Why India’s yuppies want Starbucks-it’s not about the coffee | Kavitha Rao | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
Starbucks has just opened its first store in India, in central Mumbai. Days after the opening, Mumbaikars, mostly the young, were still queuing for up to an hour to grab their frappucinos, while madly updating their Facebook statuses. Social commenters are bemused by the lemming-like flood. “Best coffee? No way. It’s all about feeling foreign and upper class,” sneered one sceptic. “Two decades after liberalisation, you’d imagine India’s young ‘uns would be jaded enough to shrug off the entrance of yet another global chain” mused popular website Mumbai Boss. “When can you say you went to the opening of the first ever Starbucks?” tweeted one unabashed groupie.
Me, I am somewhere in the middle. Starbucks is not our coffee messiah and deserves no genuflections. True, India is mainly a tea-drinking nation. However, southern India has always had a vibrant coffee culture. For many Indian taste buds, including mine, nothing beats strong frothy “filter” coffee from Coorg, India’s premier coffee producing area. As one commenter on the Guardian website rightly pointed out, you can get excellent coffee on every street corner for less than a few rupees.
However, coffee snobs are missing the point entirely. The Indian yuppie does not want to stand on a street corner, however good the coffee. Most streets here are awash with sewage, garbage and gaping manholes, so why would he or she? Sure, there are also plenty of darshinis and dhabas basic cafes and teahouses across India, where you can get excellent coffee or chai for a few rupees, and be in and out in less than 10 minutes. But the potential Starbucks customer doesn’t want that. That’s what their daddy drank.