How to… be a (high street) coffee connoisseur

Hello there! I’m a Brit type English person and I wish to discuss something of vital importance with you right now.
Oh yes, lovely hot drinks. Well the one hot drink in particular that has a big part to play in my life.

But first, this …

Don’t you think it’s rather funny how we always refer to dogs as a ‘he’, and cats as a ‘she’? Well it’s the same thing with Britain and America.

Britain is a ‘tea’ and America is a ‘coffee’, and what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Yes, history and tired stereotypes tell me the only liquid that should ever legally pass my lips is tea, and that the only right and true accompaniment to this is a nice bit of crumpet (saucy slide whistle).
Britain seems to have gone coffee shop mad. They’re springing up at a rate of knots, sometimes right next door to each other bizarrely.

It seems I owe everything to the Ethiopians and their goats, who discovered coffee in about the 9th century.  The herdsmen noticed the goats eating red beans from a bush and then, er, dancing. This may or may not be true, I prefer to believe it is. Goats. Is there nothing they can’t do?

Since then, large-brained human beings have learned to roast it, grind it, and turn it into the best part of my day. Thanks humans! You also created for yourself one of the easiest ways to ask for a bit of how’s your father EVER. Not that I’ve ever asked someone in for a coffee, but I bet YOU have.
Plus I don’t actually like to share my coffee with anyone.

Regardless of our voracious obsession with coffee shops these days, the media still insists on portraying Brits as nothing but tea swilling, donkey braying, devastatingly attractive sexy idiots who are awesome and do not bray like donkeys.

Since the age of about 14, I have bucked this tea trend.
Coffee is my thing. Coffee is my drug, my blood, my… lover? No, not that far, but you get me.
If I did religion, coffee would be nailed to a cross and I’d be singing hymns, sacrificing animals and asking for guidance while weeping over it at Christmas. Yeah…I think you get me. I’m a whore for Joe.
Joe as in the Americanism for coffee, I don’t know anyone named Joe. Well I do, but only as an aquaintance and certainly not in relation to any kind of street corner arts.

Anway regarding coffee, it MUST be good. By good I mean barista brewed lovingly, with the type of milk I want, extra shots or not depending on my energy levels, the possibility of a funky syrup, easy on the foam, maybe a dusting of cinnamon AND vanilla sugar on top just to make it extra sexy.
Welcome to my world, let’s drink.

The vitally important coffee shop research I did

This is serious now. For you, I sacrificed myself by spending a week trawling various coffee establishments in a search for the best brew. Yes. I did that for you and you alone.
Well alright, maybe I enjoyed this particular part a bit more than I should but it was honest and professional research. I even made notes like some kind of journalist jerk.
This is what I learned.


The house blend – I like it. It’s quite strong so a regular cappuccino will do the jolt job without needing an extra shot usually, unless you’re running on extreme low energy. Not bitter, but not so smooth that you get nowt regarding flavour.

Perks – You really can have things anyway you want. From choice of milk (whole, semi-skimmed, skinny, soy) and even the TEMPERATURE of said milk. Ridiculous, but hey, some people just are that pernickety. The choice is dazzling, and some of the cold drinks they offer during the summer are gorgeous.

Downsides – This much choice can be a little overwhelming. The food is very expensive for what it is, I paid nearly five quid for a sandwich and it really wasn’t all that. Bit of a cold atmosphere.

CAKEWATCH! – Fairly expensive, but the mini ones you can buy are adorable and will satisfy the craving. They do a biscuit wafer thing that has syrup in the middle, oh Christ it’s gorgeous.

Do try – The cappuccino, just as it is. Needs no embellishment.

Verdict – Very good coffee, I avoided Starbucks for ages because I presumed it would be weak. I was more than happy to be proved wrong.


The house blend – Lovely. Costa is a favourite of mine because the coffee has that nice ‘hello sailor!’ strength without any overpowering bitterness. Very Italian.

Perks – Warm and cosy shops, enhances the stay-in experience. Flat whites (Twitter friends will know what I’m meaning here),

Downsides – Not as much choice as Starbucks, regarding your personal preferences.

