Following the lead of Hooters, Starbucks says it will expand into India soon, trying to reverse hundreds of years of tea plantation history dating back to the East India Company (thanks, Super Jagjit!):

“China traditionally has been a tea-drinking country[,] but we turned them into coffee drinkers,” Schultz told a gathering of analysts earlier this month…

But their Asia marketing director, speaking not to Wall Street but to Indian consumers, is singing a gentler hymn:

“India is a tea-based culture. We””””re not saying coffee is a substitute. We””””re saying Starbucks is a place to hang out, to eat and drink, to see and be seen.”

In other words, a place to flirt. And, in fact, gourmet coffee cafes serve exactly that function in Indian cities today:

“With the liberalization of the economy, there are a large number of young Indians with good jobs and attractive incomes,” said Banerjee. “Many still live with their parents. So their income is largely disposable and they need to spend it on something.

Methinks the key part of that quote is ‘many still live with their parents.’ Cafes function as extended living rooms in space-impaired Manhattan and as libidinous hotspots in privacy-impaired India. They’re just the place for your silken mocha pick-me-up.

Much like eBay’s local knockoffs in China and India, Starbucks has homegrown competition. Barista, a successful Indian premium coffee chain, claims it’s not a Starbucks clone. It’s so fortunate that desis respects intellectual property.

Barista””””s menu features everything from a latte to cappuccino, caramel cafe, cafe mocha, flavored coffee and deserts like brownies and cakes. The company also recently introduced Wi-Fi access in 35 locations. Music downloads could be next.

But I’ve figured out that Starbucks’ master plan to beat the competition. In an obvious bid for the Punjabi market, Starbucks is releasing an alcohol-based liqueur:

The Seattle-based coffee shop chain, along with… Jim Beam… is developing a premium coffee liqueur to be sold in bars, restaurants and liquor stores — but not in Starbucks”””” 7,800 retail locations… The new liqueur will compete with… sweet-tasting Kahlua and Bailey””””s Irish cream…

I’m looking forward to the inevitable Starbucks Black Label. The company also signed a deal recently to buy Arabica beans from India (shouldn’t those be Indica beans?), its first bean sourcing deal from outside South America. The source, Tata Coffee, is Asia’s largest coffee producer, with 17,300 acres of coffee plantations in Karnataka.

Mmm… I’m looking forward to the day I can order spicy chai with kesar and pista the way Mom makes. Maybe Starbucks will even fix their redundant naming. I speak, of course, of ‘chai tea.’ Sure, calling something by its Hindi name may give it a patina of otherness, a certain masti. But calling it by both names at once? That’s just buddhoo silly.

10 thoughts on “Star-rupees

  1. Well, you can order a chai at Starbucks (although I think it tastes like pumpkin pie, but I still always order it…..)

  2. Barista is huge in delhi too. Rich delhi kids will pay anything to hang out at a ‘brand name’ shop, whether they serve coffee or tharra. Barista is pretty good though.

  3. In cities like bombay, lucknow,hyderabad coffee houses since early 1980′s are fun places to hang out where guys of all ages hang out from morning until late in the nite. when I was a kid I used to envy guys as u never would see girls hanging out in coffee houses and I could never sit at a coffee house with a whole bunch of girls. u see retired elderly people sitting in coffee houses for hours discussing politics or playing cards anytime of the day, u can see young college going students agressively arguing about communism even today and the best part is these coffee houses run by indian coffee board serve hot dosas, idlis,vada and chat for a very affordable price along with a cup of filter coffee. I had been to barista coffee pub with a friend of mine last year in banjara hills hyderabad, fun place with pop/rap music , cappuccino served with honey if u want, its pretty much like starbucks here in US where guys, girls hang out these days. But I would still prefer coffee houses to star-rupees ( I love that word though.. prefer rupees to bucks, cool and I also liked that sentence budhooo silly… cute sentence..).

  4. Barista makes a much better espresso than Starbucks: it’s almost syrupy and it’s made from a lighter roast.

  5. do u hav a starbucks coffee shp in mumbai?????if yes then where exactly is it n if no wen n where r u gonna open

  6. man fuck american corporations we should support our own indian corporations, if anything, they do things indian style and the profits stay at home in india, even the hooters concept should be started by indians man we can’t keep giving all our money to foreigners