Starbucks plans to double the number of its locations around the world that offer the premium Clover brewing system and higher-end Reserve coffees by the end of next year, the company said Tuesday.
About 500 coffeehouse locations within the 19,209-unit chain now offer Clover machines in 25 U.S. markets and in 10 international markets, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Poland, Russia, Thailand and Singapore, the company said.
The move comes five years after Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. acquired Clover, a brewing system that uses vacuum-press technology to brew one cup at a time.
Howard Schultz, Starbucks chair and chief executive, has called Clover “one of the most significant innovations in coffee brewing since the introduction of the espresso machine.”
The brewing process takes longer and is more expensive. Reserve brews have been priced up to $7 per cup in rare cases and in certain markets, though more typically they are a dollar or two more than standard brewed coffees. Still, Starbucks contends that a growing number of consumers are looking for a premium coffee experience.
In press materials, Starbucks cited Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, who said: “Over the last few years, we have seen a growing interest from consumers in looking beyond espresso for personalized coffee options, and they are finding it in unique brewed or drip coffee experiences. More and more consumers are engaging with coffee — single-origin coffee — individually brewed just for them.”
Starbucks has offered its line of rare and exotic small-batch, single-origin coffees under the Reserve platform since 2010. The coffees are best brewed with the Clover system to accentuate flavor, the company says.
“By brewing one cup at a time — using freshly ground beans to deliver that hand-crafted cup of coffee to order — the Clover brewing system brings theater to the brewing process and enables our baristas to have rich conversations with customers about our coffee,” said Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks’ vice president, global coffee quality, in a statement.
Over the last three years, Starbucks has introduced more than 40 Reserve coffees, such as the Panama Auromar Geisha, which was introduced in April. It plans to offer an average of about 14 per year.
Linnemann said the Reserve coffees are typically “rare gems” discovered by the company’s global coffee team as they taste product around the world. Often only a few hundred pounds are available, compared with the 450 million pounds of coffee the chain buys every year. Rather than incorporate the coffees into a blend, Starbucks decided to offer them as single-origin alternatives.
The coffees are harvested at the peak of the season and small-batch-roasted by Starbucks. Because supplies are limited, the chain offers the Reserve line only in a handful of units in select markets and for purchase online.