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So I spent last year In Australia, which as a country consists of 3 readily available things
2. Asian Food
Literally every third shop is one of the above (although the first is actually not guaranteed), and the second is more specifically Thai food, I’ve not been to Thailand, but if it tastes better than the Australian version of Thai food, then I wouldn’t care if its primary ingredient is mashed up orphans and puppies glazed in a unicorn puree, I would eat it and that would be the last you would see of me before the crane lowers me onto a handmade wooden raft, to be pushed out to sea, to then be accurately set alight by a member of the archers division I’m just presuming exists somewhere for this exact purpose….
Back in Swansea there are very few Australians, there is no Thai food that I know of, unless your pub has a green thai curry, in which case its probably buried down the back of the menu for a reason, and its probably not meant to be green, and you can be almost certain not cooked by a thai person, why would you want to buy goods from someone who isn’t awesome at producing it, in the same way you wouldn’t buy a hang glider from Wilkinson or a car from France, you can’t be certain its been done with any accumulated knowledge, if you disagree, then I challenge you use the electric toothbrush I have designed from a re-purposed power drill.
Anyhow’s the only one on the list that I can get in the UK is Coffee, however cruelly much like the weather, women, lager, BBQ’s, common sense approach to alcohol policing, and most sports…..the UK is alot shitter and blander.
So I have resolved that if I must drink UK coffee to assess the best options, so this week I shall head off the two big guns of UK coffee, Starbucks and Costa Coffee.
Round 1 – The Surroundings!
So I am basing my venue assessment on my experience of Costas and Starbucks from Swansea. Liberty stadiums Starbucks, and High Street Starbucks. Costa’s I shall be using Fforestfach offering and the one in Swansea Bus Station.
All Coffee venues should have Wifi, free Wifi, because lets be honest the only 3 reasons it seems to go to a coffee shop from my current view are –
1. Meet with other mothers of newborn babies
2. Meet a friend and spend half the time playing on your phone
3. Sit on your own and write blogs in place of the script your supposed to be finishing the first draft of today so you can get out of doing jobs you hate for a short while…..and looking at all the girls doing the above….
Actually on that note, I like new mothers, its a sucky job for no pay, I know non parents always say shit like “I would love my child unconditionally, and they are a joy” which I’m almost 90 percent certain is based on the 8 seconds you have smiled at someone else’s child and got a smile back…..but in general they are like everything else engaging, they are only fun for a bit then its just a routine, and most babies routine is to sit motionless doing nothing except eating, pooping and staring blankly into space….its boring and sucky, and pretty much a crap job unitl they learn to speak or have an opinion…..prime example my buddy has a 4 year old who for the first four years was either ill or a bit of jerk (we both call him that), now he can talk and form opinions he is a pretty funny bloke to be around, other day in the hair dressers a younger baby was bashing the bit of wood he’d somehow found on the chair next to where we were sitting, and then hit himself in the face, my mates boy says “well, I told you to be careful” in a tone usually reserved for “nah nah nah nah nah nah”, love that guy, JUSTICE.
Anyhows, so Wifi – they both have it, its equally easy to get on in either, however if we are going to score, then I would go on the fact that in every Costa its the same log on process, turn on device, find Costa Wifi, connect, log in your details, yay!
In Starbucks its always a gamble, in some you have to get a Wifi number from a receipt, in some the Wifi isn’t the one labelled Starbucks, its the other one labelled open zone, and in some you have to get the password from the Barista, which is a pain in the arse if they don’t know it. so Wifi score, Costa is winning. Point Costa
Seating is a big deal, in Swansea the focus of Starbucks seems to be number of chairs available, and Costa they seem to go for as many four seater sections as possible, which in rush hour is a pain in the arse if theres only two of you, but Costa in Swansea for the most part are fans of the soft furnishings, where as Starbucks seem a little bit like they got a deal on wooden chairs that almost time release uncomfortable-ness into your lower extremities in a sort of “dont sit here all day” kind of way. POINT COSTA (this was an addendum, actually lets call it an assdendum, because I sat in Starbucks for 45 minutes, and have spent a combined three hours in two days in 2 separate Costas and nearly every chair is upholstered, also they have a variety of colours and types which makes the place look alot brighter and more pleasant)
Costa always seems to have a nice outdoor section, albeit bus station Costa is kind of like a ninja challenge to make sure that pisshead isn’t about to steal your change off your table, and the one in Fach is in a big shopping section, so constant sound of cars and kids bombing by. Starbucks seem to be more along the line of, “only have outside seating if its out of the way of hassle”, Liberty Starbucks has its own little outside balcony, which is really nice on a hot day, and also favours comfy seats, so on the seating its a bit of a tie, Costa, more comfy, Starbucks = way more odds of getting a seat, they also all seem to have those raised stools next to a raised long table if you just want to sit on your own and get on with shit, but even though its got stools on both sides there’s no way you could sit opposite someone without being forehead to forehead, so a bit pointless, I was going to detract Starbucks a point for that, but I quite like high chairs because I am short…….. TIE (general environment)
Starbucks does score points on the Plugs front, this is purely a selfish score, but Starbucks seems to invite the laptop folks in, and have loads of plugs to keep you in the store working and probably buying more coffee. Point Starbucks
Costa on the other hand, with its four table set up, and general decor always seems more sociable. Look in a Starbucks and Costa, Costa always seems to invite more old people and families, generally a social group that wants hassle free places to go, where as Starbucks seems to inhabit more laptop folks, teenagers, and couples out for a bitch, chat or date….so on that front, theres no difference, because yes your more likely to have a group of emo, hipster, teenagers in Starbucks, but they are usually afraid of everyone around them, and in Costa you’ll probably have to watch your language more because of the old people and families, but your arse wont hurt if you want to sit down for more than 40 minutes…. So again, I’d Tie that one but only because Starbucks saved itself with its influx of good looking women.
