Starbucks' New Shanghai Store Is an Over-the-Top Coffee Wonderland
Think Disneyland of chain coffee.
On December 6, Starbucks is launching its biggest store yet: at 30,000 square feet, it’s as big as half a football field. The new location, in China, features an “augmented reality” mobile experience, three coffee bars and a two-story copper cask filled with beans. Shanghai’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery is supposed to be a Wonka-esque wonderland for fans of the chain.
This isn’t the first time Starbucks has launched an “experience-driven” store. Its first and only other Starbucks Reserve Roastery launched in 2014 in Seattle, taking up an entire block in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, eclipsing the third-wave artisanal roasters surrounding it. (Next year, a 20,000-square-foot New York location is scheduled to launch.) Even for the Starbucks avoidant, the store did offer a lot of eye candy: a chemistry lab-like assortment of brewing methods, and all the design-forward drinkware your heart desires. The crowd there seemed to be largely tourists and out-of-towners when we visited; this new, twice-as-big Shanghai concept is hoping to be a similar destination store — on steroids.
According to a press release, the Shanghai Reserve Roastery will feature “the first Starbucks augmented reality experience.” You’ll be able to download an app and then point your phone at “key features” around the Roastery to learn about roasting, brewing and other coffee-related facts. It sounds similar to a self-guided audio tour you might take through a museum, but possibly a bit more relevant to your daily life. (No offense, art.)
"The bars serve as the stage where hundreds of baristas will handcraft some of the rarest, small-lot coffees in the world using one of six brewing methods: ModBar®Pour Over, Chemex, CoffeePress, Siphon, Espresso and, the proprietary,Clover-brewed coffee," the press release reads.
There’s also a Teavana bar that’s made out of 3D-printed recycled materials, and it seems like the company is making a concerted effort to not come across as culturally insensitive. To that end, the Teavana bar will be “specifically designed for Chinese customers” and will demonstrate “deep respect for the thousands of years of Chinese tea tradition.”
There will also be Chinese-inspired design all over the store, including Chinese stamps that are going to be imprinted on the two-story copper cask whose presence will dominate the space. It’s unclear how closely the company worked with local designers to make this happen, but presumably (hopefully) they made an effort to approach this design respectfully. Whether it’s just for good P.R. or to woo Chinese customers or both, it seems the coffee brand has made a concerted effort to tip their hats to the historically tea-centric culture into which they’re inserting themselves.
Not like they really have a choice. China is unsurprisingly Starbucks’s fastest growing market, with 600 stores in Shanghai alone. There are over 3,000 stores across the country in total, with a new one opening every 15 hours.
In many ways, the brand seems to have a cool factor overseas that it might have lost stateside. And as far as new stores go, this location is supposed to be like Disneyland. Be warned, though: The lines might be just as long.