Retail in Asia


Blue Bottle opens first China location

U.S. specialty coffee chain Blue Bottle Coffee has entered China with its debut café opening in the city of Shanghai.

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Dubbed Yutong Café, the new Blue Bottle Coffee cafe is housed in the former dormitories for the Shanghai Yutong Flour Mill, a two-story building built in 1926, and duly renovated in 2019.

For its China entry, the California-based Blue Bottle enlisted Schemata Architects to design the Shanghai store. A melange of new-meets-old, the first floor is fitted with modern furniture matched with a concrete floor to create a cool and modern space. Upstairs, the second floor features vintage furniture and a coffee bar using an old door and window frames recycled from old buildings in Shanghai, as well as a 60-year-old vintage FAEMA espresso machine.

As for menu items, the store offers the company’s classic drip coffee and signature espresso-based drinks, with products including Hayes Valley Espresso, Three Africas, Bella Donovan and Giant Steps, in addition to the café’s popular liège waffles, chocolate chip cookies and lemon pound cake.

In a nod to local business and culture, the Yutong Café also retails a ‘Yutong Dessert Set’ exclusively for the new store, which includes traditional Shanghai desserts such as sticky rice cake, green bean cake and fried dough twist.

As for merchandise, customers can pick up limited-edition sticks, cups and bags designed in cooperation with Shanghai illustrator Peng Kai.

The coffee maker is entering a very competitive market. Shanghai had 6,913 coffee shops in a 2021 private-sector survey in China, according to a Nikkei report.

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It is not the first café to bow in Asia for Blue Bottle Coffee, after openings in Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.  Founded in 2002 by James Freeman, Blue Bottle operates 102 cafes across the globe. In 2017, Blue Bottle sold a 68% majority stake to fast-moving consumer giant, Nestle.