Visitors to the bustling streets of Melrose might notice something intriguing hidden within the shell of a former dry cleaner. Blue Bottle Studio, a novel coffee residency, is quietly making its debut in the United States. This sanctuary of sensory delight, tucked away within the commercial thrum, promises a journey of coffee exploration that stretches from brewed leaves to fermented berries and beyond.
The space is compact, accommodating just eight seats but offering an experience that can bemuse even the most traveled coffee aficionado. Here, an array of tastefully curated sights, sounds, and aromas are waiting to awaken your senses.
The interior design, a collaborative effort with architects Airi Isoda and Ryan Upton of wrk-shp, and with the support of Capsule Manufacturing, reflects the vision of Blue Bottle Coffee’s founder, James Freeman, alongside Benjamin Brewer and Cary Cheng, the heads of innovation and cafe design. Their aim? To embody omotenashi, a core concept of Japanese hospitality that surpasses guest expectations.
This deep-seated hospitality is infused into the various aspects of the bar, from the ceramics to the serving ware, and even down to the small brass chopstick stands. Guests are drawn into a sense of peace with each detail of the 8-course tasting menu.
As Freeman puts it, the Studio was created in response to the question, “How hard can we work to reveal the essential nature of an extraordinary coffee and present it to a handful of guests in a modest room?” The aim was not just to impart knowledge, but to offer an experiential take on coffee tasting.
A key aspect of this experience is the ma concept – the space around, the space between. Guests are invited into a spatial and holistic journey that transcends taste, with negative space playing an integral role.
From the entrance, guests are met with curtains dyed in various blends of Blue Bottle coffee beans. The handiwork of fiber artists Niki and Yusuke Tsukamoto of Lookout & Wonderland, these curtains create a visual and auditory shield, separating the outside world from the sensory escape within.
The bar’s design draws inspiration from a sushi bar, with brass and wood finishes. This is where the Blue Bottle team performs a choreographed dance of steeping, stirring, and pouring, delivering an unforgettable 90-minute coffee omakase experience.
The Studio’s seating encourages conversation, further enhancing the intimate setting. The furnishings, too, have been selected with utmost thought. A row of walnut Windsor chairs, angled just so, warmly welcomes guests.
Freeman’s preference for aged brass, with its durability and timeless appeal, is evident throughout. Adaptability was also a key factor during conception, allowing the team to rearrange the brass coffee bar, architectural partitions, and curtains when required.
The auditory experience is just as curated, with vintage Altec Lansing VOTT A7 speakers, a turntable, and a tube amp selected by audio specialist Benjamin Brinkman. Personal album selections from the Blue Bottle team further enhance the sensory journey.
The walls of the Studio are designed with sound-dampening materials like cork, focusing on the overall acoustics of the room. A selection of ceramics and exclusive coffee products are available for purchase at the entrance.
Finally, with a twinge of bittersweet realization, it’s important to note the ephemeral nature of the Blue Bottle Studio. A twelve-year journey culminates in an experience designed to be fleeting, much like a haiku. The Studio will only be open until November 5th, adding a sense of urgency and preciousness to the experience.
With its immersive experience, Blue Bottle Studio is not just a place to drink coffee, but a sanctuary for coffee aficionados to gather, connect, and explore the true essence of this beloved beverage. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a casual drinker, the Studio offers an unforgettable journey that is worth exploring while you can.