October 24, 2012

Starbucks opens a library-style location in Tokyo


Tokyo’s library-style Starbucks is almost frighteningly minimalist.

A popup Starbucks recently opened in Tokyo, dedicated to the coffee chain’s espresso drinks, that’s modeled to look like a library. The Japanese design firm nendo designed the Starbucks Espresso Journey store to let customers browse books that tell them about a variety of drinks, and trade in the book at the counter for the one that it describes.

There are nine different espresso drinks available, each one represented by a different book that tells you more about the particulars of a cappuccino or latte or macchiato. When you trade in a book for your coffee, you get to keep the book cover, where the information is printed; the reverse side also has a punchout that can be inserted into a Starbucks tumbler to personalize it, inasmuch as choosing one of nine options can be considered personalization.

The idea for the project emerged because, as nendo puts it, “Books and coffee are both important parts of everyday life, so we created a link between favorite books and favorite coffees.” But I have to say, looking at the space, it feels pretty sterile. Linking coffee and books together is a great idea, but it’s one that’s been done better by cozy coffeehouses where you can settle into a couch with a book, or French sidewalk cafés where you can nurse a single espresso for hours while you enjoy your book or paper. This is more like the episode of Absolutely Fabulous where Edina visits her minimalist friend and is too terrified/reverent of the clean space to touch anything— forgive me for not being able to find a better clip, but you can see what I mean here, if you scroll ahead to about 5:25.

Am I missing something here? The combination of a library and coffeehouse sounds like it should be really cool, but a few things about this—the bleak design and lack of actual books, for example—leave me somewhat cold.



Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.