The Amazing Journey of Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee proudly serves you the single-origin and freshly roasted coffee beans. This company is valued at about $700 million lately when the Swiss giant, Nestle, bought a massive stake in the company.

Blue Bottle Coffee was established by James Freeman. If you think Freeman inherited the company or has been in this business for long, behold what you are about to know.

Where did Blue Bottle Coffee Come From?

James Freeman

James Freeman had been a struggling musician playing the clarinet before 2001. He might be clueless about the fact that he was about to found a company worth $700 million in the coming years but was certain about one thing: his love for freshest coffee ever.

His love and passion for a fresh cup of coffee have now yielded in the company being a proud part of more than 75 upscale cafes around the world. You can easily find a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee for around $5 in these cafes.

From Freeman’s Obsession to Blue Bottle Coffee

Coffee had been forever-love for Freeman. He had an obsession with having the freshest cup of coffee, which forced him to roast the beans himself. According to him, the coffee chains he frequented always over-roasted the beans. This was before 2002, when he was constantly struggling to juggle the living expenses by playing the clarinet.

His obsession with coffee led him to believe that there might be a business opportunity for a coffee maniac like himself. Though Freeman was advised otherwise by his friends, he continued to ponder upon the possibility of an opportunity in the coffee industry.

How Did Freeman Start Blue Bottle Coffee?

Blue Bottle Logo

One thing that bugged Freeman constantly when he went out to get a bag of coffee was the absence of a date stamp. There was no way of knowing how fresh the coffee was. This sparked his interest in getting a loan and renting a potting shed near his residence in Oakland. Although the rent was high and he got the place for $600 a month, he tried his luck anyway.

Freeman started by roasting fresh coffee beans in various batches of 7 pounds. He even bought a Diedrich roaster directly from the manufacturer to up his coffee game. This, of course, required him to drop his career as a classical musician for good as Freeman started selling his home-roasted coffee beans. He also initiated to provide fresh coffee cups at the farmer’s market around Oakland.

How the Business Caught On?

The initial days were hard for Freeman’s business. It was all about getting loans and setting everything up – from the rented place to the coffee cart at the farmer’s market – each step required money.

Freeman recalled in a few interviews that how he, as a clarinet player, never made so much money to go on without investing everything he had in the business. So, close to about $20,000 was the investment Freeman made.

Everything was going slow but steady till a day in January 2004. Freeman recalls this day vividly as he could sense that the word about his coffee had gotten around. There were more than 40 people lined up at his cart that day.

Although this was before Twitter had become common, the word somehow got around, and from that day, Blue Bottle Coffee has not looked back.

The Timeline of Growth

Blue Bottle Coffee opened its first-ever brick-and-mortar shop a year later, in 2005. The shop was originally a garage, which is still open today and is present at the heart of San Francisco. The headquarters of Twitter is also located nearby.

One of the biggest boosts Blue Bottle Coffee got was the support from the former CEO of Twitter, Evan Williams. He was reported to be one of the biggest tech industry giants and happened to be a big fan of Freeman’s coffee.

An interesting fact about the journey of Blue Bottle Coffee is that since Freeman had minimal business knowledge and experience, he learned his way through. Freeman knew one thing for sure: to ensure that the company had some money left, just in case. As a rookie, he never thought of spending more than he got and expanding earlier.

From the first location in a garage in San Francisco, Blue Bottle Coffee slowly spread throughout the state. Today, it has 18 cafes in San Francisco.

Another big milestone for this company was expanding out of state and opening a café in New York City in 2010. From there on, the popularity of the brand spread like wildfire. Blue Bottle then entered Los Angeles in 2014 before going international and opening a café in Tokyo, Japan.

This journey comprised approximately $117 million investment from outside investors. Besides former CEO of Twitter, Google Ventures, U2 singer Bono, the co-founder of Instagram, Morgan Stanley, and Fidelity Management, were significant investors of the company.

The biggest milestone for Blue Bottle was the appointment of an Irish business as the company’s CEO. This boosted the brand in various ways, including opening avenues for international collaborations. Hence, it paved the way to the biggest sale of majority stakes of the brand to Nestle.

The Evolution of Premium Coffee

As inspiring as the journey of Blue Bottle Coffee is, it certainly came at the time when the coffee industry had already witnessed the rise of small brands challenging the big giants, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. This brand clearly tells how premium coffee brands will always be considered top-notch and preferred by the consumers.

Blue Bottle Coffee expands and opens stores in different locations and also invests in the already functioning local roasteries. It wants to make them more environment-friendly.

Blue Bottle Coffee is more successful in locations where people can spend more for a fresher and tastier cup of coffee.