The Christmas Coffee Crisis

With the festive season upon us, it’s time to wake up and smell the Christmas coffee

We all remember what we think of Christmas themed sandwiches, right? Over the last five years, consumers have been spoilt for choice across all the major supermarkets in terms of seasonal Christmas munchies: brie and cranberry panini, turkey and stuffing toasties etc. – and now this year’s more popular hog roast and scorched apple roll (available at Tesco).

It also appears that Christmas themed foods have managed to filter their way through onto every coffee menu in the UK. There isn’t one coffee shop you can visit post Halloween won’t try and sell you some over priced Christmas coffee nightmare.

Costa Christmas drink menu

Unpopular opinion: Christmas coffees are a waste of money. They’re bad for your health and more importantly ruins the coffee’s subtlety completely. 

This is the part in the column where I let you all know I’ve been a barista for the last six years. So I am entitled to my rather strong opinion, but here’s the information to back it up.

I remember a much simpler time when people would walk through the doors of Starbucks, and take a quick look at our three (maybe four) Christmas drinks before usually settling on something like a peppermint hot chocolate. However, now customers are faced with a never ending, overwhelming list of completely irrelevant ‘festive’ options. Likewise, it’s not much fun for the barista either. Have you ever had to recite a list of unappetising sugar syrups to people who don’t really care? No? Well then you can’t comment.

Moving on, what’s interesting to know, if you don’t already, is that all of your beloved festive favourites contain nothing more than overpriced sugar syrups. With every Christmas cup purchased, there’s an average of 20% extra added to the bill.

What’s more, according to the list of ‘Nutritional Values’ published by Starbucks, with every pump you can expect to receive and extra 4.9g of sugar. This means that, for one large drink containing 4 pumps of syrup, you can expect to have an intake of 19.5g of sugar from the syrups alone. Compare this figure to the sugar in a 330ml can of Coke which is a mere 11g!

And Costa are not in the clear either! Their Christmas favourites (Black Forest, Gingerbread, Salted Caramel, Honey Comb and the new Billionaires) all contain 10.7-13.6g of sugar.

So far we have established that Christmas coffees are completely ripping off coffee lovers and that they contain nothing but unnecessary sugar. Now it’s time it address the issue of what the syrups actually do to the espresso shots themselves.

Whether or not your shot is blessed with citrus or bitter undertones is what will determine the overall taste. For example, a citrus based shot of espresso would fit perfectly with a vanilla or caramel syrup. However, pairing it with something like a salted caramel or gingerbread shot would overpower the taste of the espresso – creating a completely different caffeinated drink to the one intended.

What’s worse for me is that as a barista I have undergone intense training to know what a good and healthy coffee is – and yet I can see how the things I was taught are constantly being ignored  – just to promote the brand and drive up sales.

It would not be fair to ask that all Christmas drinks should be banned – because there is clearly a demand for them.  But I think it is fair to encourage customers to do a little research – because if they do then it will quickly become clear that this is just another Christmas con.

So for now I’ll stick to my flat white – all year round.



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