Now the Talk of Town! Starbucks Brings a Massive Roastery to Japan


Words & PhotographyKazushi Takahashi

With great anticipation, many wondered, ‘When will it open?’. In fact, as the fifth such roastery-equipped establishment in the world, Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo started at the end of February 2019. Even priority tickets had been prepared, limited to the early mornings of the first four days, showing that this store rivals the hottest attractions in Tokyo. Part of that surprise can be introduced here, because Takafumi Minaguchi, the CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan, agreed to speak with PEN Online, sharing his enthusiasm for the new store.

The totally new store is not only a ‘coffee roasting plant’ but also an ‘experimental lab’. Just as the name ‘roastery’ promises, when you venture through the first floor entrance, giant roasting machines greet the eye, and the guests who have already stepped inside are having their first ‘sensory experience’. The pipes running beneath the high ceiling are conduits for coffee beans. Enormous cylindrical ‘copper casks’ soar up through the atrium to the top floor, which are copper-clade equipment of various types used in roasting. The visitor receives a powerful impression of being in a roasting plant.  The specially roasted ‘Tokyo Roast’ blend is bagged on the premises (you can watch them doing this), sent to approximately 1400 stores, in other words, most Starbucks stores in Japan, where they are sold. Tokyo Roast is a key item signaling the presence of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo to the rest of the country.

On the first floor coffee is served, tea on the second floor (Teavana), alcoholic beverages on the third floor, and the fourth floor serves as an event space. The menus for each floor overflow with originality, expanding the possibilities of what can be done with coffee beans and tea leaves—because this really is an experimental testing ground. The coffee menu features amazing variety, including ‘American con crema’ (¥860 including tax), in which cold foam with cinnamon is sprayed on an American coffee scented with orange, sprinkled with demerara sugar, and ‘Barrel-aged Cold Brew’ (¥1,296 including tax), which is a cold brew (steeping in water) prepared from beans that have been aged in barrels previously used to age bourbon.

Starbuck’s proprietary tea brand, Teavana, has a full product line from Japanese teas to herbal teas. Menu items such as ‘Teavana Cream Soda Matcha’ (¥972 including tax) , with its soothing green color, are also visually enjoyable. And men especially will not want to miss the alcoholic beverages laced with coffee. Cocktails such as the time-limited ‘Spring Shower’ (¥2,160 including tax), which is cold brew scented with a spray, and the ‘Naka-Meguro Expresso Martini’  (¥2,160 including tax), in which chestnut and cacao liqueurs and espresso are added to vodka are ‘sensory experiences’ that can only be sampled here.

The store that has become 'Holy Ground' for all Starbucks in Japan

Starting from zero, the store was built by the architect Kengo Kuma. The interior was designed by Liz Mueller, a Starbucks staff member who directs the design of Starbucks roasteries around the world. The abundant use of unfinished lumber is a signature of Kengo Kuma. Present at a recent press conference, he had this to say.

‘Japanese cedar is used for the outside walls. We challenged ourselves to use bright colors for Starbucks. The terrace on each floor has a verandah-like presence. Green planters are also provided, generating a sense of collaboration between the streets and Starbucks’.

CEO Kevin Johnson, coming to Japan from the U.S. for the opening, describes the significance of the store in the following terms.

‘The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a new departure for us that started five years ago. Our store in Japan, a special country suitable for the first venture outside the North American market, offers visitors the ultimate ‘Premium Experience”.

Details of store formation were given by Takafumi Minaguchi, who has served as the CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan since 2016.

‘This was created in Nakameguro because it’s a hip, residential neighborhood that radiates trendiness. The location is not too close to the train station, with a natural setting on a street planted with trees. What a thrill to build on the perfect lot! Fortunately, we succeeded in opening the store a little before the blossoming of cherry trees that line the Meguro River that flows on the other side of the street. The main significance of creating a roastery in Japan is that we eventually wanted to roast our own coffee beans. Our partners (i.e. staff) are true coffee lovers. The coffee beans used by Starbucks are 99% ethical, so we are in constant contact with the producers. We’re absolutely serious when it comes to coffee beans.

‘This store will be an ‘innovation hub’ for the entire Starbucks chain in Japan. We want this to become the ‘mecca’ of our activities. We have prepared an amazing menu that makes people wonder ‘How did they ever make that?’ We also serve alcohol, offering ‘quality time’ to spend with coffee. It’s a gathering place, one that will be especially appreciated by in our digital age’.

With excellent design sense, Starbucks has grown the population of coffee lovers through its comfortable cafés and even influenced the way that digital nomads work. Twenty-three years after establishing a presence in Japan, the large-scale store raises new expectations, perhaps even giving birth to new values in the world.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo

Address: 2-19-23 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Telephone: 03-6417-0202

Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Closed: Irregularly