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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 15:44 GMT
Should a latte be the symbol of modern Britain?
The takeaway latte has become something so typical of people's lives that the UK Government is this week starting to include it as a official measure for the economy.

It is joining the "shopping basket" on which the country's inflation figures are calculated. With the other modifications to the shopping list, it provides a fascinating insight into the way our shopping trends have changed.

What's in What's out
Takeaway latte Brown Ale
Dried potted snack Tinned spaghetti
Flat pack bookcase Vinyl floor covering
Designer specs Men's belt
Air fares Electronic keyboard
Source: Office for National Statistics

The inclusion is perhaps the most definite sign that the explosion in coffee shops in the UK over the last five years, with its new lingo of macchiato, mochaccino and skinny double shot grande, has finally made its mark.

Also added to the basket are "dried potted snacks", nudging out tinned spaghetti in the nation's menu.

And in a nod to the continued rise in DIY culture, the flat pack bookcase has also joined the list. As more people now own their own washing machines, laundrette charges are out.

And as people increasingly buy new shoes instead of having old ones mended, the cost of women's shoe repairs also falls off the list.

Pavement cafe
Pavement cafe culture... in Britain

Alterations are made to the items in the basket from time to time to reflect what people are actually buying.

Other items joining for the first time include takeaway burgers and kebabs, dental insurance, hair gel, and golf fees. On the way out are frozen fish in sauce, battery-powered clocks, and silver charms.

But it is the latte which is perhaps the most powerful symbol of the changes in lifestyle. Many High Streets now seem to have different coffee shop chains jostling for position.

Mobile coffee carts buzz up and down in city centres. When the sun's out, Brits behave like continentals and sit languidly at pavement cafes. And people who years ago would never have dreamt of arranging to meet friends in a coffee shop are now at ease with the idea.

Not everyone is happy with the changes in society, however. Style commentator Stephen Bayley, for one.

Blair and coffee
Better make it double strength
"Now that pizza and taramasalata has replaced cabbage and stew as the national school dinner, it seems inevitable that a takeaway latte has replaced the cup of tea or pint of bitter as a national drink.

"It seems very fitting that something frothy and insubstantial should be a symbol of modern Britain. I detest the tsunami of chain coffee bars that has overwhelmed Britain because the coffee they serve is so bad.

"As for flat pack bookcases, that has more to do with the rise of Ikea than the popularity of books - why, most of the Britons who say they own books are only in possession of the Bible and the A to Z."

Have you any other ideas for what product should be the symbol of modern Britain? Let us know using the form below.

Your comments so far:

Mineral water - years ago we would have laughed at the idea of paying for water, now you can get sparkling, still, super-oxygenated, flavoured, designer et al.
Karen Virapen, Northern Ireland

It has to be the mobile phone. Everyone has them, even kids and you are considered weird if you don't.
Chris Hope, England

The Credit Card.
Steve, UK

Personal injury claims
Kye, England

A Chinese takeaway - it's a great leveller.
Wendy, UK

What is a takeaway latte?
Charles Cleworth, UK

The debt consolidation loan.
Dave, UK

The water filter.
Flynn, England

SMS messages
Clive, UK

Expensive Luxury Icecreams...
Sarah P, UK

Garden decking, celebrity chef cook books, Friends Reunited.
Stuart Fox, London

The 4 X 4. The car of choice to go and buy a bag of shopping or take the kids to school - but certainly not for offroading in.
Peter Haygarth, UK

I am concerned about gents' belts being removed from the shopping list. It's a recipe for Carry-On film style disaster.
James, UK

Whenever I see somebody walking down the road with coffee, I am reminded of Del Boy in his yuppie days, walking around waving his Filofax.
Andy Wheeler, UK

Style commentators.
Ian Pattison, UK

Anything that isn't actually British.
Merv M, GB

Gym membership.
Karl, UK

Airport tax.
Rio, UK

Men's grooming/beauty products.
Dave Milne, UK

Garden lights, a must for the summer.
Gary Finnigan, UK

Granite worktops and bleached wood in the kitchen.
Rita Newman, England

Ashley, Belgium

The men at work road sign. As all our roads are continually being dug up.
Peter Leighton, England

Speed bumps everywhere, no parking spaces anywhere.
Mike, London

A misused apostrophe.
Simon, England

Nostalgia programmes.
Vin, England

Out with the butty, in with the bruschetta.
Andrew Jones, UK

The Gatso speed-trap camera.
Graham Tully, UK

What's in and out polls.
Shaun, Wales

Your E-mail address
Your suggested symbol

Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.

Which should be symbol of modern Britain
Takeaway latte
Brown ale
Dried potted snack
Tinned spaghetti
Flat pack bookcase
Vinyl floor covering
Designer specs
Men's belt
Air fares
Electronic keyboard
7379 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Brown ale makes way for latte
17 Mar 03 |  Business
How the economy is measured
12 Feb 03 |  Business

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