Effectively rebranding a familiar chain may be a tall order, but Starbucks Corp chief executive and co-founder Howard Schultz is up for the challenge. By 2021, the company will open a total of 1,000 new Starbucks Reserve Bars—upscale incarnations of the classic Starbucks shops both standalone and added as expansions to existing cafes. Canada’s first Reserve Bar debuted in Ottawa in November 2016, while Vancouver’s new location in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood was timed to correspond with Starbucks’s 30-year anniversary in the city this May, and represents an important test locale for the West Coast brand.
Intended to appeal to discerning young coffee drinkers who have developed a taste for pour-overs and single-origin beans served in atmospheric third wave coffee shops, Starbucks Reserve Bars are elegantly designed and feature expanded menus and elevated brewing techniques. After 46 years in business, the company has sensed the need for a refreshed identity—as executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America Ric Rhinehart noted in the Financial Post: “Starbucks is the millennials’ parents’ coffee house and Starbucks is acutely aware of that.”
Vancouver’s new Reserve Bar certainly has something for everyone. The location is Canada’s only to feature a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle VA 388 espresso machine (the official appliance of the World Barista Championships) though pour-over and siphon brewed coffees are also key offerings, with the latter method creating the company’s most expensive black coffee to date—a $10 cup of uncommon smoothness and subtly. The Mount Pleasant Reserve Bar will also be the only place for Vancouverites to enjoy Starbucks affogatos and nitro-floats made with local Mario’s vanilla bean gelati (order them “house style” for an added drizzle of demerara sugar syrup) as well as specialities like the Double Dark Chocolate Mocha and the Americano Con Crema, served with a spiced, cold foam. Visitors may watch their brews bubble up from perches along a blonde oak wood bar, browse rotating selections of exclusive small-lot Reserve coffees, and even sample a few new food items, including a truffle mac and cheese, all while chatting with knowledgeable staff.
“This Reserve Bar is going to be well received in the community and a destination location, for certain,” says Vancouver Reserve Bar coffee master Merry Lou Proudfoot. “People come to this neighbourhood because it’s a bit of a coffee central. And people here want to learn things—where the coffee comes from, why it tastes the way that it does, what our ethical practices are. Every single customer comes into Starbucks looking for something specific, and we can create that experience they’re looking for.” Put that way, the Reserve Bar certainly seems like a coffee connoisseur’s dream.
Photos courtesy of Starbucks.
Starbucks Reserve Bar, 2980 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G3.
Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter.