UK Coffee Chains: Ranked Best to Worst

Everyone loves hanging out in a coffee shop. I consider coffee shops to be my natural habitat – if I could, I would spend all day every day sipping cappuccinos and whiling away my time! Coffee chains in the UK are a growing phenomenon, with new stores cropping up left right and centre, and everyone has a favourite spot… Whilst this list is purely my opinion, I truly believe in my choices and consider it the definitive ranking of UK coffee chains, from best to worst (according to me 😊)

1. Caffè Nero

Image from Siga Siga

This might not be the most popular opinion, but tbh, the coffee from Nero is damn delicious. It’s underrated. It’s not everyone’s automatic first choice. But it has everything a person looks for in a coffee shop (imo) – a cosy atmosphere, good food, a reasonable selection of coffee which tastes great, a far superior hot chocolate, a loyalty card which is easy for everyone to use (not one of these fancy electronic ones that you have to know your way around the Internet to benefit from.) Plus, Nero is dog friendly! Did you know?

2. Coffee #1

Image from TripAdvisor

The only reason Coffee #1 doesn’t take the top spot is because of the disappointingly limited location…Only in South Wales! When I lived in Cardiff I was here every day for the lovely coffee, food and cakes and pretty, rustic décor. I sincerely wish this chain would spread up north. I also love the single-origin coffees and fancy brewing techniques you can choose from – I think this is a great place for coffee fanatics (and snobs.)

3. Costa

Image from Smithfield SQ

Costa generally wins the title of the UK’s favourite coffee shop, and I get it, it’s pretty good. The coffee is tasty and the baristas tend to be highly trained, the food is delicious, and their seasonal specialities are probably the best (looking at you, gingerbread latte.) However, I kind of feel like Costa has gone downhill over the past couple of years, the service varies drastically and I don’t dig some (most) of their new drink ideas. Sorry.

4. Starbucks

Image from Tumblr

Oh man. I know Starbucks is a dreadful, tax-dodging company that makes their coffee taste good by adding a shit-load of sugar and flavour syrups. But when a sweet drink is what you’re in the mood for, no one does it better than Starbucks. I think it’s so popular because every store is just nice, unimposing, neutral. I always find it relaxing and perfect for studying or working – which is why I spend so much time here. The coffee itself isn’t great, though. I would never order a Starbucks Americano.

5. Pret a Manger

Image from Viktoria Jean

The word that springs to mind when thinking about Pret is EXPENSIVE! I know this place is a really big deal in London, but perhaps up north we’re just too poor to be impressed by Pret. It’s perfectly good coffee, perfectly good food and service, but the décor of the stores is bland and it’s just a lot of money for what it is.

6. Esquires

Image from Esquires Coffee

The first time I went to Esquires, I really loved it. I thought it was cosy, spacious, and was impressed by the variety of coffees on offer…but the few times I have returned have left me feeling underwhelmed. There are some good points to this chain – the coffee is okay, the décor is fine, I just find that it tends to lack atmosphere.

7. Upper Crust

Image from Seeds


Upper Crust actually gets quite a lot of business from me, despite unremarkable coffee. I just really like the overpriced baguettes…Upper Crust is certainly a perfectly acceptable option for when you have some time to kill at a train station, but that’s pretty much the only reason anyone would go there.

8. Pumpkin

Sorry, Pumpkin, you’re the even less desirable train station coffee shop option. This little store has been my saving grace on many a late-night train changeover, but that’s the only reason it made it onto the list at all.


So, there it is! My very opinionated list of preferable coffee shops in the UK. The truth is, they are all perfectly fine and have different qualities that appeal to different people, so do let me know in the comments which is your favourite.

The important thing is, coffee = happiness…

Image from Bettr Barista