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As Starbuck's decides to serve stronger coffee, Anna Coogan checks out its rival's reaction

You may have good reason for wanting a stronger cuppa coffee these days. Yet Starbucks' announcement that it will begin serving stronger coffee from later this month has been met with fighting words from rival coffee chain Insomnia.

Starbucks will give two shots of coffee as 'standard' in response to research which shows that a majority of the coffee chain's customers have been asking for a stronger hit of coffee for the past two years.

The figures were compiled in the UK but apply to the Irish market as well, according to Starbucks' UK office, which found 60pc of customers now ask for an extra shot of coffee while ordering a tall latte.

The coffee chain's response is to make two shots standard -- with no extra cost to customers, who currently pay 30 cents for an extra shot of coffee.

It's thought that this move will result in a loss of an estimated €85,000 per week for Starbucks across its UK and Irish market, yet it is part of a multi-million euro investment/strategy on the part of one of the major players in the competitive coffee market.

When you order a Starbucks tall latte you will automatically get an extra shot of coffee -- and for lovers of strong coffee the good news is that this extra coffee shot will also apply to cappuccinos and other espresso-based drinks.

And customers will still be able to get only one shot by asking for a milder coffee.

Yet all Starbucks is doing is catching up, claims Bobby Kerr, owner of the Irish coffee outlet chain Insomnia, in response to Starbucks recent announcement.

Well known to TV viewers from his appearances on Dragons' Den, Kerr says: "They're only doing what Insomnia has been doing for the past 14 years and making a double shot standard."


Starbucks are following in their rivals' footsteps by serving up coffee with an extra punch, he claims.

"They're finally accepting that we like our coffee strong. They've been serving the weakest cup of coffee around for years," Kerr says.

"Our figures show that 97pc of our customers like their coffee with a double shot, and only 3pc like it milder -- the strength Starbucks has been serving since arriving here.

"The double shot is particularly important when coffee is being drunk through milk, like in a latte," Kerr says.

"Starbucks opened up near us in places like Blackrock and Malahide and people said they would blow us out of the water. We're still here, and now they're copying us," he says.

Coffee wars are always feisty and direction-changing, with customer loyalty a fickle thing.

O'Briens serve its standard coffee (16oz) with a double shot, and its large coffee (20oz) with a triple shot. A company spokesperson said a new trend is the growing number of requests for the addition of syrups to peoples' coffee -- with vanilla and caramel syrup being the most popular.

Starbucks' reputation for aiming to make itself "locally relevant" is well known. Cafes in the UK have been redesigned in recent years to make them more customer friendly, and bacon butties have been added to the cafes' menu boards.

While in France, customers are offered two different types of espresso blends -- a full-bodied dark roast or a lighter roast option.

Starbucks' UK managing director Kris Engskov, who is also responsible for the Irish market, explained the changeover to double shots as standard by saying: "The British palate is changing. They've become more experienced, more sophisticated, and many more are looking for a stronger taste."

Starbucks' switch to a double shot as standard will take place on Wednesday, March 14, and will be accompanied by the introduction of new technology and the retraining of Starbucks' 10,000 baristas in the UK and here.