Lovingly carved into a handsome thick timber bench at the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle is a Victor Hugo quote: "There is nothing like a dream to create the future." It serves as a mantra for this ambitious ultra flagship, meant to be the forerunner of 100 Roastery cafes across the U.S. For this indeed is a dream brought to life with breathtaking scale, incredible quality, and painstaking detail.
The "shrine to coffee" (as it was referred to in Wired Magazine) sits at the base of Seattle's hipster Capitol Hill and is massive - 15,000 square feet (or about 1,500 square meters). It's designed to be a "totally immersive experience" (a retail cliché, which in this case is an accurate description).
As a customer, you literally walk into a scrupulously clean, polished-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life coffee bean roasting plant. You are greeted by a kind of coffee maître de and order your beverage from a restaurant-like menu on a clipboard - specifying your preferred bean, naturally. Food is also on the menu, and I selected a pretzel sesame-seed bagel with smashed edamame, mixed with mint and lemon, to accompany my Colombian Americano. (The premiumization of everything is somewhat hilarious. How did we get to this? What ever happened to a cup of Joe and a plain bagel and cream cheese?)
The service is a little slow (it takes longer to order craft-coffee), so while I waited I was able to absorb the space and the fit-out. From the gleaming copper roasting kettle to the leather curtains; from the blackboard illustrations to the manifesto on entry ("every cup we've ever served has led us here"), Starbucks Reserve Roastery is seriously impressive. (And if you're hungry for more than a snack, there is also a Serious Pie gourmet pizza restaurant on the premises.)
My only reservation is that by the time my coffee arrived, my expectations were through the (cavernous) roof. And while the food was delicious, the coffee was, well...still Starbucks. Coming from Australia, I like my coffee strong and flavorful, and this was just a little "meh".
Nevertheless, Starbucks Reserve Roastery is remarkable, and well worth a visit. The single star motif above the signature "R" should really be five stars.
On my way out, I noticed another quote embedded into the bench where a barista was hard at work: "Crafted by hand and heart." That summed up the love that has gone into this store - led by designer Liz Muller and CEO Howard Schultz. God is in the details, and they have most of the details absolutely right.