Yesterday I went to Rosebank for coffee and donuts. I waited 40 minutes for two Krispy Kreme donuts and 90 minutes for a Starbucks frappucino.
At Starbucks with my donut and frappe. (Photo by Wimpie, one of the friends I made while waiting in line outside Starbucks.)
It was worth the wait. Not because I’ve never had a Krispy Kreme or a Starbucks coffee before, and not because I couldn’t wait another minute to sample these over-hyped, all-American treats now that they’ve finally arrived in South Africa. It was worth the wait because waiting in those lines was a fun way to spend my Sunday afternoon. Also, I learned something.
The line at Krispy Kreme, which remains lengthy even though the shop arrived in November 2015.
The line at Starbucks, which opened less than two weeks ago.
I’ve always made fun of South Africans who wait in long lines when American and European chains first arrive here. It’s happened a lot recently: Burger King, H&M, Krispy Kreme and now Starbucks. How silly, I’ve always thought, to freak out about such mediocre brands. I drove past the lines, laughing and shaking my head. I wrote snarky Facebook posts.
Yesterday, I was sitting at home without much to do. I saw a Facebook photo of the Starbucks line, the poster and commenters making snarky quips about the queuers in the same way I’ve done before.
Suddenly, I was compelled to drive to Rosebank and join the line, for both Starbucks and Krispy Kreme.
I told myself this queuing expedition was purely for research purposes. But if I must be honest, I was jonesing for a donut.
In Line at Krispy Kreme
I went to the Krispy Kreme line first and struck up conversations with my fellow queuers. The teenage girl behind me, whose name I never got, had been to Krispy Kreme before. She was already licking an ice cream cone from Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream (a local brand), but wanted some donuts to eat during the movie she was about to see with her mother. She seemed matter-of-fact about waiting in the line — she’d done it before and would do it again. She likes the Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts and to her, they’re worth waiting for.
The man in front of me, Allistair, was buying Krispy Kremes for the first time. Coming here was his wife’s idea, he said. (Allistair’s wife and son were holding a table inside the shop.) Allistair seemed cool with waiting in a 40-minute line, simply for curiosity’s sake. I didn’t get to speak to him for long; Allistair’s son came over and informed his dad that if you order a full dozen donuts then you can skip the line. Allistair disappeared and I kept waiting.
I ran into Allistair and his son, Santiago, on my way out. The donuts were good, Allistair said, but a bit sweet for him. Nonetheless they were disappearing fast.
I bit into my “Bar One” donut as I left the shop. I liked the idea of a South-African-candy-bar-flavored Krispy Kreme. Alas, I found it rather dry. But my original glazed Krispy Kreme was moist and perfectly sweet — just as I remembered from the days when I ate Krispy Kremes during road trips through the American South, when the “Hot Donuts Now” neon sign was blinking and you could buy donuts straight from the fryer.
Totally worth the wait, and my two donuts only cost about R20 ($1.40).
In Line at Starbucks
My wait outside Starbucks was more emotionally charged. There was a lot more excitement, a lot more anticipation, a lot more selfie-taking and snap-chatting. I fell into conversation with Beverly, the woman in front of me, who was waiting for her husband and two daughters to join her in line. Her older daughter, 16-year-old Michaela, was so excited to go to Starbucks that she burst into tears in the car when she found out her parents were taking her there as a surprise. Michaela told me she had been dreaming of her first Starbucks coffee for many years — at least three or four.
I asked Michaela what she planned to order, and she looked up at the sky. “I have no idea,” she murmured dreamily, as her seven-year-old sister Lenë scampered around us. “I guess I’ll decide when we get in there.”
Michaela and her dad, Wimpie, peruse a miniature Starbucks menu while waiting in line.
Inside, finally, and waiting in yet another line. I was surprised to see that Starbucks beans have been rebranded and no longer come in those signature green-and-white bags.
My favorite thing about Starbucks was this awesome Joburg mug. I wanted it so badly — it has a hadeda! — but I can’t justify spending R250 ($17.50) for a coffee mug.
Michaela with her personalized cups, waiting for them to be filled. Her parents let her buy two drinks — one hot and one cold — and also bought her a reusable cup.
Lenë, who couldn’t care less about Starbucks but was happy to go along for the ride.
Chatting with Michaela and her family, I thought back to my mid-20s when I first started drinking Starbucks. Perhaps I wasn’t exactly like Michaela, but Starbucks was exciting to me too because I’d never really drunk coffee before. Gradually, my taste for Starbucks lattés faded as I was introduced to smaller, more artisanal coffee shops serving single-origin coffees made from freshly roasted beans. I’m not a big fan of Starbucks coffee anymore — I think there’s much better coffee out there — but I can’t ignore Starbucks’ role in making me a coffee fan. Starbucks might very well do the same thing for Michaela.
I ordered a tall (small) java chip frappucino, which cost me R41 ($2.87). It was tasty, like every other frappucino I’ve ever had, and I enjoyed drinking it. Incidentally, my favorite Starbucks drink is the peppermint mocha but it’s not available yet at the Rosebank Starbucks. I hope that changes soon.
My personalized frappucino, 90 minutes in the making, handed over by a lovely lady named Pretty.
Just as I received my frappe, a woman named Rose received hers too. Rose had been one person removed from me in line at both Krispey Kreme and Starbucks — apparently she had the same idea I had on that quiet Sunday afternoon. “I reeeeaaaaallly hope this is worth the wait,” she said as she picked up the frappe. It also was Rose’s first time at Starbucks.
Rose, ready to roll with her frappe and donuts. I hope you enjoyed it, Rose.
