OWL Magazine Korea

“Kim Jong-seon & Kim Tae-gyun & Jin Byeong-seok’s ‘Cafe Blue Bottle'”

Blue Bottle is commonly compared to Apple in terms of coffee chains. If Starbucks is often likened to Microsoft due to its popularity, then Blue Bottle is more akin to the innovative icon Apple. The book “Cafe Blue Bottle” analyzes Blue Bottle before its entry into Korea, examining its differences from other coffee shops.

With its concise length, small size, and focus on common rather than specialized content, the book is approachable and can be read with a light heart. Anyone who has visited a Blue Bottle store at least once can easily empathize with the message conveyed in the book.

“Cafe Blue Bottle: A Strategy Focused on the Essence of Coffee Flavor”

While Starbucks aims for mass appeal and creating a “third place” for customers, Blue Bottle is quite the opposite from its inception.

While Starbucks focused on efficiency in distribution and the strategy of creating a “third place,” Blue Bottle solely focused on the quality of coffee under the guise of “specialty coffee.”

“The Apple of the Coffee Industry, Blue Bottle”

While Blue Bottle is not often likened to Apple these days, in its early days, it was often referred to as the “Apple of the coffee industry.”

The start of Blue Bottle was initiated by James Freeman, a clarinet player. Due to his profession, he traveled extensively overseas and was a coffee enthusiast who even brought his own roasted coffee beans when traveling abroad.

In 2002, with just $600, he started selling coffee at a small cart at a weekend market in San Francisco, which became the beginning of Blue Bottle. Selling coffee one cup at a time through hand drip became popular among celebrities, attracting investors and eventually evolving into Blue Bottle cafes.

“Blue Bottle 1st Store: Oakland”

Blue Bottle started in Oakland, which is situated on the eastern coast of San Francisco in California. Despite being ranked 4th in CNN’s list of “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” in 2014, Oakland has historical significance, beautiful scenery, and diverse food and wine offerings. These factors attracted young people and turned it into a vibrant city.

Furthermore, compared to other areas, Oakland had relatively low rent, which was important during the early stages of the business.

“Specialty Coffee”

Blue Bottle focuses on “specialty coffee” beyond ordinary coffee. As a result, when visiting Blue Bottle stores, you’ll notice that the menu is simpler compared to other cafes.

Unlike Starbucks, which offers various sizes of drinks, Blue Bottle only offers one size, showcasing its commitment to specialty coffee by providing only the best combinations.

“Simplicity, Focusing on the Essence of Coffee Flavor at Blue Bottle”

Blue Bottle strives to provide an environment where the essence of coffee flavor can be focused on. Therefore, amenities such as free Wi-Fi and chargers commonly found in cafes are not provided at Blue Bottle stores.

Blue Bottle considers these elements as secondary factors that do not contribute to enjoying the taste of coffee. Providing customers with the opportunity to savor only the best coffee flavor is Blue Bottle’s unique strategy and philosophy.

Therefore, when visiting a Blue Bottle store, unlike other typical cafes, customers may place more detailed orders, receive recommendations from staff on beans or menu items, and engage in human conversations with customers, which is a strategy also pursued by Starbucks but may be less felt in Korea.

“Blended Beans, Single Origin Beans”

At Blue Bottle, customers can choose and order beans. They can choose between blended beans commonly used in other cafes or taste coffee made with single-origin beans.

Although it’s difficult to determine which type of beans is better or more delicious, the ability for customers to choose when they desire indicates Blue Bottle’s pursuit of “premium specialty coffee.”

“Nestle Acquires Blue Bottle”

In 2017, Blue Bottle, considered one of the world’s leading beverage distribution companies, was acquired by Nestle. In September 2017, Nestle acquired 68% of Blue Bottle for $500 million.

This acquisition was considered a strategic decision that met each other’s needs. Nestle, which mainly holds popular products, may have felt a lack of “premium” products, which could be filled by acquiring Blue Bottle. On the other hand, for Blue Bottle, the acquisition by Nestle provided stable financial resources to pursue its own management, which was a win-win acquisition for both parties.

“Blue Bottle in Tokyo Shinjuku, Which I Actually Visited”

The book extensively introduces Blue Bottle stores in Japan, relatively close to Korea. The Blue Bottle store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, introduced in the book, is a place I actually visited.

While traveling in Tokyo in 2018, I visited the Blue Bottle store, which had not yet opened in Korea at that time, to experience it. I ordered a cafe latte and a cookie as a side menu, and while I didn’t feel a significant difference in the latte compared to other cafes, I remember the cookie being really delicious.

Especially since the store was open, it was impressive to be able to see the barista’s process of making coffee up close. Additionally, unlike stores like Starbucks, it took quite a long time for the ordered coffee to be served.

“Blue Bottle Samcheong-dong Store in Seoul”

After Blue Bottle landed in Korea, I also visited the Blue Bottle store in Samcheong-dong. Visiting the Samcheong-dong store allows you to clearly understand the strategy and philosophy that Blue Bottle pursues. The store is designed to focus on the essence of coffee flavor, with minimalistic interior design and spacious seating arrangements, allowing customers to focus on specialty coffee.

Now, even though the interest in Blue Bottle has decreased significantly compared to before, with its presence in major areas in Korea, it seems to naturally penetrate into our daily lives over time.

The book “Cafe Blue Bottle: A Special Lifestyle in a Blue Bottle” summarizes information about Blue Bottle, providing a light and refreshing read. 

  • Authors: Kim Jong-seon, Kim Tae-gyun, Jin Byeong-seok
  • Publication Date: April 9, 2018
  • ISBN13: 9791161690445
  • Yes24 Link: http://app.ac/ktwDujM43