing is the Zero Hours contract. There are no set hours, like for example a 30 hour week, you only get paid the hours you work. I have asked of a manager in a Costa, are staff on a Zero Hour contract, he said no, but readily admitted staff are sent home if slack. Asked if they are still paid for those hours, he said no.

In Guildford there are five Costa Coffee shops, plus three Starbucks, plus at least one Cafe Nero. Those in the know in Guildford go to Guildford House, an art gallery, tourist information centre, plus a lovely tea shop.

Note: I originally said there are four Costa Coffee shops. I got it wrong, there are five!

Another lovely coffee shop in Guildford is Glutton & Glee, and unlike Costa or any of the other identikit clone coffee shops, it has character.

Farnham has one Costa Coffee shop (they must be slacking), still one too many. Costa claim to provide cultural and social space. Those in the know go to The Barn, quite literally an old barn, a genuine cultural and social space.

Alton has one Costa Coffee shop. Those in the know go to a lovely little Italian coffee shop with scrumptious cakes and lovely freshly made food.

Just when you thought it was bad enough with Costa and Starbucks, along comes Tesco with a chain of artisan coffee shops. Something of an oxymoron, Tesco linked with artisan. To fool the punters the chain will not mention Tesco, every little hurts.

Costa claim to be listening! Listening to who? They were not listening in Bristol, Southwold or Totnes where local people made it very clear they were not wanted.

It is long overdue for the Parliamentary Business Select Committee to take a look at the dodgy business practices of Costa and the failure of our local planning system to stop chains like Costa destroying our High Streets.

Costa Foundation

August 22, 2012
Costa Foundation

Costa Foundation

The Costa Foundation claims to be working hard to improve the lives of many in their coffee growing communities.

The best way to do so is to pay a fair price for coffee!

What actually are they doing, where do the funds go, who provides the money?

What better place to ask than a Costa Coffee shop. And that is what I did.

In front of the counter was a collecting plate (not exactly secure) and junk trinkets to buy.

I asked, where does the money go?

The girl did not know, suggested I asked someone else, but made the point she did not pocket the money.

What I wanted to know was, who was making the contributions, as it seemed to be the customers, with Costa claiming the credit.

I asked another member of staff, if I put a fiver in this collection will Costa match it?

She did not think so.

Ok, do Costa pay a fair price for coffee from these producer countries as that is the best way to help the local communities?

Again did not know, but did not think so, helpfully adding Costa did serve Fair Trade coffee.

Ok, where does your milk come from?

This she did know, we buy it locally.

This surprised me as Costa are not known for buying locally.

I asked did she know where the milk came from?

Yes, she did, and went off to get a carton of milk to show me.

It came from Freshways (this I knew already). Freshways is one of the milk companies targeted by farmers for failing to pay a fair price for milk. Freshways buy milk on the spot market. Freshways have been buying milk in from Belgium to keep the price paid to farmers artificially low.

If Costa do not support farmers in England, why should we believe they are helping coffee growers abroad?

The Costa Foundation appears to be greewwash, all Costa is doing is handing over money donated by customers with Costa claiming the credit.

The attitude of the staff in the Coffee shop was we only work here.

If Costa Foundation was an important part of Costa the staff would know about it.

Contrast with Lush, who do support good causes, who will match pound for pound, where the staff can tell you all about what they are supporting.

Last year I was at a fund raising party for a film. Lush were matching pound for pound the money raised.

On the Costa Coffee website it lists various success stories, but no figures are provided, and asks would you like to donate but no link to enable you to donate.

But why should we donate? Should the donation not be coming from Costa, or at the very least matched funding?

If you do wish to donate, then contact War on Want or World Development Movement who work with sister organisations and ask where you can donate.

The best way to help coffee growers, is to support independent coffee shops who only serve Fair Trade tea and coffee, and suggest to them that maybe with the support of the countries, they could support a project in a coffee growing country. If they have the facilities, ask them to show the film Black Gold.

For a $3 cup of a coffee, a farmer earns three cents.

I saw Black Gold premièred at an international film festival and met the directors. What makes it so powerful, apart from the stunning cinematography, is the stark contrast between coffee shops like Starbucks and Costa and the price being paid for a cup of coffee and the harsh working conditions of the farmers and the price paid for a kilo of coffee beans.

If farmers were paid a fair price for their coffee, they would be able to afford to send their children to school.

If farmers were paid a fair price they would not be dependent on the ‘generosity’ of Costa in doling out money donated by their customers.

Costa, with your help, hope to raise £750,000. No information on what has actually been raised. But why do Costa not simply hand over £750,000 if they are so keen to make a difference, or better still simply pay a fairer price for coffee?

