A global byword for specialty coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee was established by the clarinet player-turned-coffee guru James Freeman in 2002. Freeman established firm footing for the brand’s distinct coffee culture based on his experience selling drip coffee from a cart at farmers’ markets. His secret is to focus entirely on the delicate nuances of coffee beans and hospitality-based individualized service. Somewhat of a unicorn in the coffee world, Blue Bottle Coffee has attracted significant investments from Silicon Valley, and has steadily expanded across the US, with far-flung locations in Tokyo and Seoul.

Welcome to the 76th issue of B .

We all have heard of the idea of taking a “coffee break.” It’s when we take a break from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and refresh with a cup of coffee. Similarly, people rely on coffee for its stimulating effect when they need to stay focused and totally immersed in a task. To some, coffee is something like a delicacy, and these aficionados take extra time to seek out the best coffee joints as they traverse the world. Others equip their kitchens with coffee makers and other paraphernalia to craft the best self-brewed cup of joe in the comfort of their own home. And in this digital era, coffee draws people out to offline gatherings. In short, the way contemporary society consumes coffee is nothing short of a craze. And it wouldn’t be overreaching to say that coffee is the only beverage with such a significant social and cultural influence for as long as it has. One of my interviewees, a businessman from California, said, “the US was built on coffee.”

This coffee craze has largely been propelled forward by certain coffee houses or brands, rather than by the coffee itself. Blue Bottle Coffee, featured in this issue, is the leading coffee brand behind the beverage’s phenomenal popularity for the last decade. As a frontrunner of specialty coffee—which is regarded as the third wave of coffee—Blue Bottle Coffee managed to create its own distinctive tastes and improve the entire coffee experience. Thanks to the brand’s concerted efforts, the high-end coffee industry has seen incredible growth over the years. Harking back to our publication seven years ago, B also covered Intelligentsia, another specialty coffee brand that is often referenced alongside Blue Bottle.

Featuring these two specialty coffee brands seven years apart, B discovered some interesting facts. In 2012, the concept of specialty coffee was just gaining momentum with mainstream consumers, and Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, and other specialty coffee brands were not much different from one another. They all sought to connect with local communities, provide customized services, and improve distribution and farming systems. Specialty coffee carved out its stake in the market, and Blue Bottle Coffee decidedly embarked on a different path with an insatiable desire to discover and start another new wave in the industry. A good brand grows as it establishes core values and commits to them, and Blue Bottle took this concept one step further to expand and modify brand values so that it would stay relevant as a brand through changing times. In this process, brands often risk losing some of their customer base and get involved in a few internal quarrels. But this seems inevitable, as new things can only be achieved when a few brave visionaries take that important leap of faith.

As Blue Bottle founder James Freeman put it: “If we were so boring and obsessed over brand purity as others do, then we would’ve never started serving lattes. We will never be that company.” Excellent sports teams experiment day in and day out with new tactics and bolster players to triumph amid generational changes. Similarly, Blue Bottle held back nothing and embraced new frontiers without reservation. The brand acquired a coffee bean subscription startup and a grinding tech firm, improved its website with a bit of help from Google Ventures, and established a systematic employee training program. All these initiatives are part of the brand’s ever-evolving road map. This issue of B presents Blue Bottle’s story of passion from 2002 to today, starting with the first tasty coffee they ever brewed to the establishment of their brand value to make good coffee accessible to everyone. Moving forward, I hope this brand’s stories provide readers an opportunity to stop for a moment, just like a coffee break, and reflect on what it means to grow.

Eunsung Park
Content & Editorial Director


Editor’s Letter


Blue Bottle patrons of Tokyo


Michael Phillips, Director of Coffee Culture, Blue Bottle Coffee

Slow Coffee

Blue Bottle’s three extraction recipes for balanced tastes


Baristas and roasters representing Blue Bottle’s distinctive coffee culture


Oakland roastery and cupping room–the control room for taste at all Blue Bottle cafés


Various Blue Bottle products showing off the brand’s aesthetic and use of new technology


Taesu Im, creative branding director of Stndrd


Blue Bottle cafés in California bring out local cultures and quirks


Spaces that materialize the Blue Bottle brand philosophy and coffee experience


Saki Igawa, Executive Vice President of Experience, Blue Bottle Coffee


Blue Bottle cafés in Japan reflect characteristics of different neighborhoods while remaining welcome and friendly

Café Society

Blue Bottle’s influence and driving force for growth, as explained by those involved with the brand

New Wave

Roastery cafés in Tokyo that are spreading specialty coffee culture after the arrival of Blue Bottle in Japan


Brand Story

The stories behind Blue Bottle’s birth and growth


James Freeman, Founder, Blue Bottle Coffee Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee


James Freeman, Founder, Blue Bottle Coffee Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee

Henry House

Henry House, the Blue Bottle Coffee headquarters in Oakland


Blue Bottle training imparts its corporate culture and hospitality philosophy to new employees


Large-scale investments and acquisitions that laid the foundation for the brand’s growth


Locations where Blue Bottle Coffee’s single origin coffee beans are sourced

Coffee Capitals

Four cities with distinctly unique café cultures


A look at Blue Bottle’s second global destination


Blue Bottle’s specialty coffee business and influence in numbers




Publisher Suyong Joh
Executive Director Myungsoo Kim
Content & Editorial Director Eunsung Park
Lead Editor Narae Kim, Jaewoo Seo
Editors Chanyong Park, Jean Kim, Hyun Son, Sol Lyu
Photographer Miyeon Yoon
Assistant Editor Dongeun Han
Managing & Editing (English Edition) Jean Kim
Translation (English Edition) Rancy Kim, Bongah Shin, Hyejoo Lee, Seongae Yang, Soonok Hwang, Hyunjin Park
Copy Editor (English Edition) Sarah Kessler-Jang
Correspondents Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Lena Shin (LA), Alex Seo (London), Sanghyeok Lee (Berlin), Hyeseon Jeong (Paris)
Art Direction & Design Gyeongtak Kang
Assistant Design Yoonjung Jang
Marketing Hyunjoo Kim, Yeubin Kim
Sales & Distribution Suyeon Kim, Kiran Kim
Business Strategy Kyuseong Shim
Publishing JOH


The Monk of Mocha
Where to Drink Coffee
All about Coffee
Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home
Where the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your Cup
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes