A Look Inside Starbucks First Store in Colombia

It’s hard to imagine that a simple order form for a few bags of Colombian coffee decades ago would become the inspiration for a Starbucks opening in Bogota today.

In 1971, Starbucks had just opened its first store in Seattle, Washington’s historic Pike Place Market and Colombian coffee was among the first beans scooped and bagged for customers. When a small team filled order forms by hand for those first shipments of fresh Colombian coffee, little did they know they were creating the blueprint for a store that would open 43 years later in Bogota’s Parque de la 93.

“There’s a rich history behind this piece of paper,” said Bret Lewis, senior designer for Starbucks stores in Latin America. “It’s the story, in its simplest form, of our journey with Colombian coffee. When we set out to design this store, we wanted to reflect that coffee heritage through store design and create a truly elevated experience for our customers.”

What resulted was a unique three-story Starbucks store that is unlike any the company has opened in Latin America to date.

It’s also the company’s first and only store in the world to serve 100 percent locally sourced coffee.

For customers, the experience begins at the entrance to the store, where a terrace (patio) featuring long banquettes and lush planters awaits - perfect for those looking to enjoy a little fresh air with an espresso beverage and their morning paper. Inside, on the first level, customers are greeted by the Starbucks coffee bar, featuring locally sourced and roasted coffees. There, customers place their orders and watch as baristas handcraft their favorite drink. For the first time in Latin America, customers at Parque de la 93 may try Starbucks Reserve® coffees, a special collection of rare, small-batch coffees, available only in select stores worldwide.

“As our first Reserve location in the region, serving some of the finest and rarest Colombian coffees, we had a unique opportunity to try a bold design that captures our coffee passion,” Lewis said.

The focal point of that bold design is a spectacular six meter (19.6 feet) mural created with coffee pigment and acrylics by renowned painter and illustrator, Luis Carlos Cifuentes, who grew up in the Santander area of Colombia and now lives in Bogota. This whimsical mural is a depiction of the Starbucks Siren, underwater, celebrating as the first shipment of coffee from Colombia makes it voyage to the United States. It forms one of many iconic pieces of art found throughout the store, inspired by the pre-Colombian gold era and Starbucks own coffee heritage with Colombia dating back to the 1970s.

On the second level of the store, past a short flight of stairs, a one-of-a-kind interactive coffee bar experience awaits. Here, customers meet one-on-one with Starbucks baristas to learn about sourcing, the art of blending, the coffee roast spectrum, and to try various brewing methods – from the manual pour-over style Chemex® Coffeemaker, to the classic coffee press. It’s an opportunity for customers to try any of the five different varieties of Colombian coffee offered in the store.

At the heart of this space, a large feature screen serves as both a functional and decorative element. Designed in collaboration with Colombian industrial designer Ana Reza-Hadden, this screen captures patterns from Colombia’s indigenous tribal art. The screen, a backdrop to the interactive coffee bar, manually lifts up and down with a specially engineered counterweight system, revealing the entire bar when needed.

As customers continue up to the third level, they will see a large window overlooking the park, framed by two vertical “living walls” full of colorful native plants, including Transcantia (Panamena), Coleus (gitana), Anturio and Kalipha. The flooring patterns reflect Colombian and Spanish motifs, as does the railing, based off a pattern found in traditional Colombian pottery. Lewis also worked with prominent Colombian interior designer Mariana Vieira to custom design traditional hardwood tabletops and merchandise tables.

“The third level of the store is a quieter, more serene space, perfect for customers looking to relax with a beverage and some food,” said Lewis. “They can connect with a close friend, get some work done on the laptop, or write a postcard to send home.”

As one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in northern Bogota, Parque de la 93 has quickly become a popular gathering place, with people visiting to experience some of the country’s best bars, restaurants, shops and art galleries. The new Starbucks is located in a building designed by world renowned Colombian architect Hembert Peñaranda. In a city with nearly seven million people, this neighborhood’s tranquil gardens serve as an oasis for locals and tourists alike.

“We looked at every detail to make this store is locally relevant and tells a cohesive story,” Lewis added.

With the furniture, for instance, Starbucks used a variety of woods, lending the store a warm, natural aesthetic. The outdoor furniture is made with locally sourced Teka wood, while the interior ceiling crafted with a local wood called Pino. The most striking piece of furniture in the Starbucks store is the large community table, constructed from walnut wood, and hand rubbed with Tung oil to highlight the natural contours.

For Lewis, Parque de la 93 is the latest chapter in a 15-year long career that has spanned a series of Latin American Starbucks stores designed to reflect and celebrate the neighborhoods they serve. His most notable work, prior to Parque de la 93, is Starbucks first “indoor outdoor” concept, Chapultepec Reforma, nestled in the famous Bosque de Chapultapec in Mexico City.

“This Starbucks at Parque de la 93 is the type of design challenge we all long for,” said Lewis. “It’s an incredible opportunity to tell a story about who Starbucks is, where we come from, and why Colombia is such a critical part of our journey.”

Photos by Andrés Calderón for Starbucks

thumbnail for How Starbucks made a splash with its new (and blue!) summer drink with popping pearls

How Starbucks made a splash with its new (and blue!) summer drink with popping pearls