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The Official ICSC Blog

Authenticity Brings Blue Bottle to the Forefront of Specialty Coffee


With a desire to build a brand that goes beyond the standard coffee shop, Blue Bottle Coffee Co. opened its first store in 2002, in Oakland, California. The roastery is known for placing generous care into the craft of the coffee they produce, and have spent the last few years bringing their hand-poured filtered technique to the New York City coffee market.

Blue Bottle is unique, in that it is specifically for those that enjoy the taste of freshly-roasted coffee. The company ensures that their drinks are created with the best in organic and pesticide-free beans, and are put out at the peak of its flavor. Coffee is also roasted on vintage machinery, and put into compostable bags upon completion.

Additionally, the coffee retailer stands apart because their shops are customized to fit in with environment in which they are placed. Blue Bottle’s Communication Specialist, Byard Duncan, explains how the company is “very sensitive of culture in a store’s surrounding areas.” For instance, the compact Rockefeller Center location opened in early 2012, with a keen mindfulness of Manhattan’s Midtown rush. It is located underground on the concourse level, and divided into two sections, each with its own register, coffee setup and line. Across town, the store’s Williamsburg location shares the same basic design elements, but it emanates with a more relaxed feel. The spacious layout encompasses an extended counter with room for a longer line, a massive glass-front that allows for sun exposure, and an open kitchen, where customers can take in coffee roasting from afar.

Looking closer at the retailer’s regular customers, Blue Bottle’s website describes frequent patrons as “indefatigable coffee enthusiasts.” Duncan adds that the store is capable of bringing anyone in, as he has seen people of all crowds in the bicoastal establishments; however, those with “a knowledge of specialty coffees” tend to be the ones that keep coming back. Blue Bottle also sells its coffee to other restaurants, but exclusively to those with brewing materials that run in accordance with their processing standards.

Later this year, Blue Bottle is slated to open a new store in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, and eventually bring their brand down to Southern California. Along with expanding the coffee chain, the company generates awareness through a prominent presence on social media. Promotional contests like haikus and photo captioning, allow fans to have fun with the brand, and as Duncan notes, at the end of the day, “it’s all about building a community around coffee culture.”

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