Have you ever tried to understand the many types of coffee that you find in coffee shops? It can certainly be a challenge to understand what is on offer. In this article we are going to explain the different coffee drinks, available in the most popular coffee shops in the UK.
You will be aware of the explosion of coffee shops in the UK, and they simply continue to grow.
There are of course the large coffee chain stores like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Wild Bean Cafe, Caffe Nero, Cafe2U etc. In addition to that there are now a huge number of smaller coffee shops cropping up all over the place.
According to the Statistic's Portal in January 2017, Costa had just over 2,100 shops, Starbucks had almost 900 shops and Caffe Nero had 650. These chains have all slightly different offerings for their customers, and the smaller stores also have their own unique offering.
You can certainly see the growth exploding and it continues to be the case. In this article though we want to try and explain what coffee is on offer, and how you can easily recognise the different types of coffee that are on offer.
Understanding Coffee in Different Countries
It is important to understand that coffee is treated differently in different countries. Many coffee purists get hung up on using the right beans, the right roast, the right grind, the correct temperature to brew the coffee etc.
People living in certain European countries will make their coffee differently, and even within the USA states, people also make their coffee in a different way.
The United Kingdom and Ireland are no different. We like what we like and there is no one right way to make a good cup of coffee. There are of course good recommendations for making great coffee, but some people take this to the extremes.
Some mornings I am perfectly happy with a cup of instant, and at other times I will want a nice latte.
Espresso - the centre of most coffee drinks
There are a lot of fancy names when you walk into the High Street coffee shops. In truth these are often a distraction to what coffee is really all about. Almost every coffee in a coffee shop depends on the quality of the espresso shot that is made.
The main coffee shops will all have their own main signature blend, and it is that which makes them all slightly different to each other.
What Is an Espresso?
This is the shot of coffee that is made in the machine, and it is the quality of that shot that will always determine just how good your coffee really is. A barista is the person who has been trained to make coffee, and they make a shot using one of their high pressure coffee machines.
The beans should be freshly ground to the right consistency, and then tampered before being put into the portafilter on their machines.
The espresso just by itself, is a very popular drink with many Europeans, but not quite so popular in the UK. Many Europeans take this drink in a small cup and they made add a little sugar to this.
An espresso is typically a single shot of coffee and you can also get a double espresso, which is simply 2 shots of espresso. If you are feeling brave, then of course you can try a triple.
In the UK many people call this an "expresso" which is just an incorrect term. This name comes from the fact that the water is expressed under pressure. The proper name is an "espresso" and it is a fine grain of roasted coffee, packed into a metal filter, and forced through pressurised water.
Other Coffee Drink Types
Most other coffee drinks are then made by adding something to the espresso drink. For example by adding hot water to the espresso, the drink then becomes an "Americano." By adding hot steamed milk to it the drink it then becomes a latte or a cappuccino.
It is worth pointing out that not all coffee drinks in UK coffee shops are made from an espresso. The huge majority of coffee drinks are, but not every single one of them.
Coffee is brewed by a number of methods and the espresso is the main one and the most popular one in coffee shops. There are however also filter coffees which is a different brewing method completely.
A "caffe au lait" for example is a strong filtered coffee with warmed milk. Again if you travel in Europe this is a popular coffee drink, and is mainly available in hotels and restaurants where they brew filtered coffee.
So the espresso is the base, then some type of water, milk or foam can be added to this espresso to form a few different drinks. Many coffee shops will then add a syrup to create a whole variety of different coffee types.
For example if you see the word "Mocha" in a coffee drink, this is simply an espresso with milk added to it and then a chocolate syrup is added to that. Some coffee shops will add a hot chocolate to the espresso or even melted chocolate.
Hopefully you now have a good understanding of the basics of coffee that you find in coffee shops. Just below I am now going to explain the different types of coffee drinks available in the most common High Street coffee stores up and down the UK.
They will all have slight variations on how these are made, and believe me, they will all have different names as well. It can get confusing so never be afraid to ask the barista how your drink will be made. A good barista will take great pleasure in telling you.
Most Popular Coffee Drinks In Coffee Shops
The three most popular coffee drinks found in UK coffee shops are:
- The Americano
- The Latte
- The Cappuccino
Just below we have explained each in just a little more depth.
As I mentioned earlier most Europeans drink "espresso." The vast majority of American people, and many in the UK prefer a "mug of coffee."
