India: At the Starbucks, or the Starbucks, or the Starbucks, or the Starbucks

Anyone get that reference in the post title?  If not, catch up here.  While Mumbai, and all of India, for that matter, is a long way from being like Arlington, Starbucks has arrived and is multiplying across town.

I'm still mildly disappointed in myself for seeking out this ubiquitous American enterprise.  See, on my first trip here I had to bitterly accept that India is a tea, not coffee, nation.  On the second trip, my willingness to drink everything from weak Americanos to Nescafe all for the caffeine hit was a badge of honor.  I also kind of enjoyed the fact that India was one of the last corners of the Earth to not have green mermaids swimming about everywhere.  That all changed when Starbucks and Tata finally came to an agreement a few months ago.  More on Tata's ubiquity later; it makes Starbucks look like your local mom-and-pop shop.

Anyway, Matt's hankering for better-than-passable coffee led us to Starbucks in Horniman Circle.  This place is absolutely huge and I'll admit it was also a fair amount of curiosity that drew us in.  Like McDonald's french fries, would Starbucks coffee taste the same the world around?  Answer: yes.  But how you get that coffee is a much different experience.  Let's review.

Chances are most of you get your coffee hit in less than 60 seconds' time.  Your cup is tattooed with your preferred brew and you have probably mastered putting your credit card away with one hand as you dump cream and sugar in your drink with the other.  None of this is holds in India.

Matt and I placed orders for short and grande brewed coffees.  Simple order, yes?  It required filling out a form.  I'm not kidding.  India has proven itself to be the king of "Sign here, press hard, third copy's yours" paperwork, where everything is handwritten and done in triplicate.  Apparently, even Starbucks, the company that pioneered paperwork on paper cups, can't avoid this kind of documentation.  

Here, short has replaced tall and porcelain mugs are the go-tos instead of paper cups.  We know this
because one of the eight people behind this counter (there were two other stations inside) whispered to the barista taking our orders, "They're Americans, they probably want paper."  Only Matt heard this and I don't know if he interjected but we ended up with porcelain mugs anyway. 

After you get your form from Barista #1, step over four paces and give it to the cashier, Barista #2.  Pay.  Then go somewhere else to wait.  Your drip coffee will be brought to you in "just two minutes."

Some time later, your coffee shows up.  Invariably, you start looking for the cream and sugar stand.  Good luck finding it!  After wandering about I was intercepted by another barista from one of the other coffee bars asking if I would like milk for my coffee.  

-Yes, indeed I would.  
- Hot or cold, I'm asked.  
- Hot. Let's kill off anything questionable.  
- Sure, just two minutes, madam.

Some time later, your hot milk shows up.  You might be looking for a stir stick or something but recall that the cream and sugar stand, which also holds stir sticks, doesn't exist.  May as well just have a seat and hope a gentle swirling of your cup does the trick. 

So, what's the verdict?  After one or two quick hits, I mean sips, Matt appears sated.   And, for today's nerdy term, let's throw out Purchasing Power Parity.  In a land where most food is comparatively cheap and alcohol is horrifyingly expensive (see also: Yellow Tail wine at $36 a bottle), a 12 oz. cup of Starbucks coffee will set you back Rs. 95, or roughly $1.74.  

Finally, I'll share a picture of the hand painted Starbucks logo on the shop window.  This caught my eye because I've noticed that in India, more often than not, signage is hand painted and hand lettered.  Peel-and-stick vinyl graphics aren't huge here for reasons unknown to me.  Might be the whole labor situation: people are still cheaper than automated manufacturing.  In any case, even Starbucks went local on this account.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but the craftsmanship on the giant logo was more beautiful than the other pseudo-artwork throughout the shop!

1 comment:

sheila said...

Lucky, lucky, lucky!
I've just come back from The Gambia where good coffee is a matter of taste (not mine - can't stand instant "coffee"!!!)


Related Posts with Thumbnails