I used to be a pretty big fan of Starbucks. I would stop by one when I had time, or when I happened to be near close-by, to get a cup of “fancy” coffee. I didn’t go often, because of the price, and because there usually wasn’t one that close to where I lived.
What did I like most about Starbucks? Well, the coffee was decent, but it wasn’t really that great. The atmosphere in the store is nice, but I never really hung around. Most of the time I would go through the drive through, or, if I were in a mall, I would get my coffee and get out. So… what was it? After spending some time thinking about it, I realized that the only reason I really went to Starbucks is because of effective marketing. It wasn’t for the cheesy atmosphere and it definitely wasn’t for the so-so coffee. It was because of how I viewed myself when I was standing there holding a cup with the Starbucks logo emblazoned on it. Starbucks managed to effectively market itself as a prestigious, premium coffee seller, and because of that, I felt as though I were treating myself to something nice when I purchased their product. It’s not really bad. I can’t call them evil for it. It just means that they did their business the right way and used effective marketing plans.
Having realized that, and having realized that there are far better coffees available than what they offer, I’m no longer as interested in going there anymore. That’s right! I’ve found a coffee that is far superior to what Starbucks offers, at a fraction of the cost. It’s called Kopi O, and it can be found at any hawker center in Singapore. You won’t be served by a fancy “barrista,” you probably won’t have air conditioning, and I doubt you’d find free wifi (though most wifi in the US locations isn’t free anyways), but you’ll get a damn good cup of coffee that will certainly hit the spot after a meal, or along with your breakfast.
I’m sure those of you in other countries are wondering how that helps you, but use it as an example. The best coffee, or really the best of anything doesn’t always come with the highest price tag. So, get out there and take a few chances and explore smaller shops to see if they have a better version of what you’re interested in.
As for myself, I’d take Kopi O over Starbucks any day, which is why I’m glad I found this fantastic little store in the Downtown East mall:
It sells the same stuff as the hawker stalls that sell Kopi O, but it’s located inside the mall. The prices are a bit higher, but only by about 30 to 50 cents, which is ok, considering its location. When my wife and I visit the mall to see a movie, we can buy our tickets, have dinner, and then hang out at this little coffee shop while we wait for the show to start. Oddly enough, this Kopi Alley store is located right next to The Coffee Bean ( a Starbucks clone for those of you not familiar with it), but that doesn’t seem to be hurting its business any.