China's budding coffee culture propels Starbucks

Kristopher Drake
December 6, 2017

Here's what it's like to visit the Shanghai Roastery, the most over-the-top Starbucks in the world.

Starbucks dominates in China and is growing fast in the market, while in the USA it comes under pressure from a "third wave" of boutique coffee sellers and cheaper rivals.

Starbucks announced it would expand its investment in China in July 2017 by sealing its biggest deal: the company planned to acquire the remaining 50% of its East China joint venture in a $1.3 billion transaction.

"We've created a space that both recognizes and celebrates our 46-year history of coffee leadership and retail innovation with China's rich, diverse culture".

That celebration goes well beyond the glitz of the new experiential marketing site. The brand plans to open the concept in Milan and NY in 2018 and Tokyo and Chicago in 2019.

The "Starbucks Reserve Roastery" is on Nanjing Road West, the city's most-famous shopping street, and has been hotly promoted for months on social media.


But let's get back to the specs. Yet the Reserve Roastery is quite unlike any of the existing 3,000 Starbucks stores throughout China, offering immersive coffee- and tea-focused experiences throughout multiple stories. The location has gourmet drinks - like nitrogen-infused teas - and an 88-foot-long, hand-crafted coffee bar.

The coffee shop also has an integrated augmented reality system - a digital app that allows you to interact with the store and see how the coffee is made.

Next up is the 3D printed Teavana Bar, which Starbucks is calling an entirely modern tea experience specifically designed for Chinese customers. Starbucks launched this new type of store to seek an edge in the crowded market, and to differentiate from its image as the commercial street corner coffee shop.

In Wu Qiong's small cafe in downtown Shanghai, coffee beans nestle in glass jars on the bar while various brews bubble away behind the counter.

All in all, the multi-sensory experience should certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

For the first time ever, unique, small-lot Reserve coffee which Starbucks sources from more than 30 countries around the world, including coffee from China'sYunnan Province, will be roasted in China by eight highly trained Chinese coffee roasters.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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