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Costa Del Sold
Member Name: oberob
Advantages: Great atmosphere, reasonable prices, commitment to good causes
Disadvantages: Tea and coffee are not the greatest I've ever tasted
I have a problem with Costa Coffee, a contradiction running through the heart of this review. It's not a problem with the homogenised, corporate coffee houses popping up on every high street (I'm all for it in fact, I'd never have tried decent coffee without them). It's not a misty eyed hankering for greasy spoons. No, it's something much simpler than that.
Costa Coffee - it's average, but I love it. Though it has an abundance of atmosphere, chilled good times and, in my local at least, a decent mix tape, I cannot deny that at times the beverages are among the most mediocre I've ever tasted.
But let's try and be objective about this for a moment and talk facts. There are, of course, hundreds of stores throughout several countries over the world, which you will find everywhere from high streets to airports, service stations to bookstores, and even some restaurants have a Costa Coffee menu and facilities. It is widespread, easily accessible, and to cut straight to the chase, reasonably well affordable too.
I normally stop off in the morning for half an hour at an outlet in London. At that time of day, it is quiet, the sun is just coming up and I can sit there with a tea and a blueberry muffin, read the paper and contemplate the day ahead. From the moment I enter, I feel relaxed. The staff are, generally, very friendly and helpful. If I order just a drink, they will often ask if I want a croissant or a muffin - a lot of people might find this intrusive, but I tend to put a positive spin on this and imagine they're only saying it because I look as though I need fattening up. Hmm...
I have never had to queue for too long and the service is very efficient. As I have already mentioned several times, my local Costa has a sense of calm about it, the only startling thing being the staff's bright yellow polo shirt uniforms! The décor, a lovely mix of 'Costa red', brown and white, and the subtle jazz or acoustic music on the stereo combine to form a really lovely dining experience. It is my assertion that Costa Coffee is best enjoyed when you are eating in, rather than grabbing a coffee on the go.
Which leads me nicely onto the prices. It costs more to eat in than it does to take away (but this is pretty much par for the course anywhere these days). I will regularly order a small tea, which in reality is a teapot containing almost two mugs of tea, but I'm not complaining. Along with a croissant or a muffin, this will generally cost me in the region of £3.30 to £3.80. Given the amount of tea you get and the tastiness of the muffins (seriously, the blueberry muffin will change your life) I think that this is very reasonable. An Americano, Cappuccino, Latte will generally cost just over £2 for a small cup - you won't get much, if any change out of £3 for a larger cup. So in terms of size alone, you get value for money.
In addition, you can also get a loyalty card, which allows you to get points for every pound you spend. After a month's worth of breakfasts, I have saved up enough to have a free breakfast there. It might not seem like much, but it can't be a negative can it?
On taste though, there is something missing. You get offered a choice of skinny milk or semi skimmed and this is handed to you in a small jug on the side of your tray. You have to fetch the sugar yourself too, so it's definitely not my contribution that's changing the taste. There is just something bland about it. I don't drink a lot of caffeine, so notice when there is caffeine in something I'm drinking. But the tea has no kick and the coffee can sometimes be a little bitter. The speed at which it cools defies science.
This does spoil the experience a little bit, although the comfortable chairs, tremendous atmosphere, commitment to recycling and the rainforest and reasonable prices mean that when it comes to Costa, I'm sold. Even if the tea and coffee is average.
Summary: The good, relaxing times and value for money make up for any negatives