One way of getting this is to keep the water running through the grains to weaken the coffee and increase the volume.
Some coffee shops will just add hot water directly to the espresso. After that the customer can add sugar and/or milk to their preferred taste.
A "cappuccino" is a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. In essence an espresso is made first. The milk gets steamed through a high pressure pipe on the coffee machine.
This heats the milk up and also create a foam on top of the milk. When the cappuccino is being poured, the milk is poured into the espresso, and the foam is held back with a spoon.
At the end the remaining foam is spooned on top of the espresso and the steamed milk.
A "latte" is a 1:1 ratio of espresso, and steamed milk. Again the espresso is made first. The milk gets steamed through a high pressure pipe on the coffee machine.
This heats the milk up and the milk is poured into the espresso, and the foam is held back with a spoon.
The foam is not used in a latte, though most coffee shops may add just a little for decoration.
Coffee Drinks at Costa Coffee
Costa Coffee is a British multinational style coffee house, with their main headquarters in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England.
They were founded in London in 1971. The original founders were Italian but they moved from Parma Italy to London.
They also serve breakfast, tea and a range of savoury snacks and sandwiches.
They have recently been bought over by Coca Cola.
The most popular drinks found at Costa Coffee are:
- Intense Espresso
- Frothy Cappuccino
- Rich Cortado
- Classic Americano
- Flat White
- Creamy Latte
They also offer hot chocolate and a selection of snacks. They also offer a range of teas.
This is a simple short shot of espresso and the base for most of their drinks
They use an espresso with a blanket of frothed milk and a dusting of chocolate.
This is a small but very strong and powerful coffee which is topped off with textured milk.It will be signed with a heart.
They use their signature Mocha Italia Espresso, lengthened with hot water to give a smooth finish.
They use this like a piece of art and uses a cortissimo shot rather than an espresso shot. It sits mid way between a latte and a cappuccino. The cortissimo shot is extracted slower than a normal espresso shot, and as such tastes a little sweeter.
It is finished off using textured milk to create a florette design.
A huge favourite with many UK buyers. This is an espresso that uses freshly steamed milk.
Coffee Drinks at Starbucks
Starbucks came into being as far back as 1971. They use only Arabica beans for their coffee. These are considered to be higher quality beans than the Robusta bean, which is grown mainly in Vietnam.
They offer a range of different brewed coffees which includes:
- Espresso drinks
- Brewed coffee
- Iced coffee
- Frappucino Blends
They also offer hot chocolate and a selection of snacks.
Strabuck's Espresso Selection
These are all coffee drinks that are made using a simple espresso as the base or core product. Within each type is a more extensive selection of drinks as you will see below. The number in the brackets refers to the number of available drinks for each main type.
- Caffe Latte (4)
- Mocha (4)
- Macchiato (3)
- Cappuccino (3)
- Americano (2)
- Espresso (4)
Within this drink type they offer Caffe Latte, Iced Caffe Latte, Flat White and Latte with Tumeric
A Caffe Latte is an espresso made with steamed milk and topped with a light layer of foam. The iced version of the latte is served over ice.
The flat white is steamed milk poured over two shots of espresso and finished with delicate Rosetta art.
As the name with suggest the Latte with temeric is a latte mixed with teremic which gives the latte a slightly sweet and spicy taste.
Within this drink type they offer White chocolate mocha, iced white chocolate mocha, caffe mocha and iced cafe moccha
Within this drink type they offer Latte Macchiato, Caramel Macchiato and Iced Caramel Macchiato
Within this drink type they offer Iced cappuccino, cold foam iced cappuccino and a cappuccino
There are two offers here which are a Caffe Americano and an Iced Caffe Americano.
Within the classic espresso range are the espresso, cortado, espresso con panna and the espresso Macchiato
All of the above can be served with different syrups and sauces. The choices are almond, caramel, cinnamon, simple, hazelnut, mango, peach, peppermint, and vanilla. The vanilla, hazelnut and caramel are also available as sugar free syrups.
They also have a Mocha sauce and a white chocolate Mocha sauce.
Starbucks Brewed Coffee Selections
They have two main offers here which are:
- Freshly brewed coffee
- Caffe Misto
Freshly Brewed Coffee
This is a coffee with a medium roast that is smooth, well balanced and rich in flavour.
This brew is a one-to-one mix of freshly brewed coffee and steamed milk.
