Starbucks Reserve, Chain's Upscale Coffee Line, Gets A Massive Rollout

The Starbucks Corp. logo is displayed in the window of a store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Starbu
The Starbucks Corp. logo is displayed in the window of a store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Starbucks Corp. is scheduled to release earnings data on July 25. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Starbucks' upscale line of coffees, Starbucks Reserve, will enter 500 more stores over the next year, the company announced Tuesday. The rollout will double the number of locations serving coffee made with the Reserve beans, though the company doesn't yet know which stores will participate, it said.

Starbucks said in a press release that the coffees, which have been around since 2010, are "rare and exotic small batch single-origin." During an interview with The Huffington Post, Starbucks spokesman Andrew Linnemann repeatedly referred to the coffees as being "handcrafted," a nod to the fact that they're made individually with Starbucks' patented Clover brewing system. The systems will be installed in locations serving the line. Linnemann also stressed that the Reserve selection of coffees is "hand-curated."

These buzzwords -- "small batch," "single origin," "handcrafted" and "hand-curated" -- suggest Starbucks is keenly aware of the artisanal coffee movement and is trying to get itself a piece of the pie.

The fast pace of Clover brewing system installations, too, signals that the company believes the time to strike is now. Consider this: It took nearly five years to get the Clover system into 500 stores, Linnemann said. Unlike traditional drip coffee machines, the Clover brewing system makes a single cup of coffee at a time. It's used to brew several different types of coffee -- including the Reserve line. But to meet current expansion goals, Clover system installations must happen at a rate five times faster than before.

"I think people are getting more and more used to choosing a coffee by the cup," Linnemann said. "Once they get used to waiting just a little bit longer, we were really finding that those customers appreciate a more complex cup of coffee."

Starbucks hopes they're willing to pay more for it, too. Reserve coffees brewed in-store cost on average $2.65. Compare that to the suggested $1.85 price point for regular tall cups in New York. Some cups cost even more: Last year, the chain introduced its most expensive coffee ever, Costa Rica Finca Palmilera. The Reserve coffee costs $7 a cup and $40 for an 8-ounce bag.

There are more than 40 coffee varieties in the Reserve line, many hailing from different parts of the world. Starbucks plans to add an average of 10 new coffees to this list each year, according to its press release. But some, like Panama Auromar Geisha, are limited in supply and will only be available in select markets.

Linnenman said that Starbucks is looking to expand the Reserve line into espresso. Even more notable, Reserve coffees could be served in fine dining restaurants in the near future, he said. The spokesman was unwilling to elaborate on a possible timeline, but allowed that Starbucks stores "will not be the only place you'll see [the coffees] in the future."



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