Gloria Jeans, the largest coffee franchise in Australia, is now in Taipei. And if their warm welcome in the Taiwan market is any indication, this is likely to be the first of a trend.
At first glance, Gloria Jeans looks like many other coffee chains seeking to replicate the Starbucks model. The also offer flavoured coffees, and a range of cakes and food. Their two-story Taipei shop is large and comfortable with cosy chairs and small alcoves for friends to congregate. Light and airy, strategically placed artwork in the cafe helps lend the feeling of sitting in someone’s living room or den (growing up we actually had a ‘den’, a comfortable retreat sadly lacking in most modern homes).
But clearly Gloria Jeans is doing something right, because they have managed to expand their foothold in the discerning Australian market, and globally. And this at the same time that Starbucks actually closed 61 shops in Australia a few years ago. That’s right, while Starbucks expands in Asia and elsewhere, it faces stiff competition in Australia. Apparently it has something to do with the discerning coffee culture of Australian patrons, a result in part due to migration of many Europeans after World War II.
I visited Gloria Jeans on a Thursday afternoon, and although it wasn’t a peak time business was brisk. It was difficult, although not impossible, to get a seat on either level. Wandering upstairs, I thought to myself that the large space with carefully constructed partitions would be a good place to schedule a meeting for a professional chat over coffee. I then glanced across and observed some type of presentation/lecture thing happening, with a whole table filled with earnest people staring and laptop screens and comparing notes. Clearly they had decided the same thing.
Feeling like something decadent, I ordered a white chocolate (hot, NT$120). It was frothy, hot and looked like hot milk only tasted chocolatey. The addition of two marshmallows on top completed the sensation of drinking a heavenly tasting sweet cloud. Aah, it was good.
I resisted sweet temptations on this occasion, but the selection in their desert cabinet looked amazing. Despite it being an Australian chain, I did not see anything obviously Aussie in their offerings although a friend recently told me that they sell sausage rolls and meat pies. (I could not see any when I visited).
Although I did not offer coffee and therefore cannot critique the quality of its caffeine, Gloria Jeans prides itself on the quality of its Australian roasted beans. Theywill also gladly make you a Flat White — Aussie speak for a type of milk-based coffee, similar to a Latte. Not being a coffee drinker, I have never been entirely sure what the difference is but I think it has to do with having less froth on top. And perhaps more coffee. Kind of a way for people to enjoy a cappuccino style drink while maintaining they are still a serious coffee drinker.
Gloria Jean’s is situated at Minquan West Road No 3 (that’s number three, not section three), near the corner of Zhongshan North Road Section 2. They offer an incentive program where you receive a free medium-sized drink for every ten ordered. Which kind of makes you want to be a regular.