Food

Do You Remember the First Starbucks in the Philippines?

The Philippines was only its third international market when Starbucks set up shop here 20 years ago.
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There was a time when we didnt' care too much about coffee. Every morning, it didn't matter that we spooned it out from a foil packet, dissolved it with piping hot water from a thermos, and diluted the bitter taste with spoonfuls of brown sugar and milk. We greedily gulped it from old Ludy’s jars because it was "just coffee." It was just a means to erase the night away and start the day anew.

Until that fateful day in December 1997. On December 4, 20 years ago, the Rustan’s Corporation introduced Filipinos to Starbucks, then only a fast-growing coffee chain from Seattle. From its first location at 6750, it quickly became clear that wasn’t quite enough to be drinking powder from old peanut-butter jars. Suddenly, it was okay to pay hundreds of pesos for caffeine. Coffee was something you experience, not get over with quickly. Suddenly, we were all willing to invest in every drop of that experience. Starbucks was both a means to wake up and a status symbol. 

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Though only at its third international location at that time, Starbucks was already paving way for a new kind of coffee culture. Coffee snobs may turn up their noses at that—though Starbucks also took part in the third-wave coffee revolution with their Reserve brand—but it’s difficult to deny that the coffee chain helped us take a big step towards the way we appreciate good coffee today.


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Today, Starbucks Philippines has over 300 branches with more than 4,000 employees. Manila was only its third international market when it opened in the Philippines. It opened in the United Kingdom a year later, followed by China in 1999.



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The Starbucks Kape Vinta Blend™ was made especially for the opening of Starbucks 6750. It’s a combination of coffees from the Asia Pacific region, including the Philippines. It was reintroduced in 2016 as an Independence Day special.


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For its 20th anniversary, Starbucks Philippines is launching limited-edition mugs featuring designs inspired by local textiles and studded with Swarovski crystals. The first branch at 6750 will also be featuring special anniversary installations and live performances today, December 1.

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About The Author
Sasha Lim Uy
Managing Editor, EsquireMag.ph
Sasha eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled SPOT.ph's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She also recently participated at the Madrid Fusion Manila as curator.
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