Reserve – in a league of its own
> Starbucks Reserve Stores set to take the coffee drinking experience to the next level
DID you know that Starbucks Malaysia has a Reserve Store at the Gardens Mall? It offers “reserve or limited-time only” coffees besides regular items on its menu.
One of its kind here in Malaysia for now, its interiors depict little luxuries and small hints of resplendent wooden furnishings that give an air of a slightly elevated cosy comfort, unlike its regular outlets. Here, you can engage with coffee masters over a cuppa, who share a coffee experience quite unlike any other ... it’s magical.
LIMITED-TIME-ONLY COFFEES Already savoured by many is the Colombia La Union 16 coffee, the result of extraordinary beans grown in the town of La Union in Narino. The place of origin itself is ideal for coffee cultivation, situated along the equator on high altitudes in temperatures that swing during the day and night.
A coffee relevant with a clean and almost sweet citrus acidity, with a light, delicate body, La Union 16 offers one a lovely cuppa that is easy to drink, encircling zesty, fresh, herb notes that can be enjoyed whatever your mood. Have it over a book or share it with others at cosy gatherings - it pairs well with a slice of Starbucks Lemon Cheese Slice.
Another “Reserve” brew Starbucks coffee fans can look forward to is the Rwanda Abakundakawa coffee, cultivated from a small farm in Rwanda. The word “Abakundakawa” translates to “those who love coffee”. It depicts the women of the Akabundakawa farmer co-op (Fair Trade Certified) who are making their mark in the coffee world, representing almost half of the coop membership. This special coffee reminisces the past of a people who went through the civil war. Its aroma suggests black tea and smokey scents fused with caramel and light citrus hints. It is grown on elevated volcanic soil and has captured the attention of major coffee roasters around the world. When had with Starbucks Orange Popping Cake (Halloweeninspired), the combination simply “sends you to heaven and back”.
Yes, it is that good. And because these two Reserve coffees are purchased in small batches, they are only available until stocks last. Meaning, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Exclusive? Definitely! While the former is already available at the Starbucks Reserve Store at the Gardens Mall, the latter will soon be, from November.
THE BODY, HEART AND CORE Giving a rundown on Starbucks Reserve Stores and Starbucks Malaysia’s forthcoming plans is the company’s Malaysia and Brunei managing director Sydney Quays.
Quays reiterates that the Reserve outlet at the Gardens Mall is the sole Starbucks Reserve Store ... but not for long. “More Reserve stores are slated to be opened. We’re looking at about 10 in all, over the next five years,” he informs.
While in all, there are some nearly 250 Starbucks Coffee outlets throughout Malaysia, Quays explains the contrast in the slothlike and somewhat staggering set-up of Starbucks Reserve Stores. “There is a lot more work that goes into the opening of a Reserve store. We need to build up our ‘coffee base’ first,” Quays states, implying that regular outlets somewhat provide support in the establishment of a Reserve store.
“At the moment we have 227 stores (and counting) that are operational. Our target is 300 by year-end.
“Monetary-wise, its costs between RM900,000 and RM1.2 million to open a Reserve store – taking into account the size, location and furnishing. But looking beyond the financial aspect is training of ‘partners’, which requires time and effort.
“Yes, coffee is important at Starbucks, being the main product, but the people making and serving, the hands that help create the entire ‘coffee experience’ is as, if not more, important ... to a certain extent,” shares Quays.
“Coffee masters cannot be hired. They have to be groomed and trained. They need to work with Starbucks ground up, learn the ropes and compete to become coffee ambassadors before earning the title coffee master. Presentation skills are important, apart from a whole lot of knowledge, understanding and sharing all these to make a complete coffee experience for customers.”
GOOD PEOPLE, GREAT COFFEE The pride of Starbucks Malaysia stands in its 4,000 “partners” (employees). Of this, more than 350 have spent hours learning, competing and completing exams to take on the coffee master’s title. “You can’t train someone to become a coffee master overnight. It takes time and involves a lot of learning - classroom and on the floor, behind the coffee counter ... about 1.5 years at least,” informs Quays. These and more give reason to the rather slow set-up of 10 Reserve stores across five years compared to the rapid opening of Starbucks regular stores around the country – “on average, 25 a year,” reveals Quays.
Nonetheless, in the pipeline are Reserve stores that will soon be opening its doors to welcome Starbucks’ fans and coffee connoisseurs at Sky Avenue Mall in Genting Highlands. This will be followed by Reserve stores in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Johor, Ipoh and other locations/ towns (in no particular order).
“In KL, it will probably be within a heritage building as this nicely represents the uniqueness of coffees ordered in small batches and available only until stocks last. It also represents coffee steeped in history and a story to tell.
“It’s not about just drinking coffee anymore. We realised that in coffee drinking, interaction is important,” Quays says.
Starbucks Malaysia also has plans to introduce more innovative brewing styles and educate the people about coffee and the interesting information one can learn and appreciate about it. For now, call up the Starbucks Reserve Store at Gardens Mall and check when their coffee masters are in. Then engage with them over a cuppa of the two limited-time brews and learn how to talk coffee like a boss.
Visit the Starbucks Malaysia website or its Facebook page for more information.
From left: A Starbucks Malaysia ‘partner’, Quays and coffee master Ayesha showcasing the Colombia La Union 16 and Rwanda Abakundakawa limited-time-only brews served at Starbucks Reserve Store, Gardens Mall.
Starbucks Reserve Store anniversary merchandise and a cake slice and condiments to enhance the coffee experience.
Coffee prepared using the pour over method.