Blue Bottle Coffee, a high-end coffee shop with locations in San Francisco and New York City, just raised $US25.75 million from several investors and Morgan Stanley Investment Management (on behalf of certain funds it advises),Kara Swisher at re/code reports.
The company launched in 2002, when coffee enthusiast James Freeman began selling coffee at local farmer’s market in California. Prior to that, he had no experience in the business world. Three years after, he opened a kiosk in an unlikely location — his friend’s garage.
Now, 12 years later, Blue Bottle has expanded to 11 locations in California’s Bay Area and New York City (including a mobile cart and kiosk). Growth is tremendous for Blue Bottle. Since its first retail location opened in 2005, the company’s revenue has increased about 50% per cent annually, Freeman told the Wall Street Journal in 2012. The company also sells wholesale beans and various coffee products and merchandise on its website.
Why has the coffee retailer become such a hit with techies and hipsters on both coasts?
For one, the company’s philosophy and methods resonate with those groups: Freeman and partner Bryan Meehan are committed to an artisanal, aesthetically pleasing product, and only use vintage and Japanese machinery to slow-brew their coffee.
“You have to know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy,” Freeman told Business Insider in a 2012 interview of finding one-of-a-kind vintage suppliers.
The equipment used to brew and roast coffee goes beyond the standard plug-and-press technology.
“We believe in touch,” he said. “We interact with our machinery.” Its Williamsburg, Brooklyn location uses a 1958 Faema Urania expresso machine with a tough lever, while its Oakland location on Webster Street houses two 1950s roasters from the German company, Probat.
Blue Bottle is also committed to freshness — and that means a great-tasting cup of coffee.
Unlike other coffee shops, which may serve coffee roasted more than a week ago, Freeman maintains a strict “under-48-hours” rule. All of his beans are organic and shade-grown, and must be served within 48 hours of roasting, ensuring the freshness of each cup.
Unsurprisingly, people rave about the product. One Yelp reviewer wrote, “Easily the best cold brewed coffee I have ever had.” Another said: “Indeed as good of a coffee as it gets…”
And we can personally attest to the quality. Business Insider reporter Ashley Lutz, a Blue Bottle regular, said of the New Orleans-style coffee (an iced coffee drink with cream and sugar), “I still remember the first time I ever tried it, probably more than any other specialty coffee drink I’ve had. It’s like a dessert. Definitely worth the wait and cost, and packs a caffeine punch.”
Finally, the brand has a certain cache: Walk down the street with one of Blue Bottle’s brown to-go cups imprinted with the company’s sky blue emblem, or one of its cold-brew bottles, and you’ll just feel like part of the in-crowd. The company has bred a following of “cool kid” coffee snobs who don’t mind standing in line for that Blue Bottle buzz.
And considering the average cup of Blue Bottle coffee takes five minutes to brew, those lines an get pretty long.
“What’s important to me is that we take the time to make something delicious,” Freeman told Business Insider. “There are always going to be people that don’t have time to sit there and wait. And we’re ok with that; we just aren’t for them. But this model has worked for us this far. And we find that, when people do wait, they end up coming back.”
Of course, that Blue Bottle logo also makes for the perfect Instagram brag:
With additional reporting by Samantha Cortez.