Inside Starbucks Roastery, a Sprawling 3-Story Coffee Playpen in Chelsea
The Starbucks Reserve Roastery — the most luxurious way to get a grande — opened its fourth global location on December 14, 2018 at 61 Ninth Ave., at 15th Street, in Chelsea.
NYC is the fourth of six planned roasteries across the world, with others in Seattle, Shanghai, and Milan. Tokyo and Chicago are next up for this new style of store that’s reportedly meant to “differentiate” Starbucks from other global coffee chains like Lavazza.
It’s nearly a whopping 23,000-square-foot bid, including five bars: two for coffee, and one each for cocktails, takeaway beans, and pastries. The space here is full of New York design details spread across a working coffee roaster, tubes in the ceiling that carry freshly roasted beans to the coffee bar, tons of seating, 10 bathrooms, and every kind of coffee brewing style one can imagine. Everything is subtle, though.
“New Yorkers are sophisticated, so we didn’t want to hit them on the head [with NY references],” Starbucks Roastery concept design vice president Jill Enomoto says.
Wooden blocks line the ceiling that not only help with acoustics, but are also a callback to street blocks. All the furniture was designed and made in the U.S., and Brooklyn artists Yolande Milan Batteau and Max Steiner made custom ombre wallpaper and a geometric siren sculpture, respectively.
Notably absent is any of Starbucks’ signature green — chief design officer Liz Muller says each location is different, and that since Milan is a more fashion-forward city, color is more present there. Here there’s more understated copper and wood throughout, meant to be worn in over time. Wood also tops heaters that line the windows so that there’s more seating.
For those used to waltzing into a Starbucks for a beloved PSL, the roastery can be an overwhelming experience. The space — spread across three floors — is not that easy to figure out where to get a drink. Here’s a guide to how to navigate the sure-to-be tourist destination.
The main bar, directly to the right at the entrance, is the place to get a plain old drip coffee. There’s lots of fancy-looking machinery in this area — several nitros on tap and tubes that shoot freshly roasted beans from the roasting area to get immediately ground and brewed here — but it’s the most straightforward of the bars.
A cashier takes regular Starbucks orders, from cappuccino to hot chocolate, but because this is the Reserve location, there’s also tons of specialty drinks on order.
Downstairs to the left, the experience bar is what Starbucks calls a “slower” way to get a coffee. Upstairs is already fairly slow, so be prepared to really wait for it here. But the ways to get a coffee at this station are admittedly novel — namely the siphon coffee, pictured above. For $22, a barista will prepare two types of coffee while explaining the siphon method, which basically boils down to brewing coffee in water in a glass cup heated by a halogen lamp, which then filters into a glass bulb below. It produces a piping hot 200-degree taste of coffee, which the barista swears is lighter and more floral than ubiquitous brewing methods.
Pastries and all the typical drinks are available down here, too, along with more seating. One flight down are 10 unisex bathrooms, as well as a mini-greenhouse with coffee trees from Starbucks’ Costa Rican farm.
It may seem lame to drink cocktails at a Starbucks, but the company at least recruited a star from the Chicago bar scene for its upstairs lounge. Julia Momose (Kumiko) created a menu of cocktails from $16 (nonalcoholic) to $23 that almost all incorporate coffee. A Manhattan, for example, is mixed and then poured through cold brew grinds, leaving the drink with a distinct background flavor of coffee.
Princi is Starbucks’ next big bet on food. That’s the Italian bakery the company is opening both standalones of as well as inserting pastries into the reserve locations. Here the counter sells various breads and croissants stuffed with items like ham and cheese or raspberry jam — all baked fresh daily — as well houses a yogurt bar.
Stop by the scoop bar for some beans to go, whole or ground to order. Varieties rotate with the seasons.
Handpicked at the Roastery
Finally, this being a global corporation, there’s a retail portion up front with items like a French press, art, and clothes like a denim jacket with “no sleep city” emblazoned across the back.