Starbucks is to bow to British consumers' thirst for stronger coffee by launching a new latte in the United Kingdom, breaking with its policy of serving exactly the same beverages across the globe.
The chain, which has 740 UK shops, is to start selling its "tall" size lattes with two shots of espresso instead of one from 14 March at no extra charge for £2.15.
As a one-off, it will not charge customers who want to try the new drinks on that day until midday.
It is all part of a multi-million pound investment by Starbucks UK, which is planning a TV advertising campaign ahead of the new drink's launch.
The company says it is also introducing "revolutionary" new milk steaming pitchers to shops. The move follows a trial that Starbucks ran in and around Nottingham in 12 shops from January and reflects the changing taste buds of UK customers.
The firm's coffee has always divided opinion – some love it, but others perceive it to be too weak or milky and prefer to get their caffeine hit at Costa Coffee or Caffé Nero. While the chain's medium-sized "grande" drinks will not change, its largest "venti" latte and cappuccinos will also go from two shots to three. But customers will still be able to ask for the former "tall" and "venti's" lattes, if they don't want the extra shots. Starbucks said it had seen customers increase the number of extra shots they buy by 60 per cent to 200,000 each week over the last two years.
Lattes are easily the UK's most popular coffee drink. Britons consume more than six million a week at the main chains and independent coffee houses, according to the research firm Allegra Strategies.
Kris Engskov, managing director of Starbucks UK, said: "The British palate is changing; we can see that in the way our customers are ordering their coffee.
"They're becoming more experienced, more sophisticated and many more are looking for a stronger taste."
Starbucks, which launched in the UK in 1998, has previously trialled for a period a different coffee recipe in Australia, but this is the first time it has introduced a new taste in a major market.
The company said the success of its flat-white drink, a stronger coffee that it launched in 2009, also "encouraged" it to reconsider the way it makes its latte, which outsells its cappuccinos by two to one.
- More about: