Staff are pictured behind the counter of India's first newly-inaugurated Starbucks outlet in Mumbai. AFP/Punit Paranjpe
Why is everyone making such a big deal about Starbucks? Well, it is the iconic coffee store brand around the world, and it is credited for kicking off the revolution that has resulted in people changing the way they order coffee - from saying ‘I’ll have a cappuccino’ to ‘I want a grande coffee in a venti cup with 2 pumps hazelnut, 2 pumps vanilla, 2 pumps caramel, 2 equals and 4 sweet and lows filled to the top with cream, with extra cream on the side, double cupped with no sleeve, a stir stick, and stopper put in the top.’ This, by the way is an actual order posted by a Starbucks employee on the Internet.
I have drunk a few Starbucks’ myself, but nothing this extravagant. My first Starbucks coffee was ordered at Melbourne airport in 2001. It was a latte – and I remember shaking my head resolutely at every suggestion offered by the barista (except when he asked about the size of the serving) – because I was too intimidated by all the choices on offer. Years later, in Hong Kong, I had worked out what I wanted – a tall chai tea latte, with a shot of vanilla, thank you very much.
And even though now most Indians are fully at ease when it comes to ordering coffee, I suspect there will be still be many who will be excited about getting it in a mug with a green logo and the signature coffee sleeve, no matter much some Twitterati try and blow cold scorn on the Starbucks invasion (two more stores opening soon in Mumbai, and more in Delhi as well).
The Tata group certainly spared no expense to whip up excitement when it launched the first Starbucks store at Horniman Circle in
Mumbai on October 19. The launch, complete with a green carpet for VIPs, saw 600 guests, Diana Hayden as compere, two sound and light shows, and Tata group head honcho Ratan Tata and Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz shaking hands with each of the 18 employees of the store on stage, followed by dinner and a show at the nearby Horniman Garden. Watching all this with a slightly incredulous, slightly bemused gaze, I was reminded that this was a business coup for the Tatas to celebrate, not just a coffee shop for all the beautiful people to gather at. Even if Anna Wintour does drink Starbucks coffee.
I don’t think there will be a mad rush for the store in the weeks to come. But there’s no need to actively boycott it either. If you like Starbucks, go in and see if your favourite blend is available. And if you’ve never had one, now’s a good time to try it out.
From HT Brunch, October 21
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