Is it a British thing?

Are we too lazy to take advantage of coffee refill options or is it something far more cultural?

Whether it’s a 25p reduction from Costa, Pret’s sizeable 50p discount on hot beverages or Gregg’s more modest 20p concession, there’s a lot to be said for bringing your own coffee cup.

With the UK’s coffee consumption now standing at around 95 million cups a day, and research revealing that the average UK citizen spends £2,210 in coffee shops each year, the savings could soon add up.

Assuming half the average person’s yearly spend in coffee shops is on take away hot drinks, a 25p discount on each take away caffeine hit would equate to a saving of more than £200 a year! A sum not to be sniffed at.

So, in today’s austerity Britain if times are tight, and us Brits like hunting out a bargain, why are we still spending extra cash on 7 million disposable coffee cups each day rather than refilling our own? After all we only have one mouth, so why do we need so many cups?

The answer could be the very reason we started using the cups in the first place, yes the ‘C’ word – Convenience.

Carrying around a cumbersome re-usable coffee cup when we are fighting our way through the crowds on the tube whilst holding our handbags, brief cases and morning metros isn’t easy. Ok, we could buy one of the many new bags that have a specially designed holder for re-usable cups such as those from Mia Tui or a special cup carry bag but there’s still the fact we must remember to wash the thing and put it into our bag in the first place. But these are feeble excuses, right? We remember to pack our purses, mobile phones and lunches when we leave the house so surely one more item for the sake of saving the planet isn’t too much to ask?

Well, if it isn’t the C word, could it be the mere status symbol of brandishing the name of our favourite coffee house as we sashay through life? Some argue that clutching a branded disposable coffee cup has become a sign of wealth. Furthermore, a way of telling the world that we are busy individuals with a hectic schedule who have plenty of disposable income to spend on, well, disposables.

To combat this theory more and more coffee shops are selling re-usable drinks cups heavily branded in their own names. Plus, other re-usable coffee cup manufacturers are considering status in their designs, indeed ecoffee cups produce a wide variety of attractive options and designers such as Ted Baker are adding re-usable cups to their fashion ranges. This move will give status-conscious (and fashion-conscious) individuals a way to enhance their image rather than destroy it by becoming busy young things who have plenty of money but still want to save the planet.

So where does that leave us, it seems we’ve pretty much run out of excuses as to why we can’t all switch to re-usable coffee cups right this second……or have we? The reason may be much more obvious. Is it that we are simply too shy, embarrassed or polite to ask for our cups to be refilled?

As Brits we aren’t used to asking for anything out of the ordinary. We stand politely in queues and say sorry at every opportunity so perhaps routing around in our bags for our cups, asking the barista to rinse out the dregs from the morning’s caffeine fix and then reminding the busy cashier to apply the discount is just a step too far for a nation that doesn’t like to ‘make a fuss’.

If this is the reason we’ve been rather slow on the uptake of discounted refills in coffee shops maybe now’s the time to change our mindsets? Perhaps simply educating barristers to ask each customer at the start of the transaction if they have their own re-usable cup could go some way to combating the issue. Once it becomes the norm for all of us to bring our own cups we’ll be far more embarrassed to ask for a disposable vessel that will damage the environment than we ever were asking for our environmentally friendly cups to be refilled.


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