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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Maslow's hierarchy of coffee chains


    Just looking at that heading, you’ll probably be crying ‘Monmouth! Monmouth!’, and yes, we thought about including it here, but decided against. Because, basically, there aren’t enough Monmouth branches for it to be considered a chain in this league. It’s wonderful and lovely and oh-so middle-class, but if you can’t actually find it beyond three particularly wealthy spots in London, then it’s not going to satisfy any of the emotional needs set out in a Maslow hierarchy. Monmouth Coffee Co, come back to us when you’ve branched out and we’ll talk.

    Meanwhile, here’s how the coffee chain bigwigs stack up against modern middle-class needs.

    Self-actualisation – AMT

    Found mainly at railway stations, with its dark brown and swirly gold kiosks, AMT does a nice job of inspiring associations with classic, elegant train travel. It’s all about the image. One can’t help wanting to buy a broadsheet newspaper and wear a lovely beige trench coat to complete the look. The coffee’s good, and it was the first to go entirely fair-trade, adding an element of moral high ground, which is ideal.

    Esteem – Caffè Nero

    Calm and stylish, Nero makes you feel quite smug. The coffee is slightly bitter but if anything that just adds to the sensation that you’re doing it right. Despite being founded by an American called Gerry in the 1990s, it’s the most genuinely continental-seeming of the chain coffee shops. People who drink here show respect for coffee and respect for themselves.

    Love/Belonging – Pret

    Okay, we know it’s owned by Maccy D’s, they don’t hire Brits, and the folksy, snugly signage is beyond tired, but the coffee is pretty good, the service always friendly and energetic, and we have to say the latest store refurbs are really rather lovely. Could this be love? 

    Safety – Starbucks

    A place to drink bad coffee, eat an unchallenging panini and catch up on your emails. Starbucks signifies normality, civilisation, efficiency. Despite its efforts, it can’t fulfil any higher need simply because it’s an unethical brand that constantly leaves the water running.

    Physiological – Costa Coffee

    Satisfies fundamental coffee urge without offering any additional benefit. Commonly found at service stations and horrible brightly lit shopping centres, therefore associated with functional, rushed, uncomfortable coffee drinking rather than pleasurable experience.

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    Reader Comments (8)

    What about Coffee Republic? IMO & E their coffee is the best by quite a way. Not tried AMT for a long time though.

    July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

    You have forgotten the small chain of Gails, bakers et cetera who produce the most superb bread and coffee in London. The chains you have quoted are rather second rate really.

    July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Wingert

    Chains? If you're not buying your daily coffee from an independent who sources and roasts their own beans (organic fairtrade, natch), and where you're on first name terms with the international-award-winning-barista who knows what you'll be having without needing to ask, you're doing it wrong. Of course, this does make you something of a pretentious twat, but then you are middle class, non?

    July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymoose

    I agree with the above - a true MC either (a) gets their coffee from an artisan one-off coffee place which serves either Monmouth or Square Mile coffee as standard or (b) goes to great lengths to make their own coffee - i.e. grinding beans, using one of those tamper things (mine's red) and then putting it through a Gaggia.

    Only teenagers go to Starbucks for coffee - and most of them get mochas with extra chocolate and cream. *shudder* As for the others, when I see someone with a Costa / Nero / AMT cup I assume they were utterly desperate. It's never crossed my mind that people freely choose to frequent those places.

    July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Broccoli

    Starbucks stopped leaving the water running ages ago at the behest of whinging MC's.
    Said water was re-cycled through the on-site filtering systems, but they stopped anyway for a quiet life.

    I have been to Monmouth's. I don't like how they leave their beans in big open drums to go stale and nicely infused with the heady diesel flavours of Borough.
    Nice cake though.

    July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterME

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