South Africa’s first Starbucks store opened this week in Rosebank, and caffeine-crazed Joburgers braved the rain for their first taste (some even wrapped up in blankets). The plan is to roll out 12 to 15 stores over the next two years, with the second one opening at the Mall of Africa in Midrand soon.
I recently attended the glitzy opening night for media and VIPs where Starbucks lifted the lid on their offering to South Africans and was back to join the queues on opening day, too. This coffee shop on steroids is done in true American fashion – supersized with a large helping of whipped cream on too.
As expected, the main focus at Starbucks is on coffee, and you can expect a range of espresso-based beverages from Americanos to caffe mochas, white chocolate mochas, iced cafe Americanos, cappuccinos and of course, the famous caramel macchiato. Choose your coffee with full-fat, fat-free, soy or coconut milk. The decadent caffeine-free options include flavoured Frappuccinos like strawberries and cream, chocolate, raspberry blackcurrant and mango and passion.
Coffees are competitively priced: filter coffee starts from R17 (tall) to R23 for a Venti (supersized). Cappuccinos are a little steeper, and range from R27 to R33.
Starbucks offers a unique experience at the reserve counter. Here you can choose coffee from regions all over the world including great African options. Once you have selected the coffee, you get to choose the brewing method: traditional coffee press, pour over, Chemex or the mad scientist way, syphon. I chose the syphon method as it looked like coffee magic.
It involves water heated in a glass flask over a heat source, with another flask placed on top, to which coffee grounds are added. The heat creates a vacuum between the two flasks, and the water moves to the top glass chamber, where the ground coffee and water are infused before being released into the bottom chamber. This piece of theatre is enhanced by the well-trained and knowledgeable staff who explain every detail of the process. You are encouraged to enjoy the coffee black and unsweetened to appreciate the delicious nuances of the delicate process.
A coffee experience is not complete without a little nibble. A range of simple but delicious sandwiches like chicken and avocado, a coronation chicken wrap, and salami and pecorino paninis will be available. For the sweet tooth, there’s a range of cakes and pastries, including my favourite, triple chocolate cookie.
Starbucks Rosebank will be one of the flagship branches, boasting a large R 482m2 space. The store is decorated with locally sourced wooden furniture and leather woven ceilings. A large copper mural, representing their beginning at the public market in Seattle, anchors the inviting space. Cosy nooks, large enough to hold your laptop and coffee, are versatile to accommodate a large group of friends. Their aim is to create a hub for the neighbourhood where people come together for a brew and some company. The space makes for a perfect mobile office with free high-speed internet on offer.
We have a solid coffee culture in South Africa with sterling local roasters and coffee shops that offer unique experiences and have a strong following. Starbucks, meanwhile, offers good coffee and brings their international experience to South Africans. This is arguably a valuable addition to the local market which will offer welcome competition and variety.
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