For a nation of tea drinkers, we Brits drink a lot of coffee. With 2.8 kilograms per year per person and an average of more than two cups per day, the coffee industry is not only booming, but wide. From craft cafes selling CBD-infused beverages for up to ten years — to the presence of industrial-sized pots of instant coffee in college apartments across the country — America’s hot drink of choice has landed firmly and irreversibly in across the pond.
At an average of two to four pounds per jar, the aforementioned instant coffee market is particularly large, with retailers selling nearly 35,000 tons of it each year. From major brands such as Nescafé to supermarkets, no kitchen is truly complete without a coffee pot.
Cynics lament that all instant coffee tastes the same; critics denounce the origin of the bean determining the quality of the coffee; realistically, most of us swallow anything. But is there the best instant coffee?
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The day after the early May bank holiday was a slow start for most. I decided to take advantage of the post-holiday slump to test the instant coffee market, at a time when I needed it most.
Tesco’s own brand, Sainsbury’s own brand, Aldi’s own brand, then Nescafé, revered as the “best” in the game: I had four cups of coffee in front of me, each filled with a teaspoon of coffee with a big splash of milk and several bites of a ham and cheese sandwich.
Here’s what I thought of each brand of instant coffee.
My first cup was Tesco Gold. I’m not sure where the gold comes in. Gold suggests a touch of glamor and decadence, which is sort of the antithesis of instant coffee. It was good. I won’t remember coffee at 5, but it will keep me going until 5, which I guess is the goal. It was just perfectly above average!
At £3 it certainly did its job. But the coffee granules were unremarkable, resulting in a fairly unremarkable end result of coffee tasting coffee, if not slightly thin in flavor and smell. Art Memories Sleepless GCSE nights and writing undergraduate dissertations until 5am accompany this coffee experience, which will have you feeling awake, but nothing else.
Rich roast by Sainsbury’s
Priced at £2.55, Rich Roast’s ‘rich’ is assumed to be a comment on the quality of the coffee, not the price, which was the cheapest of the four – even Aldi’s. Good luck convincing me that all instant coffee tastes the same, that taste is absolutely and totally the same as Tesco. Yet at 75p cheaper – and in a bigger pot – Mr Rich Roast just about outpaces Mr Gold in front of him.
Likewise with Tesco’s coffee, this is a jug for those who drink coffee to feel awake in the morning, not for those who enjoy a coffee for the pursuit of the joy of drinking coffee. Still – as I mentioned – it’s the cheapest of the four, which is definitely something.
Colombian instant coffee by Aldi
It wasn’t a bad cup of coffee, but not a good one. It had a considerably weaker flavor than the other two and a slightly different color. My roommate joined for a cup of Colombian instant and wasn’t too impressed either.
It costs £2.75, putting it perfectly between Tesco and Sainsbury’s for price. The quality, however, deteriorated as the drink progressed; limited in taste and limited in texture, I’m not sure I’ll buy any again. Not offensive enough to deny a cup at someone else’s place, though I’d tell them there’s better – and with that price, cheaper too.
For anyone who says all instant coffees taste exactly the same; Nope! No, this is not the case ! Nescafé Original is the king, queen and merry band of instant coffee jesters, I see it now. Rich in texture and smelling wonderful straight from the jar, this is instant coffee at its best; unctuous, slightly bitter, perfect with milk.
Priced at £3.85, however, I’ll admit it was the priciest option of the lot; but with a wonderful, lingering smell of coffee that stayed with the cup until the very end, and a taste that could easily rival that of Starbucks and Costa, it was the real deal.
Tesco and Sainsbury’s tasted exactly the same, and you can’t convince me otherwise. Aldi was a disappointment, especially as it was priced higher than Sainsbury’s; it just didn’t smell like coffee, and it didn’t give me that after cup of tea boost either. Nescafé, on the other hand, was the real winner; and, dare I say, better than its big chain coffee shop counterparts.
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