That coffee Costa a lot… drink local instead

“Costa purchase takes Coke into coffee battle” – The Financial Times

I like a good coffee as much as the next caffeine-addled person of disrupted sleep patterns. But you won’t catch me in a Costa.

The news that the British coffee chain has been bought by Coca Cola for £3.9bn shows that coffee has become even bigger business than we thought. Which is funny because you won’t catch me with a bottle of coke in my hand either (horrid, over-sweet mouthfuls of dark nothing much).

In the parental branch of this family, we only drink local coffee. The beans aren’t grown hereabouts, of course, but the coffee is served in local shops and not chains. There are plenty around and York is full of them, removing the need to visit the likes of Costa and drink the so-so coffee.

The reasons for shunning the big boys are partly ideological, with local small-scale capitalism being preferable to the mammoth, world-denting kind. And because the coffee’s better, along with the chat usually, too.

Coffee is the simple crop that grew to dominate the world and make millions for corporations. Now you can’t avoid corporations altogether, but you can try not to drink their coffee or buy their beer.

Perhaps there is a misguide romanticism in all this, but I’m sticking to these sketched-out rules for life and coffee and assorted stopping-off points in between.

The day always starts with tea – leaf tea, made in a pot and left to stand for four minutes. There is no other way a day should start, although plenty of people plunge straight in with the coffee.

At home we grind the beans and use a cafetiere. Or an ancient stove-top espresso pot. Or an Aero-Press vacuum plunger. Or a simple one-cup filter. Or a dripping mug-topper thing bought for work years ago. Oh, the ways of making coffee in this house are many.

The beans are nearly always the same good Italian roast ones. But this doesn’t impress son number one. He has his beans sent monthly in the post by a specialist company and wouldn’t give a bean for our beans.

The beans we buy are Fair Trade or something similar, a salve to the caffeinated conscience. I hope the people who grow the beans earn a bean or two.

Costa is owned by Whitbread, once famed brewers of beer. The company started in London and was controlled by the Whitbread family from 1742 to 1992. Will those Whitbread family ghosts be happy or horrified at the way things turned out?

The company started diversifying a long time ago. People who grew up in and around Manchester will remember that Boddington’s beer was once a sound local brew. A hoppy, straw-hued beer with a creamy white head. Well, Whitbread bought up Boddies and put the beer in cans with widget things to keep that head. And it was never the same.

Whitbread sold off the brewing business in 2000 and offloaded its pubs the following year. The beer legacy is now owned by the global brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev – and if there is a more depressing notion than a ‘global brewer’, then I can’t think of it right now.

Global coffee, global beer, global tooth-rot black water – that’s the world we live in but try to avoid. We don’t need global beer in York as we have Brew York, who make splendid beer right here. Let’s hope and pray that no one ever buys them out.

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