TOKYO - Starbucks opens its largest store in the world on Thursday (Feb 28) – its fifth Reserve Roastery – in Tokyo’s trendy Nakameguro neighbourhood.
The expansive four-storey outlet, which at 32,000 sq ft overtakes the Shanghai Reserve Roastery in size, features the coffee chain’s largest Teavana tea bar and its first dedicated community space for events featuring thought leaders.
It promises an upmarket experience with a menu of premium coffees, teas and cocktails, is designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who is also behind Tokyo's new National Stadium that will take centre stage when the city hosts the Olympic Games next year (2020).
"The Roastery signifies our commitment to fostering moments of human connection over a cup of coffee and using these moments to create positive social impact in the communities we serve," said Mr Takafumi Minaguchi, chief executive officer of Starbucks Japan.
Located next to the famous Meguro River that is lined with sakura cherry blossom trees, the store showcases the skills of home-grown craftsmen - including an origami-inspired wooden-tiled ceiling - through materials such as light-tone wood from sustainable Japanese forests.
Japan was where the Seattle-based coffee chain opened its first store outside North America, in the tony district of Ginza in August 1996. Today, there are 1,400 stores across all 47 prefectures in the country, hiring more than 37,000 employees. The other roasteries are in Milan, New York, Seattle and Shanghai.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo, in the near future, will become the coffee chain's first certified Specialty Coffee Association location, offering training for coffee professionals.
It is expected to roast more than 680,000kg of coffee per year for the Japanese market, which adds up to an average of 31 burlap bags of 60 kg each that are packaged on-site every day.
And then there are the food tie-ups, including with Fukusaya Castella, Japan's oldest castella bakery that first opened its doors in Nagasaki in 1624, to produce a Tokyo Roastery-branded cake set.
And in another first, the store is home to Starbucks' first cocktail bar in Japan, featuring drinks such as the Nakameguro Espresso Martini that is mixed with chestnut liqueur, creme de cacao and espresso.
When customers enter the Roastery, with its airy, open floor plan, they will be greeted by the world's largest Starbucks Roastery coffee cask - a four-storey, 17m-tall vessel made of blush-tinted copper where coffee beans are left to rest after the roasting process.
The cask was built using the Japanese technique of tsuchime - a traditional method of copper beating to create its texture and pattern. It is adorned with hundreds of hand-crafted copper cherry blossoms, which change hues as the light changes throughout the day.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo is at 2-19-23 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo.