By Elisa Shoenberger
At 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15th, Starbucks Chicago Roastery opened as a temple dedicated to all things coffee. Each facet, from the architecture to food offerings, is a celebration of the exalted coffee bean.
It’s the “best experiential retail you’ll see anywhere,” guest speaker and Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal said. The new store honored the former location of the Crate and Barrel flagship that was designed to be an experience for its customers.
Visitors appear to be filled with wonder as they enter the largest Starbucks in the world. Eyes are drawn to the 56-foot golden cask filled with roasted coffee. It soars up several stories with “symphony piping” shooting roasted coffee to the many bars and coffee stations throughout the store.
“If you want to come in and just look and grab your coffee, that’s fantastic. But if you want to dig down on coffee and learn everything, then we’re here for that too,” said Marc Wanless, Director of Global Operations, Roasteries at Starbucks.
Throughout the day, employees roast 25 pound batches of coffee beans that are loaded into the giant cask. All coffee roasted, Wanless explained, was exclusive to the Roastery Chicago location.
By following the cask and symphony piping to the upper floors, visitors will find more than the average Starbucks cup of coffee. There is a holiday special, a three-layered “Pistachio bicerin” at Experiential Coffee Bar on the third floor and exclusive Chicago cocktails infused with Starbucks or Teavana flavors at the fourth-floor bar.
There’s even a station dedicated to whiskey barrel aged coffee where green coffee is put into Knob Creek whiskey barrels, Starbucks partner Shiami Ranasinghe said.
And as a final nod to the process of coffee, the backstairs feature a five story mural of a coffee harvest by Chicago artist Eulojio Ortega.
While this Roastery is devoted to all aspects of coffee, it’s also a celebration of all things Chicago. The location uses local distilleries for the cocktails and works with Chicago-based chocolatier Uzma Sharif to pair her chocolates with coffee.
There’s a love letter on the fourth floor of the building with the line: “This Roastery honors all of these years of beautiful coffee in this beautiful city. A shrine to coffee, and a celebration of all we have done and will do here together. Thank you, Chicago.”