For 14 years, George Clooney has been the impossibly handsome face of Nespresso, the ‘capsule’ coffee for time-pressed poshies that comes in bright, glossy, environmentally unfriendly pods.
The Hollywood heart-throb and political, social and environmental activist has appeared in endless adverts for the Swiss giant, popping up as a playboy in a black polo-neck, a medieval knight and a Confederate soldier.
Over the years he has flirted, smouldered, smooched, cocked an eyebrow and always made it look as if a few sips of Nespresso really have transported him to a personal paradise.
Yes, his global ‘ambassadorship’ has reportedly cost Nestle, the owner of Nespresso, more than £31 million — but the casting was a masterstroke.
Who better than right-on George to turn the coffee brand into one of the world’s most recognised and coveted?
For 14 years, George Clooney has been the impossibly handsome face of Nespresso, the ‘capsule’ coffee for time-pressed poshies that comes in bright, glossy, environmentally unfriendly pods
Naturally, he is on the company’s ‘sustainability advisory board’, which supposedly — and, clearly, not very effectively — works to ensure that Nespresso sources coffee from well-run farms.
He is also a member of the Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade International and the Fair Labour Association.
So it must have been a bitter blow when he discovered — thanks to an investigation for a forthcoming Channel 4 Dispatches programme — that children as young as 11 are working eight-hour days on sites in Guatemala that allegedly supply Nespresso.
There is video footage of the children picking coffee beans and hauling heavy sacks to weighing stations.
George has declared himself ‘surprised and saddened’, pledging that ‘this board and this company still have work to do. And that work will be done.’
We must hope it will. But these latest revelations are far from the only troubling aspect of this oh-so-trendy and expensive brew.
Marketed as quicker and easier to use than dreary cafetieres, percolators and instant coffees, pod machines are now in a third of UK homes — as well as offices, Harley Street waiting rooms, hotels, yachts and private jets.
Hundreds of millions of the pods are used each year in Britain alone — and, three years ago, sales overtook those of traditional ground and roasted coffee.
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Thanks partly to George, Nespresso, with its sleek machines and jewel-like pods, is the most covetable brand of the lot, accounting for 30 per cent of coffee-pod sales in the UK.
Despite their hefty price tag — the machines range from £89.99 to over £600 and the pods are about 30p each — the machines are routinely given as Christmas and birthday presents, hooking customers into the system.
Some owners no longer talk of having a coffee but of ‘having a Nespresso’. And so-called ’boutiques’ have opened — there are 16 in London alone and more than 700 worldwide — selling everything Nespresso-related.
But is the drink actually any good? Many believe it isn’t, complaining that Nespresso coffee — which is made by pushing hot water through the capsule and the ground coffee it contains — is bitter and not nearly hot enough.
Some declare the whole thing a gimmick, all style and no substance: the emperor’s new espresso.
Worse, soaring sales of the machines and pods come at a terrible cost — and not just to the poor children of Guatemala allegedly working up to six-day weeks for less than £5 a day to harvest the beans.
The pods themselves are environmentally catastrophic.