When Starbucks went national in the early 1990s, it was at the high end of the coffee retailer spectrum. But the revolution in good coffee the Seattle-based company helped spark has caught up with it, as have the demands of filling its 21,000 stores worldwide (thus the Chestnut Praline Latte, flavored coffee sold in supermarkets, and Frappuccino juggernaut).
Starbucks has kept a finger in the high-end, buying super-precise coffee machine company Clover, for example, but now it wants back in the upper realms of coffee culture, says Stephanie Strom at The New York Times. Starbucks has opened one Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, and has plans to open up 100 more, taking on smaller chains like Stumptown and Blue Bottle. The Reserve Roastery will sell and roast single-origin and microlot coffee to people willing to pay for it.
Starbucks, of course, has money to burn, so the $20 million flagship Roastery is "a magical place where coffee comes to life," in the words of Starbucks concept design director Liz Muller. What that means, Strom translates, is that "the store intentionally evokes the chocolate room where Augustus Gloop met his fate in Willy Wonka's candy factory," complete with see-through tubes transporting rare beans from roaster to barista. To see what that looks like, watch the video below. --Peter Weber