Attention coffee snobs: balk at the idea of swinging by a Starbucks no longer. The ubiquitous coffee chain is dipping a toe into the fancy coffee game in an effort to compete with more upscale coffee shops Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced new plans for the Starbucks Reserve brand on Thursday. Starbucks Reserve encompasses Starbucks’ “rarest coffees, small-batch roasted in Seattle.” Currently, the Seattle Reserve coffee roaster and tasting room is the only option for sampling these third-wave beans at a Starbucks location, but by the end of 2017, you’ll be able to try the exclusive varietals at Reserve coffee “bars” in one of 1,000 Starbucks cafes.
The first Starbucks Reserve Coffee Roastery and Tasting Room opened in Seattle two years ago. There, you’ll find rare Reserve coffees that sell for up to $50 per 8-ounce package and baristas brewing beans using the same methods you’d see at a Blue Bottle. The second Starbucks Reserve Coffee Roastery will open in Shanghai in 2017, followed by Reserve Roastery locations in New York City and Tokyo in 2018. Most of the 1,000 smaller-scale coffee bars, where customers can order cups of small-batch brews from Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, will be located in the United States.
A few of the coffee bars have already opened in New York City, where spending $4 on a cup of black coffee isn’t out of the ordinary for a certain coffee-obsessed set. Once upon a time, pre-third-wave coffee movement, spending that much on a regular Starbucks latte felt almost as decadent.