To put this figure in context, Veg, aka nine-year-old Martha Payne, has raised through her food blog NeverSeconds, over £113,000 for a school kitchen in Malawi, and is now heading out to Malawi to open the kitchen, to be known as Friends of NeverSeconds.

Top Story in Fair Trade Daily (Thursday 23 August 2012).

Costa Coffee respond to not being wanted in Totnes

August 19, 2012
One of four Costa Coffee shops in Guildford

One of four Costa Coffee shops in Guildford

@CostaCoffee Please listen to the people of Totnes. They don’t want you, they have 41 independent coffee shops already! — Mary Portas

@maryportas thanks for your comments, it would be great if you could spare a few minutes to read our blog on the matter. — Costa Coffee

Costa coffee must be feeling it, as they have written a blog post in response to criticism by Mary Portas. They have not written or responded to the local community, such is their contempt for local communities.

They cannot even get the link right, they link to the blog, not the post.

The blog is called For Coffee Lovers. Somewhat Orwellian. The one place coffee lovers would not go is Costa.

They say planning is complicated. Actually it is not. It should be a process whereby local people collectively decide what is best for their locality. In Totnes it spectacularly failed. Local councillors ignored the wishes of local people and rubber-stamped the Costa application for an unwanted Costa Coffee shop.

The same happened in Southwold, where again the local council ignored the wishes of local people and rubber-stamped an application from Costa for an unwanted Costa coffee shop, only in this case somewhat bizarrely approved an identical application which only weeks before they had rejected. What had changed?

Planning process is complicated? Is that the excuse put forward by Costa for ignoring the planning system altogether and illegally opening coffee shops in Bristol and sticking two fingers up to the local planning process?

The Costa blog is mealy-mouthed bollocks, half truths and lies.

Costa tell us they are doing Totnes a favour by filling an empty unit, that they are providing a social space, that they are merely simply coffee servers, no threat to anyone, they contribute to a local community, their offering is very different to local coffee shops.

Their offering is very different to local coffee shops. I would hope it is. I would hope local coffee shops serve decent coffee, freshly made, locally-sourced sourced cakes from the local baker (or better still bake their own) and that they do not charge extortionate prices for a cake and a coffee.

Provision of social space. Something all coffee shops provide, only when they are independent not a corporate outlet, it is a genuine social space.

Why would a Costa coffee shop bring people into an area to spend their money when the same Costa Coffee shop can be found in any Clone Town across the country? And even if it did, the money spent would be immediately sucked out of the local economy.

The shop unit would not have sat empty, there were other interested parties, but the absentee landlord refused to let.

Yes, Internet does suck money out of a local economy, but then so does Costa.

80p in the pound spent in a local shop gets re-spent in the local economy.

If Costa are happy to coexist with other independent coffee shops, then why do they flood an area with Costa Coffee shops (often with no planning consent), in a deliberate attempt to drive the other coffee shops out of business? The same aggressive tactics used by Starbucks.

At the end of the day, we’re just coffee shop operators. We’re not out to cause trouble or put people out of business. We’re there to serve coffee and provide a social space – nothing more.

One could almost be forgiven for believing Costa was a social enterprise, there for the good of the local community, a not-for-profit entity, not an aggressive wholly-owned subsidiary of Whibread, each a profit centre geared to extract the maximum revenue from a locality.

Totnes says no to Costa, local council says yes

August 9, 2012
Costa Welcome to Clone Town

Costa Welcome to Clone Town

Totnes says no to Costa

Totnes says no to Costa

Totnes should not let Costa piss in their coffee pot. — Jason E Cooper

I’m an extremely cross mayor and very disappointed and upset. We’re desperately striving here to try and keep the town as unique as we possibly can. — Mayor Pru Boswell

Costa should recognise the damage they do to their own brand as well by imposing where they’re not welcome. — Sarah Wollaston MP

Fine Arabica coffee, however knowledgeably and ethically sourced, has a habit of shedding its winning qualities when made into an amaretto milkshake by casual staff earning little more than the minimum wage. — Joanna Blythman

David Cameron made the right noises when he said local people should make local decisions. He made a fatal mistake when he assumed local councils act in the best interest of local people.

Aldershot and Farnborough are centres of deprivation in an otherwise affluent south-east. Housing benefit claims are double that of surrounding areas. The local council known locally as the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor rather than helping to regenerate, to put money into the pocket of local people, to retain and recycle money in the local economy, has done everything it possibly can to trash the local economy.

