SEOUL, Nov. 13 (Korea Bizwire) – The South Korean community of coffee devotees is abuzz after recent remarks made by CEO James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee Company, who alluded to the possibility that the so-called “Apple of the coffee industry” would soon open a South Korean location.
Comparisons between Blue Bottle Coffee and what was formerly the most valuable company in the world (Apple’s market capitalization was surpassed by Alphabet, the holding company of Google) arise from the similarity in both their geographical origins and humble beginnings. Founded in an Oakland garage in 2002, the former clarinetist-turned coffee magnate grew his company by emphasizing quality through a slow hand drip process and earning brand recognition for his blue bottle logo. By 2016, the brand had 29 locations, and with plans for greater expansion, caught the eye of Nestlé, which bought a 68 percent stake for $500 million (per Business Insider).
As the face of one of the more popular coffee chains in the world, Freeman was in attendance at the “The World Coffee Leaders Forum 2017” hosted at COEX Mall on November 9. There, he set coffee enthusiasts hearts aflutter by saying, “I’m interested in opening a Blue Bottle store in South Korea… We have been in communication with local industry insiders since a year and a half ago.”
Blue Bottle Coffee is held in high esteem by South Korean coffee lovers, so much so that there are frequent tasting trips taken to nearby Japan. The passion for the brand is well-known; it is said that one out of two customers that patronize the Blue Bottle Coffee location in Shinjuku is South Korean.
A young woman who had partaken in a tasting trip mentioned that she specifically sought out the Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto location while on holiday, as she was “dying to find out what it tastes like”. A man who identified himself as a “high-end coffee lover” said he and his family were planning a “Blue Bottle experience trip” to Japan this winter, vowing to purchase several mugs and other accessories at the store “because the blue bottled-shaped logos are so pretty”.
The domestic coffee industry has grown by leaps and bounds, but the scene is dominated by retail chains like Starbucks and A Twosome Place. Brands like Blue Bottle Coffee that focus on high quality may suit a coffee-loving country that is slowly but surely refining its tastes.