Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Inglorious beans

Some months ago, Telecom and Country Theme moved out of the ground floor units on the corner of Lambton Quay and Waring Taylor St. The space has been divided into four small units: one is still to be leased, one is being refitted, one just opened today as a TSB branch, and one is about to open as a café.

"Great," I thought, "I'm always eager to try out somewhere new". But as the refit continued, the fittings and signage started to look a little plasticky and mass-produced. Then the signs went up - "Gloria Jean's Coffees" - and some visitors to my blog confirmed my suspicions that yes, this is a branch of a global chain. A quick Google showed that they are everywhere, and it's perhaps revealing of their commitment to local character that their New Zealand site only mentions Australian outlets, and to find out about their New Zealand branches you have to go to their Australian site!

I've always been proud of Wellington for largely resisting the Starbucks invasion (three appeared in the CBD a few years ago, and as I'm far as I'm aware, there have been no more). But then, when we have places like Fidel's, Felix, Midnight Espresso, Olive, Espressoholic, Deluxe and the Lido, each with their own character, quirks and individual flavours, why would we bother with Starbucks? The UK has succumbed rapidly, but then they've never had an established coffee-shop culture, so Starbucks, Cafe Nero and their ilk actually seemed like a nice change from the local greasy spoon.

Granted, this is the suity Lambton Quarter, and all of the hip cafés I mentioned above are in bohemian Te Aro. But even here, our slick daytime cafés for office workers (Ground Floor, Espresso Republic, Arabica) at least have their own sense of style. We have some chains (Wishbone, Wholly Bagels), but at least they're our chains!

I won't go as far as one of my anonymous commenters and call for a boycott, but if the thought of sitting in a soulless ersatz café drinking the same coffee that's served in suburban malls all around the world actually appeals to you, then have a look at this review before visiting.


At 4:37 pm, September 13, 2005, Blogger Kakariki said...

I certainly won't be going there...


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