What's all the fuss about Blue Bottle?

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What's all the fuss about Blue Bottle?


Inside Blue Bottle Coffee in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, May 8. Korea Times photos by Kwak Yeon-soo

By Kwak Yeon-soo

Blue Bottle Coffee finally came to Korea on May 3. The opening of the artisanal coffee shop in Seongsu-dong, Seoul had been the talk of the town for years and social media was flooded with posts awaiting its arrival.

Before the opening of the store at 8:00 a.m., more than 300 people lined up in advance, some having been there all night, to be the first to try the coffee. Over 1,000 people were reported to have lined up for approximately three hours on that day.

Sales of Blue Bottle Korea recorded around 60 million won ($50,400) in a single day, which is equal to the combined daily sales of 70 Blue Bottle stores across the globe.

People wait in line in front of Blue Bottle Coffee shop in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, May 8.
A week later, this reporter visited to find out what the fuss was all about. Upon arriving at 4:30 p.m. and despite being a Wednesday, there was already a long queue outside.

When asked how long it would take to get in, a Blue Bottle staff member said it would take roughly 90 minutes from the end of the line. There were about five staffers present for guidance and help.

Running out of patience after 25 minutes, this reporter called the Blue Bottle official who she was supposed to meet at 5 p.m., and was lucky enough to get inside.

Upon entering the shop, walnut tables and chairs were arranged in a spacious (maybe too spacious with not enough seats available) basement room. It also included a roaster and training lab for baristas, intended to differentiate itself with quality beans and practices.

It was impossible to stare out a window because of its basement location. The official said they made sure light could get in, but questions followed as to why they did not open the shop on the first or second floor of their signature red brick building.

Regarding the location, the official said "We intentionally avoided locations in the most commercial areas and picked a location that has a strong community."

The shop is popular for its modern design aimed at stripping away clutter so customers can enjoy their coffee experience with minimal distraction. However, Blue Bottle Korea has an industrial design which leans more toward vintage features.

"The new store sought to express warm minimalism, which reflects our corporate philosophy of maintaining the original structure of the building as much as possible as a symbol of connection with the local community," the official said.

Blue Bottle Korea has no Wi-Fi and no plugs because the company wants people to talk to each other and enjoy their coffee to the fullest.

Some expressed disappointment over this policy.

Kim Ha-neul, who waited in line for an hour, said she enjoyed visiting the place and buying goods at the shop, but would not come for work as the shop does not have plugs and Wi-Fi.

"I feel like I'm not welcome to do my work here because there are not many seats available and too many people waiting," she said.

As for the taste of the coffee, well, no one would want to waste hours in line to get a cup of coffee from Blue Bottle. It wasn't worth the fuss.

Blue Bottle will open a second cafe in Seoul by June and expects to open two more stores by the year's end. Will there still be a long line outside its stores? Probably not.




Inside Blue Bottle Coffee in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, May 8. Korea Times photos by Kwak Yeon-soo

By Kwak Yeon-soo

Blue Bottle Coffee finally came to Korea on May 3. The opening of the artisanal coffee shop in Seongsu-dong, Seoul had been the talk of the town for years and social media was flooded with posts awaiting its arrival.

Before the opening of the store at 8:00 a.m., more than 300 people lined up in advance, some having been there all night, to be the first to try the coffee. Over 1,000 people were reported to have lined up for approximately three hours on that day.

Sales of Blue Bottle Korea recorded around 60 million won ($50,400) in a single day, which is equal to the combined daily sales of 70 Blue Bottle stores across the globe.

People wait in line in front of Blue Bottle Coffee shop in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, May 8.
A week later, this reporter visited to find out what the fuss was all about. Upon arriving at 4:30 p.m. and despite being a Wednesday, there was already a long queue outside.

When asked how long it would take to get in, a Blue Bottle staff member said it would take roughly 90 minutes from the end of the line. There were about five staffers present for guidance and help.

Running out of patience after 25 minutes, this reporter called the Blue Bottle official who she was supposed to meet at 5 p.m., and was lucky enough to get inside.

Upon entering the shop, walnut tables and chairs were arranged in a spacious (maybe too spacious with not enough seats available) basement room. It also included a roaster and training lab for baristas, intended to differentiate itself with quality beans and practices.

It was impossible to stare out a window because of its basement location. The official said they made sure light could get in, but questions followed as to why they did not open the shop on the first or second floor of their signature red brick building.

Regarding the location, the official said "We intentionally avoided locations in the most commercial areas and picked a location that has a strong community."

The shop is popular for its modern design aimed at stripping away clutter so customers can enjoy their coffee experience with minimal distraction. However, Blue Bottle Korea has an industrial design which leans more toward vintage features.

"The new store sought to express warm minimalism, which reflects our corporate philosophy of maintaining the original structure of the building as much as possible as a symbol of connection with the local community," the official said.

Blue Bottle Korea has no Wi-Fi and no plugs because the company wants people to talk to each other and enjoy their coffee to the fullest.

Some expressed disappointment over this policy.

Kim Ha-neul, who waited in line for an hour, said she enjoyed visiting the place and buying goods at the shop, but would not come for work as the shop does not have plugs and Wi-Fi.

"I feel like I'm not welcome to do my work here because there are not many seats available and too many people waiting," she said.

As for the taste of the coffee, well, no one would want to waste hours in line to get a cup of coffee from Blue Bottle. It wasn't worth the fuss.

Blue Bottle will open a second cafe in Seoul by June and expects to open two more stores by the year's end. Will there still be a long line outside its stores? Probably not.



Kwak Yeon-soo yeons.kwak@koreatimes.co.kr


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