THURSDAY 3 JAN 2013 11:53 AM


Coffee. Such a simple, yet delicious, caffeine delivery system, yet one that has created so much uproar. This winter has seen more than its fair share of coffee-related corporate woes. Costa fell victim first, as Devon town Totnes successfully prohibited the chain’s expansion into their coffee-shop saturated hamlet. Starbucks was next and when the mighty fall, they fall hard. Taxes turned to boycotts and hatred on Twitter. Now the new year brings a new sort of coffee-related problem, this time for Tesco.

Tesco, long loved and loathed grocery giant, holds a non-controlling share of up and coming coffee chain Harris + Hoole. This comes as news to many who patronised the new, artisanal cafe in one of its 10 locations. Uproar ensued.

The problem lies not with Harris + Hoole, but with animosity toward the Tesco brand. Tesco's brand reputation has deteriorated as local shops go out of business as further outlets of the supermarket crop up. Critics fear the continued permeation of Tesco into their communities and their coffee shops.

Customers are reportedly furious that Harris + Hoole is not what it seems to be — that is an independent coffee shop — and is more similar to the Costas and Prets of the world — a corporate-owned chain. Distress about the lack of a ‘part-Tesco owned’ disclaimer on each storefront has emerged.

But the fervor may be unnecessary. Harris + Hoole is run by a trio of Australian siblings and does evoke the independent feel of many side-street British coffee shops.

CEO of Harris + Hoole, Nick Tolley, says the chain does not hide its corporate links but that “The intention is to have the values of an independent, and behave like an independent.”