What is happening in Great Britain today? Traditional tea rooms are on the decline while lattés, caramelattés, cappuchinos, mochachinos and espresso drinking cafés are on the upswing. The new millenials would rather log on and slurp, than clink cups and sip. Although people are living longer, older generation Brits just can’t seem to hold onto their dying traditions anymore. The solid foundations are slipping away. The special occasion “afternoon tea” may be as popular as ever, but the mid-morning, mid-day, early evening tea break is just about gone.
Now there appears to be a war between Caffé Nero, Starbucks and Costa. Take away their signs and all the marketing materials, and quite honestly, they are impossible to tell apart. No character. No charm. No unique identity. They refer to themselves as “customer centric”? What exactly does “customer centric” mean anyway?
They each use surveys to track the customer service experience. Surveys from how the customers like the furniture, the music, the art, and most recently what was printed on the take-away cup. What about a survey about how good the coffee or tea tastes? I guess that’s no longer important.
When I go to one of these take-away cafes, I know I’m going to have to compromise on the quality of the tea that I’m about to order. I love green tea, but I know it will be a teabag of questionable quality, steeped with water that is far too hot and, if I don’t tell them to please not put the teabag into the cup, it will definitely be oversteeped and bitter. I will carry the cup, perhaps on a tray, back to a table, which may or may not be clean, slopping most of the tea over the top, only to find that there’s no chair available, and napkins are nowhere in sight. (Sigh)
And the media tells me everyone is so concerned about their calorie and sugar intake, yet many Brits now consume these beverages regularly. Action on Sugar, which is a group of specialists concerned with sugar intake and its effects on health, analyzed 131 hot drinks and found Starbucks, Caffé Nero and Costa to be among the worst offenders.
At Starbucks a “White Chocolate Mocha Venti with Whipped Cream” has 18 teaspoons of sugar. Now, if I’m ordering dessert at a restaurant, that might be okay, but … really … this is just a beverage? All right, that might seem a bit extreme. How about if we wanted one of their seasonal beverages, such as Starbuck’s seasonal Hot Mulled Fruit drinks? Would you believe 25 TEASPOONS of sugar! Or if you think a nice hot chai would warm you up, at Costa a Chai Latte has only 20 teaspoons of sugar. ONLY 20 TEASPOONS!
Want to know how many teaspoons of sugar are in a steaming, hot cup of tea? 0 Oh, maybe I didn’t stress that enough …. 0! If you want sugar, you can put it in yourself. I dare you to add 20 teaspoons of sugar to your cuppa and see if you still want to drink it.
We might have to get into the cost of these highly-calorific beverages on another post, but, for now, just think of the calorie savings alone. The lowly cup of tea has 0 fat and 0 calories. You can still hold it in your hands. It still warms you. It tastes delicious. It is very social. What’s better than sharing a good pot of tea with friends? And it costs pennies.
So c’mon Brits. Don’t be like so many other countries and let your traditions slip away. Does every shopping area need to look like every other shopping area and every café look like every other café? Perhaps tearooms may not be the chic, savvy trend-setting places they once were, but what they always have provided is a hearty cuppa, for a reasonable cost, warming the hearts and hands of generations of Brits!
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References: Independent, Nunwood, Action on Sugar, TEA & COFFEE magazine