News broke this week of Starbucks’ imminent arrival on Cape Town soil. The American-born coffee shop has already got two stores in Johannesburg and two in Pretoria. The Joburg opening was met by swarms of non-coffee drinkers (we’re here for the skinny cinnamon roll caramel frappuccino right?) and celebs to validate the status attached to Starbucks’ coffee, a status that real coffee connoisseurs don’t recognise at all.
Let’s face it, the actual coffee is pretty average and in a thriving coffee culture like Cape Town, is there space for it? Once we’ve ordered that skimmed no-foam grande latte with an extra shot and had our movie moment, isn’t the dream over?
I recently visited Venice and it was so refreshing to not see a single chain or fast-food restaurant. There is one McDonald’s and one Burger King in Venice’s central area but you have to seek it out which you wouldn’t because of the abundance of local restaurants honouring local culinary traditions and giving visitors the authenticity they’re there for.
Florence recently made headlines when McDonald’s sued them for $20 million, when they were denied a license to open a branch in the city’s historical Piazza Duomo. The city felt that Big Macs and McNuggets might tarnish the rich cultural heritage of their most prized square, and I’m sure tourist’s aren’t flocking to Florence expecting to see the golden arches in their side view while gazing at the mesmeric Santa Maria del Fiore.
You can’t blame a city for wanting to preserve their finest features and for Cape Town, coffee is one of them. I can’t even count the number of coffee shops and roasteries that have opened in the last few years. I’ve eye rolled multiple times when hearing that yet another crafty coffee shop will be authenticating the flat white and pushing their weight around in the form of coffee ideals and industrial lighting, but the truth is this palpable enthusiasm and genuine love of coffee itself, can only be admired and welcomed. This constant and unwavering zeal has meant that Cape Town is serving some of, if not the best coffee in the world, and that should be nurtured like any other profitable industry.
We also have our own chains like Vida e Caffè, the one that started this culture to a large extent on Kloof Street back in 2001. I remember how weekday mornings, it would be overflowing with people experiencing this ‘thing’ that many associated with a city like New York. Now our coffee culture has evolved into something recognisably local, with newer coffee shops like Deluxe, Origin, Truth, Rosetta and Tribe all making their own coffee under their very established brands.
With a coffee culture as potent as the coffee it seats, there isn’t really space for a big green mermaid on Cape Town shores. Then again, let her come because our coffee can certainly handle it.
Here’s what Capetonians are saying about the arrival of Starbucks:
Tell us in the comments below how you feel about Starbucks opening in Cape Town.