Starbucks Iced Coffee Selections
They have four offers here:
- Cold brew
- Cold brew latte
- Nitro cold brew
- Nitro with cold foam
- Nitro with caramel cold foam
Their cold brew coffee is made in small batches, The process used is the coffee is steeped in cool water for 20 hours, without touching heat, to give a very smooth flavour.
Cold Brew Latte
As above but with the addition of milk.
Nitro Cold Brew
This drink is VERY different. The drink is infused with nitrogen to give the beverage a smooth and velvety texture. Nitro Cold Brew is cold right out of the tap and served unsweetened without ice.
Nitro with Cold Foam
As above but it is pulled over smooth Cold Milk Foam, then finished with a striking line of coffee soluble.
Nitro with Caramel Cold Foam
The Nitro cold brew which has been pulled over smooth caramel infused Cold Milk Foam, then finished with a striking line of coffee soluble.
Coffee Drinks at Caffe Nero
Caffe Nero Brand
Caffe Nero was founded in 1999 by a chap called Gerry Ford. His ambition was to have traditional Italian cafes spread around Europe. The intention was to serve high quality coffee and use his shops as neighbourhood meeting places.
They remain a family run business and have over 800 coffee shops spread throughout Europe. They have also built their own "Roastery" where they have created their own unique blend of coffee.
They work work closely with the Rainforest Alliance and get to know the farmers and cooperatives.
They have their own blend of coffee and the main difference, when compared to other coffee shops, is that they use different types of milk. So with a unique blend of coffee and a choice of milks, this company is different to the other High Street coffee stores.
This is a simple espresso shot of their Classico blend.
Espresso Con Panna
This is a double espresso shot of their Classico blend with whipped cream.
This is a single espresso shot of their Classico blend with a little milk foam.
This is your standard long black coffee. They use a standard 2 shots of espresso, and 3 shots in their grande size. (The grande is a huge cup of coffee)
The standard latte is an espresso topped with steamed milk and a layer of micro foam. They have a few choices here:
- Latte with semi skimmed milk
- Latte with skimmed milk
- Latte with Soya milk
- Latte with Coconut milk
- Latte with Oat milk
The standard cappuccino is an espresso with steamed milk, micro foam and then dusted with chocolate powder. Just like the latte, they have a few choices;
- Cappuccino with semi skimmed milk
- Cappuccino with skimmed milk
- Cappuccino with Soya milk
- Cappuccino with Coconut milk
- Cappuccino with Oat milk
This is an espresso topped with rich chocolate and steamed milk. Just like the latte and cappuccino, they have a few choices;
- Mocha with semi skimmed milk
- Mocha with skimmed milk
- Mocha with Soya milk
- Mocha with Coconut milk
- Mocha with Oat milk
White Chocolate Mocha
This is an espresso topped with steamed milk and white chocolate sauce, whipped cream and chocolate powder. Just like the latte and cappuccino, they have a few choices;
- White Chocolate Mocha with semi skimmed milk
- White Chocolate Mocha with skimmed milk
- White Chocolate Mocha with Soya milk
- White Chocolate Mocha with Coconut milk
- White Chocolate Mocha with Oat milk
This is an espresso with a shot of vanilla syrup and steamed milk. This is then topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce. They have a few choices;
- Caramelatte with semi skimmed milk
- Caramelatte with skimmed milk
- Caramelatte with Soya milk
- Caramelatte with Coconut milk
- Caramelatte with Oat milk
The cortado is a combination of 2:1 steamed milk to espresso which is then topped with a very thin layer of micro foam.
This is a ristretto based coffee drink made with whole milk.
Caffe Nero Cold Coffees
They also do a range of cold coffees, also referred to as Iced Coffees. These are:
- Frappe Latte
- Iced Latte
- Iced Coconut Latte
- Mocha Frappe Latte
- Espresso & Caramel Frappe Creme
This is an espresso that is blended with smooth milk, ice and Caffe Neros' frappe mix.
This is 2 shots of espresso milk and a touch of sweetness, poured over ice cubes and shaken.
Iced Coconut Latte
This is 2 shots of espresso, coconut milk which is then shaken and poured over ice.
Mocha Frappe Latte
Smooth and creamy made using espresso blended with Belgian chocolate Milano, milk, ice and frappe mix.
Espresso & Caramel Frappe Creme
An energising mix of signature espresso and caramel, blended with milk and ice, topped with whipped cream.