China’s Largest Coffee Chain Luckin Coffee Opens Its First Ever Overseas Stores in Singapore


China’s largest coffee chain Luckin Coffee has made its first overseas foray and landed on the shores of Singapore. Luckin Coffee, with over 8,000 outlets in China, brings us not only its signature coconut latte at its recently opened Marina Square and Ngee Ann City stores, it also introduces a tech-driven retail concept that is a game-changer for the local cafe scene.

I recently tried several of its drinks and the chain has definitely won a fan in me with some of its unique offerings.

Photo © luckin coffee

Arriving at Luckin Coffee’s Marina Square store, you will find that there is no cashier – just baristas working fast and furious to meet the sheer number of orders for both pick-up and delivery. It’s unsurprising as there is an introductory price of S$0.99 for your first order of any drink.

You will be invited to download the Luckin Coffee app to order and pay, with payment modes like PayNow, GrabPay and credit/debit cards currently available. Scanning through the app and physical store, I noted that Luckin Coffee is not a mere mass consumer fad; it has many unique drinks and is serious about its blends, which are created by World Barista Championship champions hailing from many countries.

Each cup of Luckin Coffee is brewed from sustainably-sourced Arabica beans of the highest quality, harvested from Colombia, Ethiopia and yes, Yunnan in China. Some baristas from their headquarters were apparently flown in for the Singapore launch.

No cashiers, only baristas. Photo © Fen Chia.

Customer experience-wise, the outlet was rather small with only about 15 seats while the Ngee Ann City outlet features an outdoor kiosk. This ‘rapid retail’ concept does not mean for people to nurse their coffee over a long chat or work assignment. As the chain is expanding quickly – its branch at Guoco Tower will be ready soon, while others are in the works over at Aperia Mall and Jewel Changi Airport.

As a first-time app user, I needed some help when I detected some hiccups with the app such as slow loading and a few non-intuitive features that I hope will be resolved soon. I was pleased to find the app features a number of great deals and discounts (go with a friend!). The app lets you know the required waiting time and alerts you when your drink is ready for collection.

Luckin Coffee has also set up a business WhatsApp account through which it intends to inform subscribers of the latest deals. Prices of drinks here do not go beyond S$6.80 even for the signatures, and it gets better yet with the deals.

Some of the deals available on luckin coffee’s app. Photo © Fen Chia.

Coconut Latte (Iced)

Coconut Latte. Photo © luckin coffee

The Coconut Series is Luckin Coffee’s signature series. I could understand why the Coconut Latte (S$6.40) has been a bestselling item, achieving 10 million cups sold in the first month of its launch in China and over 300 million cups sold to date. It was delicious, smooth and creamy from the cold-pressed raw coconut milk. I often find coconut milk overpoweringly rich, but this did not taste heavy at all. There are also other variations like Coconut Velvet Latte and Coconut Mocha.

Creamy Dreamy Latte (Hot)

The latte fan in me tried the Creamy Dreamy Latte next. This drink (S$6.40) uses a flavoured thick milk, without any condensed milk or creamer added to achieve its rich texture that I liked. I tried one that came with syrup and found that it would probably be just perfect for me if I had gotten the no syrup option as the milk is already tasty.

Iced Matcha Exfreezo 

Matcha Exfreezo. Photo © Asia 361

The Iced Matcha Exfreezo (S$6.40) is an iced-blended matcha drink from the Luckin Exfreezo series that features coffee and non-coffee drinks. I personally found this too sweet and like many iced-blended options in other cafes, this drink does not have a sweetness level option. There are also Cappuccino Exfreezo, Chocolate Exfreezo and Vanilla Flavoured Exfreezo (all S$6.40).

Hambella Americano (Hot)

Photo © luckin coffee

Luckin Coffee has its Little Black Cup Specialty Single Origins Espresso (SOE) Series for the connoisseurs. The Yirgacheffe and Hambella come from different districts in Ethiopia, and can be ordered in Americano, Latte, Flat White and Dirty. I am no expert, but I definitely could not step out of the store without trying the most purist option – a Hambella Americano (no sugar of course!). A fully washed coffee, this was a very enjoyable black with floral and fruity notes. I could imagine this would make for a very good flat white.

Velvet Latte (Iced)

After too much caffeine and milk, I went back on a separate occasion to try the Velvet Latte (S$6.40), which sounded like yet another creamy drink that I might like. And I did!

I learned from the experience of my Creamy Dreamy Latte and opted for this without any syrup, and it was just perfect as the Hokkaido velvet-flavoured thick milk was already slightly sweet in itself. The description boasts that this drink has a “20.99% increase in silkiness” compared to their classic latte and the special milk has been incorporated using “the small molecular weight membrane fractionation process”. Whatever that may mean, this was my favourite drink of all I tried. Very smooth!

Photo © luckin coffee

Luckin Coffee is a unique digital-driven business model that relies wholly on app-based orders, deals and discounts, together with a large number of outlets and unique signature drinks to win customer loyalty, focusing on the mobile-savvy consumer. After all, the casual coffee drinker may not want to download an app just to order a generic latte, especially if he wants a place to chill for a while and many other cafes are available in the vicinity.

At least for now, I’m happy to say that after two visits, the drinks I have tasted at Luckin Coffee have done enough to persuade me to keep the app in my phone. I will be back to try more drinks from its extensive menu.

Luckin Coffee is located at Marina Square and Ngee Ann City.


About Author

When not checking out new hotels or restaurants, Singapore-based writer Fen spends her time reading obsessively about and travelling to destinations with unpronounceable names. She also can't stop getting sentimental about vanishing trades and documenting them for posterity.

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