Why people are crazy about Blue Bottle, the coffee chain that Nestlé just acquired for up to $500 million

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The chain has become hugely popular with hipsters and techies.
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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Nestlé announced Thursday that it had acquired a majority stake in high-end coffee retailer Blue Bottle Coffee, long a favorite of the tech community.

According to the Financial Times, Nestlé will be paying up to $500 million for a 68% stake in the chain, which plans to have 55 locations by the end of the year. There are currently Blue Bottle stores in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, DC, and Tokyo.

Blue Bottle has received a total of $12o million in funding from many big-name investors over the years, including Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Management and Research, and True Ventures, as well as celebrities like Bono, Jared Leto, Tony Hawk, and the founders of Twitter and Instagram.

The company has become hugely popular with hipsters and techies from coast to coast. Vintage brewing machines and artisanal coffee are some of its major selling points, and lines are known to get long.

We paid a visit to the spacious Blue Bottle cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to see what the hype is all about.


We visited Blue Bottle’s Brooklyn shop, located on a pretty nondescript street in Williamsburg. The cafe is housed in an early 20th-century brick building that, according to Blue Bottle’s site, was at different times used by glass blowers, metal smiths, and barrel makers.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

We got our first glance of their famous Blue Bottle logo right at the entrance. The logo on a to-go cup is part of the company’s cachet and a sure sign the drinker is “in the know” about what’s cool in the world of coffee.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Guests were sipping coffee and reading the newspaper at the counter when we visited in the late morning.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

More people congregated at this long table in the middle of the room.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

There were a lot of people around, but the cafe was laid-back, and mellow music played over the speakers. We missed the morning rush, when lines can build up.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

We snuck a peek at what was going on behind the counter. The company prides itself on unique brewing techniques, and the Williamsburg location uses a vintage Probat roaster, Kyoto-style iced coffee drippers, and a restored Faema Urania lever espresso machine.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The menu is pretty straightforward, with one size and price for each drink.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Behind the counter, baristas manage a drip bar that’s seven cups long.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

They all bear the Blue Bottle mark, too.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Coffee isn’t Blue Bottle’s only product. You can buy granola in to-go bags or choose from the baked goods in this case behind the counter.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

But there’s also a lot of gourmet stuff to look at on the counter, including these Mast Brothers chocolate bars, also from Williamsburg.

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Olive oil shortbread and ginger molasses cookies are just a few of the appetizing options.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

According to Blue Bottle, this restored Faema Urania lever espresso machine dates back to 1958.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

To start, we decided to try the New Orleans iced coffee and the Buckwheat Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The biscuit was one of the best coffee-shop pastries we’ve had, a savory combination of sweet and salty flavors.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The New Orleans was sweet, served cold with milk and sugar.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Next we decided to try some espresso (left) and drip coffee (right). Helpful labeling on each package of coffee lets you know what kind of beans are inside, including where they’re from and whether they’re Fair-Trade certified.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The barista put the finishing touches on the espresso drink.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The espresso, a fruity Ethiopian variety, came out beautifully.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Our drip coffee was almost ready.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The barista told us that this coffee, which also came from Ethiopia, would best be enjoyed black. It came served hot in a glass mug and had a light floral taste, almost like a tea.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

If we’d ordered our coffee to go, we would’ve gotten it in one of these trendy brown cups.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

These funky-looking machines are actually slow cold-drip coffee makers from a Japanese company called Oji. They’re used to make Blue Bottle’s Kyoto iced coffee.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

The five globes and filters are situated among a collection of coffee knick-knacks opposite the counter where we ordered.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

There’s plenty of merchandise for sale, like this Hario Range Server that retails for $25.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Just beyond, you can get a quick glimpse at the roasting process.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Sacks of coffee beans sit on shelves in the back. The staff explained that they roast small batches at a time, equivalent to about half of one of these bags.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Every day, they process the beans on this vintage Probat roaster, a very precise procedure that requires a lot of concentration. Beans are served within 48 hours of roasting, which guarantees their freshness.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Employees have to pass rigorous training before they begin work at a Blue Bottle cafe.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Small, simple signs with faux handwritten font prohibit smoking in the cafe (and offer a number if you’re looking to quit).

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider

Similar signs encourage you to recycle before you exit.

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Madeline Stone/Business Insider