CAKEWATCH! – Nice choice, the lemon cake is sublime. The raspberry and white chocolate muffin is similarly sublime.  A friend and I partook of the cream tea one afternoon and then again on another afternoon. There may be a third afternoon approaching, do you understand this code?

Do try – The Toffee Creamy Cooler. “Holy orgasm in a plastic cup, Batman!”
You can’t see me, but I’m doing a sex face. Trust me. GET ONE.

Verdict – A big favourite of mine personally. I spend way too much money in there.

Caffe Nero

The house blend – Now…it’s Nero’s normal practice to serve all coffee with a standard two shots. You must ask if you require a single shot. That aside, I find their blend to be hideously bitter with an almost burnt aftertaste. Not a fan.

Perks – The shops themselves are very nice and comfortable. A lot more Eurocentric in their design, dark woods and leather. Bit gentleman’s libraryish.

Downsides – I hate the way they have most of their cold coffee options pre-made and sitting in the fridge. I want my stuff made fresh if I’m paying that much for it.

CAKEWATCH! – Not as much choice as the other two I found. The cupcakes looked delightful though.

Do try – The tiramisu cake is a little slice of heaven. Washed down with acidic coffee that completely ruins it.

Verdict – I won’t be back. As Arnie said in Terminator 14 or whatever one he died in for the last time.

M&S Coffee

The house blend – Very nice, strong but not overpowering/bitter. A second shot made me jittery for a little while though.

Perks – Not quite as expensive as the big name shops, you get one of those GAWJUSS little European oat biscuits, just like the ones they give you in my spiritual homeland, Belgium.

Downsides – On two occasions when asking for a skinny cappuccino, I was given whole milk which tastes absolutely vile to me. There doesn’t seem to be as much attention to drink detail as there is in the ‘big three’.

CAKEWATCH! – Considering this is M&S, a place known for the quality of their food, the cake choice really isn’t great. There were just teacakes, scones, and a sad looking slice of Victoria sponge on the day I went.

Do try – The hot chocolate is actually very lovely here. I find it to be fairly sickly elsewhere with too much embellishment.

Verdict – I’m doing that see-saw thing with my hand. Ok? Moving on.

Honourable mentions

Coffee Republic – My local one moved on leaving me heartsick, now have to go all the way to damn Liverpool (nearly 20 MINUTES away) for a double ristretto fix. Their house blend is NI-HI-IIICE.

Pret – Coffee is a good strong one without being bitter. Push button coffee though…I’m not snobby about these things, just prefer it made PROPER. Still good though, cheap too.

McDonalds – Last resort in a desperation emergency. Cappuccino is only ok. I can highly recommend the burgers these chaps make though, delicious.

So go out right this minute and get yourself a good coffee. You deserve it gorgeous, for ploughing your way through this.

Hey, when you order, tell them Chrissy sent you to receive a puzzled expression and no money off whatsoever. Go on! It’ll be crazy! It could become like a ‘thing’ we do…oh never mind just FORGET IT. You’re no fun anymore.

Here ends the sermon. In the manufacture of this article I have consumed three coffees.
Alright, five.
But it was over a space of two days.
Well, hours.
Excuse me while I kiss the sky.


  • Comments

  • avatar
    Ondo Lady

    I don’t get coffee. Ok I admit I used to drink lots of it when I was a teen and in my early 20s until I started to feel dehydrated. I decided to cut it out and switch ot tea and I have never looked back. Ok there have been times I have cheated and looked wistfully at a friend’s lovely smelling fresh coffee but more often than not I am a tea lady.

  • avatar

    I DO drink coffee, but have always thought it smells faintly of halitosis…

  • avatar
    scott maguire

    I cant believe how wrong you are on Caffe Nero. Im a regular and without my Nero coffee I couldnt get through the day!! The coffee has a really strong powerful taste reminiscent of my trips to Italy!! I find the service much friendlier aswell in saying that I agree on the cake selection, its abit samey.

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