Starbucks established a bold presence in Shanghai last December with the opening of their two-storied Reserve Roastery, which delivers a multi-sensory, interactive coffee and tea experience like no other. 

With 3000 stores located in 136 cities across China – including 600 in Shanghai alone – the Seattle-based company is taking advantage of the booming Chinese economy, which has an unquenchable thirst for beverages bearing Western branding.

I recently visited this Willy Wonka-like store on a Friday night and found it packed with hundreds of wide-eyed coffee and tea devotees – most under 30 years old and all busily documenting their adventure with their iPhones.

As customers enter the Roastery and step through the front doors of the 30,000-square-foot building, they are greeted by the stunning sight of a two-story copper cask, adorned with more than 1,000 traditional Chinese chops, or stamps, hand-engraved to narrate the story of Starbucks and coffee.

The story is so large that maps are given out at the entrance, making sure you can navigate every interactive station and ensuring visitors don’t get lost from their partners.

Coffee bars and tasting stations are located throughout the first floor. Whether your preferred brewing method is a pour-over (above) or cold-brew (below), you’ll find your right coffee profile close at hand. The Yunnan Reserve coffee, grown in Pu’er in Yunnan Province, is roasted and available exclusively at the Roastery in Shanghai.

A long sweeping staircase leads to the second floor and the Teavana experience where tea samples are in abundance. 

For those interested in experiencing a whole new brewing method, the Steampunk (below) brings together science and theater. Watch tea leaves dance in the water, while steam extracts every nuanced flavor.

Teawares branded with the Teavana label are available here even as Teavana stores across North America have closed.
I’ve visited China three times in the past year. With 1.4 billion residents, this country’s desire for Western brands seems insatiable when you see all the upscale stores filled with shoppers throughout the day. Unlike North America, where shopping malls are failing in record numbers, multi-story retail complexes in Chinese cities are more popular than ever.


In 2017, Tea Maestro Bruce Richardson was named Master Tea Designer for HPLY Fashions, based in Shanghai.

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