Inside the First Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai

By Betty Richardson, December 6, 2017

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Out with the Frappuccino blenders, and in with the nitro cold brew.

The largest Starbucks in China, and the second Reserve Roastery concept ever, opened today at the upmarket Taikoo Hui shopping complex, in an enormous 30,000-square-foot facility combining roasting, packaging, grinding, retail, food and drink service. 

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai, which has opened ahead of those planned for major US cities like Chicago, underpins the brand’s commitment to the China market. CEO Howard Schultz, who was in Shanghai for the unveiling, suggested that at the current rate of growth in China, business here could eclipse that of the US in as little as 10 years.


Schultz also made pains to point out a USD20 million five-year donation to charitable causes under the Reserve Roastery, and, in a move that echoed that of the Harvard Business Review-lauded Haidilao Hotpot staff management system, highlighted staff family members will receive stipends towards their healthcare and living costs. "We want them to be proud that their sons and daughters work for Starbucks," he emphasized.


Described by Schultz as a “Willy Wonka” coffee factory of sorts, the Reserve Roastery is crammed to the rafters with 'discovery areas' for caffeine lovers. The most eye-catching element is an enormous metal processing bean drum engraved with Classical Chinese characters, which acts as the beating heart of the facility. Alongside it, conveyor belts spit out freshly-bagged coffee beans, and copper bins endlessly churn Starbucks' prized beans. 


Snaking copper tubes and vents, also accented in on-trend copper tones, whisk the beans around the facility until they make their way into the hands of the uniformly millennial staff members. The sum of these efforts is an astute move in improving Starbucks' appeal to China's third-wave coffee drinkers, many of whom have been already swayed by successful homegrown coffee brands and boutique cafés.


In the center of the vast space are numerous coffee experience points, where customers can select single origin beans, many unique to the Reserve Roastery, in addition to various methods for coaxing them into steaming cups of Joe. 


Another partner unique to the Reserve Roastery is the Princi Bakery from Italian baker Rocco Princi, which churns out its own goods: over 80 different bread loaves, patisserie, pizzas, foccacias, cakes, tarts and desserts, all made conspicuously onsite in a bid to underline the artisanality of the operation.


Experience points continue to the nether end of the Reserve, which boasts a fully stocked chocolate boutique and bar for pairing with various different coffees. 


It even has its own fashion line – the 'Starbucks Reserve Collection' – from which custom-designed apparel can be purchased, not to mention dozens of coffee gadgets, designer accessories and objets d'art. 


Venture up a floor and find a Cold Brew Bar with a nitro coffee apparatus, and yet another bar for tea beverages. The latter offers customers the Starbucks Teavana series, along with various teas on draft. We were particularly impressed with the matcha draft green tea, a silky and earthy beverage without the use of milk or sugar. 


While the Reserve has an abundance of things to explore and is doubtlessly the Rome of Starbucks' China 2,800-store empire, we noticed that despite its cavernous interiors, a distinctly disproportionate amount of seating. Clearly, the Reserve Roastery is a place to be wowed, but not a place to linger for hours. 

UPDATE (December 6, 2017 at 2.40pm CST): Insanely long lines have been spotted outside the Reserve Roastery for today's grand opening to the public.

See a listing for the Starbucks Reserver Roastery Shanghai

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