All the rumours are true - there is Starbucks in Cape Town! Well it’s not exactly Starbucks. Technically it’s a café that serves Starbucks coffee. The point is they make steaming cups of deliciousness. This is me playing the role of typical American with hugely oversized beverage while walking around the waterfront.
Most of my foreign friends don’t get what the big deal about Starbucks coffee is, so let me explain. I love Starbucks coffee. It is the last thing I drink before I get on the plane for Africa and the first thing a drink when I arrive back home (it helps that there is a Starbucks in the arrivals terminal at Dulles International Airport). Even so, I must admit Starbucks coffee is not the best coffee in the world. *gasp* Wait, before you latte-lovers stone me, let me finish. The thing that makes Starbucks so great is that there is no guessing involved. I can go anywhere in America and walk into any Starbucks and order my usual drink and I can know that it will taste amazing, that it will have the perfect level of sweetness, the right measure of fomy-ness, the exact proportion of coffee and milk and that afterwards I won’t wonder if I wasted $3 on it. Secondly, I can count on the fact that Starbucks always has soy milk. I can’t drink much milk which means no lattes for me unless I find a café that serves soy milk (which is exceptionally rare in South Africa). And lastly, I just love the environment of Starbucks, the smell of the coffee, the soundtrack playing in the background – it’s just a great place to hang out. I have so many great memories at Starbucks, and every time I sip my latte they all come flooding back. It’s like happiness in a cup.
This Starbucks didn’t disappoint. Although it’s not a REAL Starbucks it’s still pretty amazing. It’s located inside an ultra luxurious hotel in Cape Town, which makes the beverage seem that much more like the holy grail of coffee. Everything is completely over-the-top – wood panelling, Persian rugs, leather sofas, even a live pianist serenading you with some jazz. I mean the lobby even smells rich. I don’t know if rich has a smell, but if it did it would smell like this. Really, you have to experience it yourself. I spent the morning sitting by the pool outside the café sipping my grande soy caramel macchiato and thinking what a conundrum this country is with overwhelming poverty in the townships and extreme opulence like this hotel, a country where I drive past shanty towns on my way to get a cup of Starbucks coffee. This is South Africa.
And by the way, if you are imagining me drinking Starbucks lattes every day, don’t worry. It’s still an hour and a half’s drive away…and I still don’t have a car. But if I’m in Cape Town, you can bet I will be there.
Update: I was at the Southern Sun hotel again in June 2011 and they informed me that Starbucks pulled out after the World Cup. I guess there just aren't enough coffee-drinking South Africans. However, the local grocery store, Checkers, now sells Starbucks Coffee (although as of March 2012, they have been sold out for more than one month). If you are desperate for a good cup of coffee in South Africa, you'll have to settle for Mugg & Bean - not quite the same but at least they have free refills which is kind of unheard of in this part of the world. Currently, the only Starbucks I know of on the continent is in Cairo, Egypt. Only one Starbucks for all of Africa?! That just shouldn't be.
Please visit my post on the Starbucks Idea board and vote for it to help bring Starbucks to Cape Town!