By Luke Haines


Quick question: What’s the one thing the world needs more of right now?

Some of you may have said “love,” or “tolerance,” still others would say “education” or “clean water.” If your answer was “little, piddling slips of paper” or “casual littering,” then you probably work for Costa Coffee. 

Costa is the UK’s largest coffee chain, and the biggest in the world behind Starbucks. They’re also pretty terrible. In the UK, if you want coffee, your choices are between tax dodging evil megacorporation Starbucks, the slightly less evil (but more expensive) Café Nero, or Costa, which is the least evil but makes the worst coffee. Also, a recent study found that Costa ice machines had twice as much fecal contamination as other chains.

Obviously, the ideal amount of fecal bacteria in your iced coffee is “zero,” but once we accept that they all apparently have some, Costa was still the worst offender by a big margin.

Because of their figuratively shitty coffee and their literally shitty coffee, I’d stopped going to Costa a long time ago. Unfortunately, as is often the case in the modern world, big chain stores can trap the public through their ubiquity. Often, if you stop for gas in the UK, the gas station will have a Costa brand coffee machine. It’s practically a monopoly. You stop to fill up the car and want coffee so you don’t doze off and plough your car into a bus stop full of orphans? It’s Costa or nothing.

These machines are coffee only, so the contaminated ice cubes aren’t a concern, but it’s still bad coffee. Recently, however, they’ve changed the way the machines work.

Under the old system, you would use the machine, take your coffee to the checkout, and the cashier would ring it up along with your fuel. They might ask you what size your coffee was, but that was as complex as it got. Now, the machines print out a little slip of barcoded paper for the cashier to scan. It’s entirely unnecessary, a waste of paper and an incitement for people to litter. It’s a system that creates trash where there was none before. In a world already drowning in plastic and carbon emissions, it’s maddening to see a huge company (again: second biggest coffee chain in the world behind Starbucks!) deciding to use more paper and create more litter.

The only possible explanations for the decision are ones that insult us all. We can only assume that the “paper with barcode” idea was introduced for the tiny minority of people that lied and said they had a medium coffee when it was in fact a large, thereby robbing Costa of valuable pennies. Or else, the Costa bigwigs assumed everyone in a gas station was too stupid to work out how to charge a coffee without having a barcode to scan.

Either Costa is calling the customer a thief, or the vendor an idiot. Meanwhile, trees are being felled and litter continues to pile up.


I appreciate that there are any number of huge issues facing the world right now, but sometimes it’s worth trying to set one little thing right.

In that spirit, please consider tweeting @CostaCoffee about their new bullshit coffee tickets. Or just tweeting them with a link to this article and a “what he said.”

Also, maybe tell them to have their baristas wash their damn hands before they go near the ice machine…