By Park Jae-hyuk
Korea's first Blue Bottle Coffee shop will open in March next year, according to industry sources, Friday.
The store will likely be located in Samcheong-dong, one of central Seoul's most popular tourist spots featuring traditional Korean-style houses, art galleries, shops and restaurants.
Nestle, the world's largest food company that acquired Blue Bottle in September, reportedly established its Korean subsidiary, Blue Bottle Korea, and named former Nestle Korea Executive Director Hong Jung-pyo as general manager.
Hong has been known for his abilities in sales and marketing at Nestle Korea. He served as a sales executive, after Nestle's Korean subsidiary was separated into Nestle Korea and Lotte Nestle Korea, the latter a joint venture between Lotte Group and Nestle.
Although Nestle Korea has remained silent about the store's location and a specific opening date, several Nestle Korea employees are expected to transfer to Blue Bottle Korea. The coffee shop chain is recruiting additional workers as well, according to sources.
Blue Bottle CEO Bryan Meehan first announced the Korean launch, during a Seoul visit last month. Back then, Meehan said he is mulling opening stores here and in other Asian regions, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"We're developing our contacts here," he said at the World Coffee Leaders Forum held at COEX last month. "I'd love to come to Korea, and I'm taking into account the support the Korean market has already given to Blue Bottle."
The CEO also stressed the company headquarters will directly manage its stores in Korea, as it does in other countries.
Founded by James Freeman in 2002 in Oakland, California, Blue Bottle has expanded to locations around San Francisco, including the Ferry Building and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's rooftop garden.
The company is regarded as one of the major players in the high-end coffee market, stressing deliciousness, hospitality and sustainability as its corporate values. It is dubbed "Apple of the coffee industry" among worldwide consumers because of its innovativeness.
Because of Freeman's huge interest in Japan, the coffee shop chain has expanded its presence there. Many coffee enthusiasts in Korea, who have had to visit Japan to drink Blue Bottle's coffee, hope the company will open its store here as soon as possible.