I thoroughly enjoy coffee, but it does terrible things to my body. In fact, the only coffee I can drink that doesn’t leave me feeling utterly sick for the rest of the day is Starbucks. Does that make me a coffee snob? But you also have to take into consideration the atmosphere, and my wife and I both revel in the idea of hanging out at a coffee shop and using somebody else’s Wi-Fi for an hour or so. It’s no different when we’re traveling overseas. Starbucks is always a haven to us.
The prices don’t change much from country to country, though. My wife’s favorite drink (a green tea latte) costs about $5 in the US, China, and Thailand. For Thailand in particular, that’s an expensive drink. You can catch someone on the street selling iced coffee and Thai tea for as little as 50 cents a cup. Even the brand name shops like Coffee World and Amazon Cafe don’t mark up their prices that much. But my wife wasn’t able to find another shop that made a good green tea latte, so that’s still worth something.
However, all of the Starbucks we went to in Thailand didn’t have free Wi-Fi. Thailand is funny about its wireless Internet. That kind of service is surprisingly hard to come by, and apparently you can’t even rely on global establishments like Starbucks for it. Luckily, China doesn’t suffer from the same problem, but then the Internet in China sucks, anyway. I could never get a good connection at a Chinese Starbucks.
I know there’s this need/want to support and try out local shops while you’re abroad. Hey, I’m all for authentic food. But when it comes to drinks in between meals, I’m kind of complacent. While I did try a lot of coffee shops in Thailand, I gotta be honest… most of them were not very good. The best drinks are out on the streets, but where are you going to sit down to fiddle with your phone? As for China, most sit-down shops are also smoking shops. Starbucks is one of the few places in China that enforces its no smoking rules. I’ll pay $5 for a cup of coffee just for that.