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While walking to the office this morning, coffee splashing out of our coffee cup sip-top, we started wondering: If we were in London right now, where would we grab a morning cup of joe and how much would it cost?
When last we pounded the pavement researching hotels in London for our guide, we remembered fondly finding respite (and caffeine) in the UK coffee chains (Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee, Coffee Republic, Pret a Manger) and, yes, also in the American chains (Starbucks and McDonald’s).
Setting aside the question of the “best cup of coffee in London,” (another post entirely), where can you find the cheapest cup?
Researching this online was a no-go. Every chain has its own website, of course, but you won’t find any prices listed. This is probably due to fluctuations in pricing throughout the UK — and to prevent pesky investigators from blogging about it. So we went about our research the old fashioned way… we called ‘em on the phone. (Thank you, Vonage.)
Note that coffee prices inside London may vary for the same chain, as well. Thus, we called only coffee outlets in central London, asking for prices for a small latte and for a small Americano (“drip” coffee isn’t widely available). Keep in mind that true sizes may differ from chain to chain — even though they’re all called “small,” one chain may offer more ounces.
We also only inquired about “take away” prices — when we started asking too many questions, baristas and managers got a little nervous.
Caffe Nero – The Winner!
Small Americano: £1.30 ($2.56)
Small Latte: £1.50 ($2.95)
We spoke to baristas at two central Caffe Nero locations, both near Covent Garden, in order to verify the price. These are nearly New York prices.
Pret a Manger
Small Americano: £1.40 ($2.76)
Small Latte: £1.79 ($3.52)
We’re fans of these cute little outlets. We spoke to a barista at a location on Villiers Street, near the Strand.
Drip: £1.59/1.99 ($3.13/3.92)
Latte: £1.59/1.99 ($3.13/3.92)
We spoke to a manager (we believe) near a location on the Strand. We asked too many questions and he hung up on us. Interestingly, McDonald’s was the only chain we called that serves drip coffee instead of Americano. Also, they don’t have “small” sizes, only “medium” and “large.” (What, no “supersized”?)
Pricier Coffee Chains
Small Americano: £1.69 ($3.32)
Small Latte: £1.89 ($3.72)
We spoke to a friendly barista at a popular location on Tottenham Court Road.
Small Americano: £1.70 ($3.35)
Small Latte: £1.95 ($3.84)
A nice guy at the Embankment Place location (near the Strand) offered these rates, although he was curious. “Are you a customer?” he asked us. Of course! (We have enjoyed a Costa cup in the past, after all.)
Starbucks – Most Expensive
Small Americano: £1.75 ($3.45)
Small Latte: £2.05 ($4.04)
The prices were given to us by a barista at a Villiers Street location, near the Strand. This confirmed our suspicions that the Seattle-based chain was, in fact, the priciest coffee-chain cup in town. Or at least, the priciest cup we called.
We didn’t have time to check in on cool independent cafes in London, but that’s another post.