OWL Magazine Korea

Blue Bottle Café in Tokyo Shinjuku

With Starbucks now a ubiquitous presence worldwide, it has established itself as the largest global coffee chain, offering a popular and comfortable space concept. However, there is another coffee franchise that takes a different approach and competes with Starbucks. While not as large in scale yet, Blue Bottle has been expanding its business with a strategy that focuses solely on the quality of coffee under the banner of “specialty coffee.”

In contrast to Starbucks, which emphasizes distribution efficiency and spatial strategy, Blue Bottle adopts a minimalist interior in its stores. The strategy includes the absence of Wi-Fi and outlets, encouraging customers to concentrate on the pure taste and aroma of coffee. Even in larger stores, seating is intentionally limited. However, the interior design often reflects the characteristics of the local area.

“The Apple of Coffee” – Blue Bottle’s Nickname

Although not as commonly heard now, when Blue Bottle first emerged, it earned the nickname “the Apple of the coffee world.” James Freeman, a former clarinet player, initiated Blue Bottle coffee. In 2002, with a mere investment of $600, he started selling coffee at a small stand in the San Francisco weekend market. Selling coffee cup by cup using hand-drip methods, Freeman’s Blue Bottle gained popularity among celebrities and eventually evolved into the Blue Bottle Café with the influx of investors.

Similarities Between Blue Bottle and Apple

Blue Bottle shares some similarities with Apple. Firstly, its simple logo bears a resemblance to Apple’s iconic logo. The small blue bottle-shaped logo is reminiscent of Apple’s bitten apple logo. Moreover, Blue Bottle focuses on quality over quantity, with a commitment to using only beans roasted within 48 hours, despite being a franchise café.

Blue Bottle in Tokyo Shinjuku

While Blue Bottle cafés are now relatively easy to find in various parts of South Korea, at the time of the author’s trip to Japan, Blue Bottle had not yet established itself in South Korea. After dinner, looking for a place to enjoy a cup of coffee, the author spotted a Blue Bottle café not far from the McDonald’s Shinjuku branch where they had their meal. It was located on the first floor of a large shopping mall, and despite its substantial size, there was a line of people eagerly waiting to place their orders.

In line with its emphasis on simplicity and the pure taste of coffee, Blue Bottle cafés often allow customers to observe baristas preparing coffee up close. The process is visible from the counter where orders are taken, creating an additional point of interest.

The author and their group also patiently waited in line and were able to place an order. Blue Bottle is particularly renowned for its café lattes, so the author decided to try one. As expected, both the ordering process and receiving the coffee took some time. While the author may not have been particularly sensitive to the nuances of coffee taste, the cookie ordered alongside the coffee was genuinely delightful.

Now that Blue Bottle cafés are more accessible in South Korea, the experience may not feel as unique. However, at that time, when Blue Bottle had not yet expanded to South Korea, it was a fresh and novel experience.

Blue Bottle Café Information in Tokyo Shinjuku:

  • Address: Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 4 Chome−1−6 NEWoMan SHINJUKU 1F
  • Phone: +81 3-5315-4803
  • Website: Blue Bottle Coffee Shinjuku
  • Operating Hours: 8:00 – 21:30