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11 March 2009

Better Than Average Coffee Mediocrity

Ah, Costa are at it again. I've been walking past the sandwich board outside their Baker Street branch--sorry, one of their Baker Street branches--twice a day for about a week now, each time growing annoyed with their latest slogan: "7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer Costa." I never slowed down enough to read the small print (if there was any) but my immediate reaction was, "preferred Costa to what?" Tea? Mud? Sewage? Actually, my serious guess was that Starbucks was the point of comparison and an ad in today's Metro shows I was right.

"In head-to-head taste tests, 7 out of 10 coffee lovers preferred Costa cappuccino to Starbucks." This, at least, is a more informative comparison; I wasn't sure at first whether "coffee lover" was clearly defined enough but the real small print explains that in the independently conducted survey, people were asked to blind taste a cappuccino from Starbucks, Nero and Costa and state their favourite. Among the 174 self-defined "coffee lovers," 70% preferred Costa. It does seem somewhat odd that the same percentage--70%--preferred Costa to Starbucks as those who preferred Costa to Starbucks and Nero but there you are. I, of course, would fall into the 30% who did not prefer Costa to Starbucks and Nero, although I do admit that I prefer Costa to Starbucks (and yes, I do self-define as a coffee lover).

If only there were a nice independent coffee shop on my way to the tube, this would all be a moot point. I was, however, amused by the D+caf strips (highlighted in yesterday's 60-Second Science podcast on SciAm.com), which, for the paltry sum of $9.95 for a pack of 20 (approximately £30 at today's exchange rate) will test the caffeine content in your beverage so that you can see whether sneaky waiters in restaurants or boyfriends who are convinced that your caffeine addiction is purely a product of the placebo effect are really deceiving you.

If only similar strips existed for skimmed milk so I could tell when the barista has, once again, failed to take in each of my complex personalisation instructions (skinny, warm, dry cappuccino with no chocolate on top). It's so complicated being a coffee lover...


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