After the spate of fake Apple and copy cat Ikea stores in Kunming China, I was intrigued to come upon an imitation Starbucks, in our very own straight-laced Singapore, while exploring the streets of Geylang.
Some googling revealed that Ecoffee is a chain from Taiwan that started in 2002. They are big in Taiwan with 230 stores, and I must say their milk tea is pretty good. They even have a website. The website reveals that Singapore has it’s only overseas branch and is managed under a Business Partner called One Two Holdings.
When we stopped by today, the store was run by a sweet looking girl from China, going purely by her accent. She couldn’t quite speak English, but was friendly and didn’t seem to mind the photographing. Even though the name was different and they didn’t use the famous Siren Logo, anyone familiar with Starbucks could immediately see the similarities.
As it was late at night, I did not try the coffee, but I did try their Assam Milk Tea instead which was fragrant and pretty refreshing. It reminded me a bit of bubble tea, but the hot version. It cost us S$3.50, which is expensive considering that most hot drinks in Geylang cost under a dollar.
I have to warn you that the tea was so piping hot, even the protective copycat brown casing didn’t help. But I guess they don’t have to worry about people suing for scalded tongues, like Starbucks would.
Ecoffee even caught on to the merchandizing with identical shaped white mugs.
They didn’t use the siren logo though and went for a steaming cup instead. I guess even imitators draw the line somewhere? Or perhaps this is how they got away from being shut down?
The store front and decor was quite different from Starbucks. No sofas or air-conditioning, but just simple plastic chairs and cheap wooden tables, with a view of the traffic. No piped music here, but you get your drinks served at the table with no waiting for the barista. However, it was so sticky and humid prompting us to ask for the rotating fan to be turned on. Sadly we were told that it was spoilt, in Mandarin.
I didn’t think Starbucks would see them as a threat or worth the trouble of legal action (they did apparantly), as the store was quite empty and we were the only patrons. But I guess it’s a matter of principle.
I think most people at Geylang, apart from the curious tourists would rather have a 60 cent cup of kopi at the coffee shop. But I am quite glad we came to Ecoffee at Lorong 13, for the novelty. If I ever make another visit, I should really should try the coffee. But since it was almost 8pm, I didn’t want to risk a whole night of insomnia.
Here is the Starbucks logo, storefront and merchandize just for a comparison. And I wonder if this is part of the reason why Starbucks keeps changing its logo. To thwart the copycats?
Here are what some other Singapore bloggers thought about Ecoffee at Geylang:
The Problem of having/being a Copycat
eCoffee – The Taiwanese Starbucks?
The strangest thing of all is that Ecoffee proudly put up a newspaper article from the Straits Times titled ‘Spot the Difference’, about the store being a copycat. I guess they are happy that they won the legal tussle with Starbucks.
And I really am living under a rock, as Ecoffee has been in Singapore since 2007, according to the blogs I’ve read.
I can’t quite see the similarity in the logo between the two. Anyway, I don’t think human beings will ever find some hard and fast rule to judge “design similarities”. The field of aesthetics judgments is just too subjective to be described appropriately, let alone quantified.
PS: If starbucks want to sue ecoffee, then it better examine the case study of “Crocodile v. Lacoste”. I bet that more than half of the population cannot recalled on the spot which crocodile belongs to Lacoste.
ecoffee has closed as of 26 may 2015.
thanks for the info Calvin 🙂