Farnborough had half its town centre destroyed to make way for a Sainsbury’s superstore (this in an area saturated with superstores), local independent family run businesses saw their business destroyed (many of who had been in the town for 30 or more years), a small housing estate of social housing was destroyed to make way for a car park for the superstore. The town is now a ghost town.

A lovely little family deli near me was destroyed by the council, worthless jobsworths conducting a vicious vendetta against the shop to force its closure.

Aldershot is a Victorian town. Having learnt nothing from the destruction of Farnborough, an eyesore, a blot on the landscape is being erected on the edge of the town centre. It obstructs the skyline, it is completely out of character with the town centre. This new development will relocate the centre of retail gravity away from the town centre and destroy what little is left. Were it not for the many ethnic shops, Aldershot would be dead.

Aldershot used to have a Victorian Arcade. Possible only one of three in the country. It was destroyed. In its place a plastic replica. The units sat empty, boarded-up shop fronts with pictures of the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.

The handful of shops in The Arcade are now being evicted. The Arcade to be redeveloped as a large bar, possibly J D Weatherspoons. Friday and Saturday night Aldershot is full of drunken scum. The last thing it needs is another large bar.

Last year small retailers were evicted from Aldershot town centre. This was the idea of the Borough chief executive who offered to pay the legal costs, and cover the ground rent for two years, to bring in a Lidl. The same chief executive who got into bed with the developers who have destroyed Farnborough town centre, the same chief executive who said he would work 24/7 to ensure the development that will finish off Aldershot town centre would go ahead.

At Upton Park in London, the Mayor of Newham got into bed with developers, the same developers responsible for the destruction of Farnborough town centre, to destroy Queen’s Market, a very popular local market, and replace it with an Asda superstore. Local people who opposed these plans were called troublemakers. The good news is that London Mayor Boris stepped in and stopped the development going ahead, in the meantime Asda had pulled out due to the bad publicity.

In Lincoln local people learnt from a Notice hidden in the local paper that the City Council intended behind their backs to sell The Lawn. The Lawn contains the Sir Joseph Bank’s Conservatory, the botanist who sailed with Cook, and who founded Kew Gardens. The Lawn was not the council’s to sell, it was an asset held in trust on behalf of local people. The cost saving, the annual running cost, was that of one useless jobsworth.

In Scotland, bully boys at a local council tried to shut down the food blog NeverSeconds run by Veg, aka nine-year-old Martha Payne.

I was thinking I had never been to Totnes, that I have passed through on the train on my way to Cornwall. But I am thinking of somewhere else where the line runs along a seawall, where there is a town inland of the line. I may have had a fleeting visit to Totnes. I was at Dartmouth and one day went on the river upstream to Totnes, but although I can recall Dartmouth, and the River Dart, I have no recollection of Totnes.

Totnes is small market town in Devon. They are fiercely proud of their heritage and their independent local shops, they even have their own local currency, the Totnes Pound.

It was therefore no surprise when Totnes said No to a Costa Coffee Shop, this in a small town that boasts of 30 independent tea and coffee shops, 5,500 signed a petition, people marched on the local council. The council stuck two fingers up and said yes to an unwanted Costa Coffee Shop.

So much for localism and local democracy as promoted by David Cameron.

What had to be seen as a sick joke, in their application Costa Coffee said:

The character of the street would be enhanced through this proposal as it would bring a vacant unit back into use increasing the vitality and viability for the area.

This is the arguments local planers always use. One wonders who is pulling their strings.

Be it Costa, Starbucks or any other national chain, and increasingly these are global chains, the one thing they do not do is ‘increase the vitality and viability of an area’ far from it, they destroy the vitality and viability of an area.

What is vibrant about all town centres looking the same, with the same High Street retailers? Last year I went to Petersfield to visit One Tree Books, then the official bookseller for the Guildford Book Festival. A church, a market square, but lacking any character as the same High Street chains as found in every other town centre. I have seen the centres of Alton and Godalming destroyed by the same High Street chains.

But is not only the appearance. The chains are draining money out of an area, whereas local shops, each with its own quirky character, are recycling money within the local economy.

Georgia Starr, a 12-year-old visitor from Milton Keynes, who joined the No to Costa March, got it right when she said:

Totnes is quirky and independent and that’s why I like it. Milton Keynes is full of chains already and part of the reason people come to Totnes is because its different. Tourists like individuality and Costa would ruin this town.

Richard Taylor, who runs Beanbug, a ‘coffee trike’ which sources ingredients ethically:

Costa will do nothing for the town, the economy or local people. They won’t support the local supply chain. They don’t care where they get their milk or their coffee from. Where they go, Starbucks and others follow. They may as well just open a McDonald’s.

