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Coffee is life. Some of us can't function without it, and some absolute monsters will drink any old coffee and not care.
I'm definitely not the latter. I won't drink a coffee I don't enjoy. So I thought I'd be a little helper and let you all know my favourite chains for coffees.
As an ex-barista I like to think I know what I'm talking about, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
First and foremost, if you like Costa, this probably isn't for you. Their coffee is arguably the worst on the market. (They do make a good hot chocolate though.) And my friend's husband works for the bakery that supplies their cakes; I highly recommend the cinnamon bun. But their coffee is a no-go for me. It's burnt and tastes vile every single time.
Let's get down to business!
Who's the best coffee chain? Hard to say with so many different tastes! Coffee farmers tell us that it shouldn't need ANY sugar at all; watch an Italian gasp in horror when you ask for a syrup in your coffee. It's unheard of. I'm partial to a caramel latte. It's soft, sweet, warming, and easy on the pallet in the morning. I also love cappuccinos, but I would drink that later in the day. My partner, however, likes a flat white—at whatever time of day. (Maniac!)
So, for my chain tasting purposes, I had caramel lattes.
Harris and Hoole is my favourite place for coffee. Perhaps it's a combination of the good coffee, relaxed atmosphere, and fact I don't have one near me, so it's rare I actually make the trip there. But whatever it is, it's my favourite.
Starbucks: Say what you will about Starbucks as a chain; their food is piss poor, the service is horrific, and the new flavours they come up with are always vile. Cereal latte? 🤮 But their coffee is good quality. Despite the fact that I've taken my drinks back and had them remade at least four times in the last year, the coffee itself is good. Just check if they're using good milk because having your coffee made with an open bag of milk that's been sitting there for ages in a hotter than room temp environment, then steamed, makes it taste like ass.
Brasserie Blanc and the Cornish bakery: Most high Streets have one or the other. They use the same coffee beans from Union Roasted, which are more ethical than most companies (look them up, you can buy their beans for at home), and both places make a good coffee. Brasserie Blanc doesn't have syrups, but the coffee is still very good without it. The Cornish bakery has syrups and do take away. Their hazelnut and vanilla lattes are also very nice. A barista I worked with once made me try a hazelcremnut, which was a latte containing a little of each flavoured syrup. While I was sure I'd get diabetes from it, it was delicious. Fantastic all around coffee.
Pret: I don't actually like Pret's caramel latte that much. I think it tastes a little watery and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. BUT their coconut milk latte is the best. And I love their food selection.
Surprisingly... McDonald's: While certainly not my first option, the coffee quality isn't awful. Especially for the price. Though they have absolutely no idea what a flat white actually is. "A smaller latte"—well, no, it isn't... it's a ristretto shot for a start, which contains more coffee than an espresso shot. But the price quality comparison makes it a good (ish) coffee. Especially if you're strapped for cash, time, or don't have a better option.
I'd always opt for an independent store if I was in a high street, or had time to browse, but I obviously understand the meaning of independent so we won't all have access to those same shops.