Coffee junkies are well catered for in Jakarta. But where to get your caffeine fix? In the old days, it used to be simple of course. Excelso. But in the last few years, Starbucks has built up quite a presence. So which is the best place to get a coffee in Jakarta - Starbucks or Excelso?
Let’s see how they measure up head to head on a number of criteria:
1) The coffee itself. Starbucks took the Italian art of coffee brewing and Americanized it by adding syrups, whipped cream, flavored extracts, soy milk, g*** s**** (well, who the hell knows right?) and anything else they care to chuck in. Another negative is that the coffee isn’t served that hot (cos they are worried of being sued if some cretin spills the coffee on his lap and burns himself). At least Excelso keeps it simple. What more could you want than a piping hot espresso? (verdict: Starbucks *** Excelso **** (out of five)
2) Health. With all those syrups and whipped cream, Starbucks coffee is packed with calories. Have one of the huge slices of fat filled cheesecakes and you are well on the road to obesity. Excelso is much better: a black coffee is very low in calories. Just leave the sugar sachet alone. (verdict: Starbucks * Excelso *****)
3) Politics. Starbucks is a huge corporation, with 8,345 locations in the States alone and tens of thousands more across the world. Not quite as wanky as the golden arches but the coffee still tastes corporate. Funnily enough, though, the Indonesians don’t care. And most don’t even know that its CEO - Howard Schultz – is a Jewish conservative. Some have even questioned whether or not he funds Israeli’s military. Click here to see for yourself. Starbucks also claims to support the Fairtrade coffee initiative (which aims to buy coffee at “fair” prices from impoverished farmers) although it’s virtually impossible to actually find a Starbucks outlet that sells Fairtrade approved coffee. I mean have you ever seen it sold in Jakarta? As for Excelso, it’s more domestic nationalist that global corporate. The coffee is produced by PT.Santos Jaya Abadi and is also sold to supermarkets as well as through the company’s own Excelso coffee chain. (verdict: Starbucks ** Excelso ***)
4) Price. One pound of the finest Arabica costs US$1.03 per pound. One cup of Starbucks coffee costs at least Rp30,000 (US$3). Ever been had? Sucker! Excelso’s prices are a bit more reasonable. (verdict: Starbucks * Excelso ***)
5) Style. Serving coffee in paper/plastic cups? Not only is that sacrilege but it produces unnecessary waste. Coffee should only ever be served in mugs or coffee cups. And drinking coffee through a straw? Do they think we are still children or something? (verdict: Starbucks * Excelso ****)
6) Chicks. Quite a few single females hang out in Excelso Blok M Jakarta and Excelso in Tunjungan Plaza Surabaya. Get lucky and you can follow muffin with muff. Starbucks is a bit more difficult (so I’ve heard) (verdict: Starbucks * Excelso ****)
Final score: Starbucks 9 stars, Excelso 23.
So there you go!
A comprehensive victory for Indonesia’s local coffee chain!
Footnote: while not wanting to retread old territory or anything, the idea of having a “maid café” where sexy maid chicks serve the coffee is taking off . And if a maid café is viable in Singapore why not here?