Costa claimed, and again do not laugh, a high quality coffee shop would attract people to Totnes. Really, I am going to travel all the way to Totnes to drink shit coffee when I can do it in any clone town across the country.

Fuckwit Councillor of the Year Award must go to Basil Cane who claimed the creation of eight full-time and eight part-time jobs would be welcomed (figures no doubt supplied by Costa and not independently verified) and that “In 12 months or two years, the people of Totnes will be saying ‘what a wonderful thing we have a Costa here’.”

When are thick councillors and planning officials going to wake up to the fact that chains destroy jobs not create jobs? When are they going to wake up to the fact they are there to serve their local communities, not act as facilitators for Big Business to muscle in and destroy the character of a local area, the local economy.

One of the pleasures of a day trip to Brighton is North Laines, three streets with individual quirky shops.

In Bassano del Grappa, a small town north of Venice in the foothills of the Alps, four independent bookshops happily coexisting. One was in an old palace.

Devon has green fields, dairy herds. Farmers are suffering as the big chains and milk processors are not paying enough for their milk. A local coffee or tea shop would be buying its milk locally, Costa import their milk from Belgium!

The empty unit into which Costa wish to move, was occupied until 2009 by Greenlife, a local independent whole food shop, who have now moved to larger premises. There are other independents who would be happy to relocate into the empty premises, but the absentee landlord refuses to let. Oxfam showed an interest but were outbid by Costa.

Independent shops provide variety and diversity, they offer a wider range of goods and choice, they usually employ staff who are knowledgeable and take an interest in what they are selling, and they usually pay higher wages. Many High Street stores are now competing unfairly by employing slave labour, unemployed are forced to work for nothing or lose their benefits.

Early in the week a friend and I visited Costa. It was not out of choice. It was late in the afternoon and Costa appeared to be the only place nearby open, plus I wished to learn why Art @ Costa no longer took place. Art @ Costa used to take place on the first Tuesday of the month, the same day as the farmers market in Guildford. The coffee was disgusting (possibly marginally better than Starbucks). And it was expensive. £6-40 for two coffees and a cup cake. To put this in context, excellent lunch at a Thai restaurant cost only 65 pence more. I learnt from the staff that employment conditions are abysmal, they are paid a pittance, Costa a bad company to work for.

Translate this to Totnes. I know from Art @ Costa if you have a coffee and a cake you are lucky to see change from a fiver. Therefore assume a fiver per customer. That is a lot of money being drained out of the local economy in Totnes. The only money recycled back into the local economy will be the pittance paid to the staff, and that assumes it is all paid back into Totnes, and not all will, even if we only assume money is spent on energy costs (heating, lighting, cooking, transport).

First it was Tesco (and be warned Tesco is opening a chain of ‘artisan’ coffee shops) that was seen as a threat to our town centres, now as Joanna Blythman explains, it is coffee shop chains:

Coffee chains in general are rapidly becoming a downtown planning menace to match the creeping supermarket threat. First it was Starbucks popping up like the proverbial bad penny on every corner. Then it was an army of Costas. The coffee chain assault on our town centres is now so pronounced that both Bristol and Totnes have seen high-profile campaigns – ultimately unsuccessful – to stop Costa opening.

What makes truly great coffee shops? Joanna Blythman again:

Truly great coffee shops – think Tazza D’Oro in Rome or Caffè Pirona in Trieste, are one-off indie operations, often family-run. They reflect all the quirks and preferences of the diverse group of people who run them. This authenticity is what gives the best independent coffee shops such timeless appeal, and makes them genuine assets to their area. Never confuse this venerable business model with faux chain coffee shops, stamped out with a corporate template.

But the good folk of Totnes should not be too disheartened. They should follow the advice given by Sarah Wollaston MP on Costa Coffee and vote with their feet:

I realise the people of Totnes are disappointed and feel their views were not fully taken into account. I now advise people to vote with their feet! There are so many wonderful independent coffee shops in Totnes, all contributing to its vibrant atmosphere and I wholeheartedly encourage people to continue to give them their custom. Taking part in Transition Town Totnes’s Independent Coffee Week earlier in the year enabled me to appreciate just some of those on offer.

This is only the first skirmish. They have had a lot of support for their No to Costa campaign. Turn this into direct action. Make this a very expensive exercise for Costa. Boycott the shop. Ensure not a penny is spent in Costa. Educate visitors why you are boycotting Costa. If the visitors take the message back home, an even more expensive exercise for Costa. Already nationwide bad publicity has been generated for Costa.