Opening soon: Tesco espresso

It's going to have top-notch baristas, hip interior design – and, like Starbucks, it's got a literary name. But can the supermarket's new coffee chain convince critics?

When Samuel Pepys strolled the streets of 17th-century London, the coffee houses were popular with intellectuals, who'd meet over a mug to debate the day's most pressing issues. Today, in the age of the Apple laptop and the soy latte macchiato, coffee houses themselves are a pressing issue – and a new chain, named after two of the famous diarist's caffeine-loving acquaintances, seems destined to be the subject of some debate.

The first branch of Harris and Hoole – an "artisan" coffee chain, part-owned by Tesco – will open this month in Amersham, Bucks. Tesco controls 49 per cent of the new company, but there will be no indication of its involvement. The remaining shares are owned by Australian siblings Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley, founders of the existing Taylor St coffee chain, which prides itself on its skilled baristas.

"Taylor St's stores are hidden down the backstreets of London and are the province of real coffee geeks," says Nick Tolley, 36, "We're looking to take that to the high street. A lot of coffee chains take an industrial approach. We want to bring art and craft back to the process. You could have the best coffee and the best equipment in the world, but if the barista doesn't know what he's doing you'll get an ordinary cup of coffee."

The next branch of Harris and Hoole will open soon in Uxbridge. The Tolleys are also in talks to buy up to 15 shop sites formerly occupied by the defunct Clinton's Cards. Tesco, which presently boasts 2,975 stores, and £1 of every £8 spent on the UK high street, will reportedly have little say in the everyday management of the company. But its connection will place Harris and Hoole on Goliath's side in the coffee wars.

Coffee chains are one of the surest signs of a high street's homogenisation, and they're an emotive presence at a time when many communities fear becoming "clone towns". In Totnes, Devon, three-quarters of the 8,000-strong population have signed a petition to protest the opening of a Costa, the UK's biggest coffee chain. Totnes already has 41 coffee shops, but they are all independently owned and run.

"After working at Taylor St," says Tolley, "I'm totally sympathetic to those concerns. Harris and Hoole will blend in with the high street. If we locate a branch in a beautiful old building, we won't be painting it in Harris and Hoole brand colours so everyone can see us."

Pepys's own preferred coffee house was Will's of Covent Garden, frequented by the poet John Dryden. On 3 February 1664, Pepys recorded his first visit to the establishment, where he encountered "Dryden the poet, [whom] I knew at Cambridge, and all the wits of the town, and Harris the player and Mr Hoole of our College."

This wouldn't be the first time a literary allusion was used to christen a coffee chain: Starbuck was Captain Ahab's first mate in Moby Dick, long before he lent his name to the world's favourite latte.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas