Blue Bottle—The New Starbucks?

Alexis Madrigal:

I have seen the future of iced coffee.

There I was, wandering the grocery-store aisles—when suddenly, next to the kombucha, opposite the rotisserie chickens, I spotted something I never thought I’d live to see.

A blue and white carton—like the half-pints of milk that come on elementary school lunch trays—emblazoned with the words Blue Bottle New Orleans Iced Coffee.

This coffee is legendary in the Bay Area, and now that Blue Bottle has expanded to New York, I’m sure its name echoes on the streets of Manhattan and Williamsburg, too. Brewed with chicory, cut with whole milk, sweetened with cane sugar, it’s a cold coffee beverage that is at once sophisticated and unpretentious. It’s not an austere challenge to the Starbucks-trained palate like so much of high-brow coffee culture. It just tastes good in an interesting way.

I had a similar reaction when I saw these in my local Whole Foods. At $5, it’s pricey, and in my unscientific opinion, even pricer than Starbucks, but for some reason, it feels—different. That’s mostly marketing and knowing what Blue Bottle as a brand stands for, though. I’ve passed them by several times since. They’re tasty, but I view them as a treat, not part of my every day routine, which is what Starbucks—for better or for worse—has become. I don’t know if Blue Bottle will be able to make that leap.