Love them or hate them, coffee houses are here to stay.
Etruria alone has been invaded with Costa Coffee shops, & you can actually see all THREE from the same spot. There’s the original “franchise” at the Odeon, a new one included in the new Next store on Festival Park & the even newer drive-thru on Etruria Road, a road once populated (ironically) by a string of pubs. Now THAT’S gentrification for you.
All three are clearly visable from Etruria Hall (the Moat House Hotel), which only makes one wonder what its original occupant, Josiah Wedgwood, would have made of them. He would probably have sauntered down the hill for a skinny flat-white (whatever that is) between his biscuit firings.
This invasion by Costa may be a sneaky tactic to squeeze out its American rival Starbucks, who only have five shops throughout the whole of The Potteries (Costa has double that). However, one of those five Starbucks is at Keele Service Station (which doesn’t really count), one is a “franchise” near Chesterton (which doesn’t really count), one is at Smallthorne roundabout (which doesn’t really count), and one is squeezed in upstairs in a corner of the intu Potteries Centre (which doesn’t really count).
OK, so they all count really, although the “franchise” and the service station can charge more, and boy do they! Starbucks coffee is expensive enough, thank-you, but adding on 20-50% is just a joke!
Ironically, the best coffee house in The Potteries is probably the Starbucks at Wolstanton Retail Park, on the Newcastle-Stoke border. (Newcastle presently claim it, but don’t expect that to last.) Not only is it a drive-thru, it is also spacious and well-placed beside the D-road. More remarkably, there’s free unlimited parking! Yeah, I know! In The Potteries! So, in no way connected to Newcastle or Stoke. 😉
Reviews describe the store as friendly, welcoming and even “fantastic”, although that might be a slight exaggeration for a coffee shop. But is there a better Starbucks in the UK? Well, I doubt it, and I’ve visited many of them. So, how should the company commemorate their finest British branch?
Well, Starbucks is a world brand, and they don’t just sell drinks. They also sell a variety of mugs, usually daubed with their “green lady” logo. Strangely, she’s not a lady in any sense of the word. She is in fact a mermaid siren holding up her TWO fishy tales, singing her hypnotic song to entice innocent people to their doom. This was originally hypnotised sailors and their ships crashing on to coastal rocks. It may seem hard to believe that the green lady is in fact a brutal sociopath, but it’s more obvious from the original 1970s Starbucks logo where she’s holding up her tails beside her bare breasts! The boobs only disappeared when the company wanted to put their logo on the side of its trucks and realised there might be a huge problem.
When they get bored of their logo, Starbucks have a habit of putting images of cities on their mugs, usually with some stereotypical landmarks. So, their London mugs have (would you believe) Big Ben on, Washington DC mugs have the White House, New York has the Empire State Building, Moscow (Kremlin), Sydney (opera house), Paris (go on, you’ll never guess! Yes, the Eifel Tower) etc.
Even closer to home Birmingham and Manchester have their own Starbucks mugs, but to be honest they’re hardly iconic. Birmingham’s appears to have an old railway track going into a car garage, a lighthouse with a corner bitten off it, a bull defecating over a church, and a 3-laned motorway that careers straight into a blue tree. Manchester’s has some multi-coloured pepper-pots, a train narrowly avoiding a giant football whilst driving into an abbey, two blue moustaches floating in a river, and a giant guitar leaning up against the Albert Hall. They don’t look particularly well thought through.
Thankfully, The Potteries isn’t thought significant enough by Seattle to have its own Starbucks mug. But then Pottery folk don’t think Seattle is significant enough just because it started a large-breasted coffee company.
Just as well, as having a Starbucks Potteries mug would have two major problems: one is what to put on it, but the other is…where should it be made! Whereas the Birmingham media went mad for Starbucks when they launched their Birmingham mug, the local media here will go a different shade of mad.
Most Starbucks mugs are made in China, and have a chunky quarter-inch thickness that make Portmerion ware look paper-thin. Drop one on your toe and you’re heading for A&E. Now, Starbucks will cite the cheapness of manufacturing on the other side of the world, despite having to ship mugs that weigh more than a bowling ball across the globe to (in this case) the home of pottery. They think this is a good thing for mankind.
Pottery folk and media will not see it this way, and even as far away as Seattle, you do not want to incur the wrath of The Potteries. After all, to the world, Stoke is more famous and more significant than Seattle. Sure they had Nirvana, but we had Lemmy and Slash. You get the idea.
So, that’s settled: Starbucks mugs of the Potteries should be made in Stoke, probably by Portmerion. It’s a good fit.
Then all we need to decide is what to put on the side? Well, if the Birmingham and Manchester mugs are anything to go by, it should depict Robbie Williams chewing his way through the new multi-coloured wine-gum civic building, Lemmy playing a bass guitar in the shape of a congested D-road, and a traffic warden putting a ticket on a bottle kiln on wheels.
Seriously, you can’t win. Put a bottle kiln on the mug, and everyone will say it’s a cliché. Put the intu shopping centre and the bet365 building on, and people will mistake it for somewhere in Essex.
No, what they should really depict on the Starbucks Potteries mug is Etruria Hall with Wedgwood in front with his flat-white (whatever that is) and three Costa coffee shops in the background. We might just about get away with that…but then we’ll never persuade them to manufacture the mugs in Stoke anyway. THAT will never happen.