TIE (not sure what my point was)
(Second addendum because there is a girl that works in Costa who is unfortunate enough to be captive to my conversational nonsense, but is actually really cool to talk to and is absolutely gorgeous in a multitude of nice ways, particularly an extremely silly penchant for coffee related puns, so while I am a little bit in love, its not enough to score the point…..blame the child that puked on the table next to me).
Round 1 Scores –
Round 2- Food
Food is unfortunately mandatory in Coffee shops now, just on the odd chance the coffee drinker cant be arsed to go and get food from somewhere good. I’d bet my left leg that no-one goes to Starbucks or Costa with their first thought being “im hungry” its coffee first and food is a “seeing as Im here and I don’t mind spending 3 quid on a panini” sort of reflex.
I alluded to this earlier, but I don’t like buying any product where the manufacturer isn’t treating the product as their priority for business quality. Like I understand Tesco is massive, and has the infrastructure to do insurance, but if your stuck in Tahiti with a bout of dysentery, I don’t want to ring someone who has to respond to queries about cookers, microwaves, bad pizzas and so on, if its not an area of expertise, its not going to be good unless you spend extra money on it.
But needs a score….So both have the same basic displays, plastic wrapped pre-made sandwiches and panini’s, and a range of cakes and pastries. Costa has some novelty treats like oversized jammy dodgers and bourbon biscuits, which pretty much brings the kid out of anyone, like seeing two bits of unconnected Lego, but is quickly shot down when you realise both taste like a 6th former’s clay module for their art A-Level. The sandwiches are simple, hard to fuck up sandwiches like tuna mayo, ham and cheese, so on that front they are at best as disappointing as any “this isn’t sausage or bacon so it must be mildly healthy” sandwich is, but what makes it worse for both stores is the theory that heating it up is better. Heating a sandwich up in a world that has Subway, if it is anything less than actually toasted, is just a warm sandwich and unfortunately theres about as much warmth applied to heating up a Starbucks or Costa sandwich as there is in that girl from twighlights face, reflexes or emotional range (I could have googled her name, I could have, but I chose to live happily in the knowledge that I cant remember her name, and will never forgive her for the 2 and half soul sucking hours I watched one of those “vampires and werewolves are gay now” pieces of crap, just because I thought it might get me laid with two awesome scouser’s I met travelling, and then ruined it when I spent pretty much the whole film laughing hysterically at every second of how utterly corny and shitty it is. SIPPY CUP IN A BIG BUDGET FILM TO DRINK BLOOD HAAAAAAAAAA.
Anyhows back to my point, if your going to toast a sandwich, surely even the least engaged person, can tell the difference between toast-ed and a bit warmer. I have literally had toast in both that has come back as just warm bread, how do you mess toast up for fucks sake.
Wow I just did a whole section to just give Starbucks 1 Point, just because they didn’t get my hopes up with a big teacake and bourbon, only for it to taste horrible, Starbucks just promise disappointing food, and they stick to it. POINT STARBUCKS
ROUND 3 – All things Coffee
Ok, so in the words of Adam Hills, “Starbucks for coffee is like prison for sex, you can get it anytime you want, but its going to be rough.”, but dont think for one second Costa is that much better, but there are subtle differnce’s in the range.
So both have iced drinks, which stick to very simple rules that never fail –
1. SUGAR GOOD
2. FLAVOURED SUGAR GOOD
3. ICED ANYTHING WITH FLAVOUR GOOOOOOOOOOD
4. CREAM ON EVERYTHING IS AWESOMEEEEEE
So I think the main thing with coffee is that you can always tell how much of a fuck the person making it gives about the person drinking it, like when you make a cup of tea or coffee for someone you like in work or a family member or guest, you take time with the amount of coffee you put in, or putting heaped sugars in or how much milk, you ask questions etc
Now obviously I’m not expecting a Barista who probably makes 10 cups of coffee in 5 minutes to give a remote fuck about every customer, however Costa gives the person making it a chance to make it good. Starbucks always seem to have those automatic looking machines, its probably just the streamlining that means I am missing the care, butalways seems more lacklustre. I think on the face of it though if I did like different flavours of themed coffees, Starbucks would score a massive point, but as it happens Costa scored all the points by having a christmas themed day and all the staff came in Pyjamas and onesies, glorious epic win for the good people at Costa.
To summarise, I started writing this ages ago, because I was really bored one afternoon, then forgot about it, since then I have been to Costa probably 2 dozen times and Starbucks 4 times, which in alot of respects says it all.
The chairs still suck in Starbucks, the Coffee is still not Australian, but much love to the staff that work in both because having worked in retail, I both respect and fear the amount of effort it takes serving that many people on a constant basis, some of which will kick up a massive fuss over something as trivial about whether their milk is skimmed or if they have to much froth…..
But saying that I bet none of them wrote a blog about it…….