Here’s the thing I learned during my day of line-waiting: It’s easy for me to scoff at the queuers and bemoan the intrusion of global mega-chains like Starbucks into the local South African market. But who am I to complain? I don’t know what it was like to grow up South African, cut off from the world in a country burdened by apartheid and its after-effects, without exposure to Western retail outlets and fast-food chains. To many South Africans, the entry of companies like Starbucks into the country is a big deal; it feels like South Africa is finally being noticed and acknowledged on a global stage.
I’m rambling. What I really want to say is that I had fun watching Michaela and Beverly and Rose and Allistair (and everyone else) have fun. I hope that makes sense.
Beverly (left), Lenë, Wimpie, and Michaela, with a table full of Starbucks treats and merchandise. They had fun and so did I.
Starbucks was fun, and maybe I’ll be back for a peppermint mocha. But I’ll still buy the bulk of my coffee from Bean There and Motherland and Father Coffee — as I’m sure all the other serious coffee lovers in Joburg will continue to do — while not begrudging Starbucks their place in the country.
Krispy Kreme is a different story. I might be back tomorrow for a dozen original glazed.
Few things make me nostalgic for my childhood years in Ohio, but the pictures of Krispy Kreme did. The classic glazed made me swoon, and I had to be strictly rationed. Unfortunately, my body can no longer tolerate sugar of any kind [perhaps as a result of growing up with Krispy Kreme and Kool-Aid?]. Two donuts can send me to the hospital with severe hypoglycemic reaction. Most sweets I don’t even miss anymore, but for Krispy Kreme, I was tempted to lick the screen! As an adult I’ve become a big Starbucks fan, but of course most of their treats are also off my board. Just keep the espresso coming! If I were in South Africa, I know I’d stand in that line!
Hahaha, great comment. I’m sorry to tempt you with the Krispy Kreme pics though — sounds like torture!
i am a bit cross with you. i’ve managed to stay away from Crispy Creme ever since it opened.
But now –
Dammit, Two Summers.
I may just have to go there.
Can not believe the price of that coffee mug – what a pity as it would go nicely in my Joburg collection but far too pricey. I am one of those that cannot get my head around queuing for anything. Glad you had fun though.
The price of that mug really killed me. At one point I literally had in my hand, ready to buy it, but I just couldn’t.
There’s something contagious about a person’s excitement over trying something new for the first time. Especially when they’ve been hearing about an item or seeing it in the media for years. It’s a childlike sort of joy, and when you watch it, it takes you back to a simpler, less jaded time.
And for a minute, we’re kids again.
Totally worth it a queue or two.
That’s a perfect way of putting it because that’s just how it felt.
And in reference to your Facebook comment, I really hope Chucky Cheese never comes here because I don’t think I could ever be motivated to wait in line for that.
Oh, God, me, either. Not even for nostalgia’s sake.
I totally agree! I was just in SA last month on holiday (first time in Africa!) and was surprised (and happy) at the lack of Starbucks. But I totally understand the appeal and thrill to experience something that you see the rest of the world get every single day. Very cool!
And I guess that mug is expensive? They sell city mugs like that in the US and I think they are priced about the same. I know I would have picked it up in a heartbeat (tourist mentality).
(I’m @purplekat99 from instagram!)
Oh, hi Purple Kat! Yes, it’s a very cool idea to sell those mugs in different cities. Starbucks is clever. I could totally get seduced into buying them if they were just a wee bit cheaper 🙂
Did you know this is Abby Berman’s shop? (abbyberm)
I saw Abby when I was there! We had a long chat and I wanted to include some of it in the post. But it got too long. I told her I’ll have to write a separate post about her.
So glad you were there to report on this. Will post on my FB page. I just wish it could have been happening under my watch! I was there for the Subways opening but it didn’t have quite the same glamorous feel:-)
Haha, I’m happy to be of service. Did people wait in line for Subway? I missed that one somehow – suddenly it was just here and I stumbled upon it one day (which was exciting for me).
When Starbucks opened in Hawaii, there was the same thing, the lines out the door. We also have a Krispy Kreme, but only on Maui, so folks would fly there and bring back several boxes to share!
And the same thing happens in Thailand, as well. A Krispy Kreme opened in Bangkok and the lines were outrageous and for months. Folks flying from BKK would bring back dozens. There’s one at Don Muang Airport, too. It’s very common to see folks with Krispy Kreme boxes at the airport!
Damn. I want a Krispy Kreme…an original, always an original. Okay fine, I’ll eat any of them.
Ha! It’s kind of comforting to know that this phenomenon is the same everywhere.
i still havent had either in joburg – on my travels in europe i live off the the stuff
Are Krispy Kremes abundant in Europe now, too?!
Reading this put a smile on my face. I could never imagine myself queuing for so long for a Starbucks or Krispy Kreme, but I remember the excitement the first time Krispy Kreme arrived in the UK. There wasn’t any epic queuing, but there were Saturday trips to get a box of a dozen donuts. Then when the donuts appeared more locally… trips every other… ahem… day!
I totally get your point about how it was for some of the people to get excited about American chains making their way to South Africa. It’s the same here. I roll my eyes every time I see that there’s some new American burger chain opening up, meanwhile I see a video of a queue outside the new Shake Shack in the mall. People love it. Like you say, I don’t know what it’s like growing up here – these sorts of things are exciting and it’s great that people can get excited about them.
Thanks for explaining the long lines at Krispy Kreme. I was starting to wonder what might be in those donuts!
What, you haven’t tried them?! You’re American – you have to go at least once 🙂