The largest Starbucks in the world is a window into the future of the brand
KATE TAYLOR Jul 9, 2016, 21:04 IST
Visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is an experience unlike any other - and it's key to understanding the future of the coffee giant.
The 15,000-square-foot location combines coffee production, menu testing, and architectural whimsy in a way that can't be found anywhere else in the world.
Serving up drinks like the $10 Nitro Cold Brew Float, made with coffee roasted on location, it's a testament to the coffee giant's willingness to innovate in a constantly changing coffee culture.
The Roastery opened in December 2014, and has been described by the company as the future of Starbucks. Currently, Starbucks is in the process of opening two more Roasteries, in New York City and Shanghai.
In an effort to get a glimpse at the next era of Starbucks, Business Insider visited the Roastery in Seattle.
The Roastery, just nine blocks from the first Starbucks shop, is immediately eye-catching. Notably, the location uses the first iteration of the chain's mermaid logo — the ubiquitous green mermaid is nowhere to be found at the upscale location.
Walking inside, it becomes clear this isn't the average Starbucks. Freshly roasted beans sit in gleaming containers, ready to be ground and brewed.
The beans were roasted just a few feet away, in a small-batch roaster.
Pneumatic transfer tubes move the beans from the roaster to the containers, coffee silos, or bags of Starbucks Reserve coffee beans to be sold across the world.
The Roastery offers a chance to see the entire process of creating coffee, from the silos holding green, unroasted beans to the finished cup of coffee.
All Starbucks Reserve coffee, which is more rare and roasted in small batches, is made at the Roastery before being sent to Reserve locations around the world.
In addition to being shipped to Reserve Starbucks shops, the Reserve coffees are also all served at the Roastery and Tasting Room.
The Roastery has a menu unlike any other, with drinks like the Shakerato (espresso shaken with ice and a hint of demerara syrup).
Customers can order coffee flights, such as the cold-brew flight, a pick that allows customers to test cold brew next to nitro cold brew.
Starbucks' nitro cold brew, which is rolling out at 500 locations this summer, was first tested at the Roastery and quickly became one of the top-selling drinks at the location.
This summer, cold beverages are a major focus at the Roastery. In addition to a line of cold-brew drinks, the location also has an entire affogato menu, for espresso poured over locally made ice cream.
The test of the affogato at the Reserve helped Starbucks decide to roll out an affogato-style Frappuccino, or espresso poured over a Frappuccino.
Another ice-cream-coffee pairing is one of the most expensive on the menu: The Nitro Cold Brew Float, which costs $10.
Beyond new recipes, the Roastery also showcases different coffee-preparation methods, like siphoning.
Siphoning uses vacuum filtration to create a cup of coffee with a slightly cleaner taste than other brewing methods produce.
The Roastery's offerings change daily and seasonally, depending on what beans are finished roasting, as well as on what baristas and other Starbucks workers want to test.
In addition to selling coffee, the Roastery sells a good deal of merchandise.
While some is Starbucks and coffee-related, a much simply showcases local products and businesses.
The Roastery houses a pizza restaurant, called Serious Pie, run by Seattle chef Tom Douglas.
It also has a library, which has become a go-to meeting place for businesses based in the area, like Microsoft and Amazon.
A trip to the Roastery truly is a peek into the future of Starbucks — or at least into what Starbucks believes its future will be. The chain is doubling down on small-batch coffee, with plans to open 500 Reserve locations in the next several years. Semi-gourmet menu items like cold brew and affogato have evolved into national launches.
Many parts of the Roastery cannot translate to the average Starbucks. While visitors to the Roastery crave an experience, most people visiting Starbucks just want a cup of coffee. However, when it comes to pinpointing what draws customers to Starbucks, from cold brew to a trendy atmosphere, the Roastery is an essential tool in growing Starbucks' coffee empire.