First Look: Starbucks opens its biggest, most ambitious store yet

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First Look: Starbucks opens its biggest, most ambitious store yet

Starbucks Coffee Company has pulled out all the stops in Shanghai, opening the second location of its interactive, multi-sensory Starbucks Reserve Roastery format. The coffee giant even partnered with another retail powerhouse, Alibaba Group, to create Starbucks' first augmented reality experience.

Starbucks debuted its upscale Roastery format three years ago, in its Seattle hometown. The two-level 30,000-sq.-ft. Shanghai location is Starbucks' biggest store to date, and also its most advanced digitally. And on a pure design level, Shanghai Roastery is a wow. (Additional Roastery cafes are planned for such cities as New York, Tokyo and Italy.)

As customers enter the new Roastery, they are greeted by the sight of a two-story, copper cask, adorned with more than 1,000 traditional Chinese chops (or stamps) that have been hand-engraved to narrate the story of Starbucks and coffee. One of the key features of the store is the ceiling, which is made of 10,000 handmade wooden hexagon-shaped tiles, inspired by the locking of an espresso shot on an espresso machine.

The location has three coffee bars offering multiple brewing methods and some of the rarest small-lot coffees in the world, a Teavana tea "experience" bar, and freshly baked Italian artisanal food by Princi, Starbucks' exclusive Roastery food partner. The three wooden coffee bars, including one that is 88 ft. long — the longest at any Starbucks — were handcrafted by premiere Chinese artisans and reference the unique roasting curve of individual coffee beans. Customers can watch the green beans as they are roasted, then sent through copper “symphony” pipes (named because of the musical sound the beans make as they travel through them) directly to silos at the coffee bars.

The tea bar also offers an immersive experience, with tea "curators" handcrafting unexpected creations with tea mixology as well as nitrogen and tea. For those interested in experiencing a whole new brewing method, the "Steampunk" brings together science and theater. Customers can watch tea leaves dance in the water, while steam extracts every nuanced flavor in one of tea’s most dynamic moments. Created from recycled materials using a 3-D printer and 25-ft. in length, the tea bar is a light jade color with dark shadows to represent tea stains formed in a teapot over time.

DIGITAL: The Shanghai Roastery is the first Starbucks location to seamlessly integrate a real-time, in-store and online customer experience. Customers can point their mobile devices at key features around the Roastery to immerse themselves in Starbuck's first augmented reality (AR) experience, which is accessible through the custom-designed Roastery digital web-app platform or on Alibaba’s Taobao app. The experience brings to life information about the Starbucks bean-to-cup story.

In addition, the Roastery digital web-app platform also incorporates a digital menu and will intuitively, through AR technology, share details of the coffee bars, brewing methods, as well as other not-to-be-missed unique online and offline experiences. Each step of the way, customers unlock a virtual badge and once all badges are earned, they receive a custom Roastery filter to commemorate the moment and share on social media. The Roastery's digital experience is designed by Starbucks and powered by Alibaba Group’s scene-recognition technology.

The experience also extends to Alibaba’s online marketplace, Tmall, allowing customers to purchase Shanghai Roastery and Reserve branded merchandise and whole bean coffee for delivery directly to their homes, or to register for specially-curated coffee tasting experiences that can be enjoyed at the Starbucks Roastery in Shanghai.

China is Starbucks' fastest growing market with more than 3,000 stores across 136 cities. The company already has over 600 stores in Shanghai — the largest number of stores in any city where Starbucks has a presence.

“The affinity we have built with our partners (employees) and customers over the past 18 years in China is special and we knew we must bring the Reserve Roastery, our boldest, most premium store ever, to Shanghai, China’s bustling metropolitan hub and one of the world’s most dynamic retail destinations, as well as a gateway to customers from across Asia and the world,” said Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks Coffee Company. “We’ve created a space that both recognizes and celebrates our 46-year history of coffee leadership and retail innovation with China’s rich, diverse culture."

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