29 Sep 2021 • Hospitality
Blue Bottle Osaka merges tech and traditional tea ceremonies for a sensory experience
Taking over the ground and first floors of a modern low-rise in Osaka, Tokyo-based studio I IN has created a coffee shop that is futuristic, traditional and – in line with the coffee chain’s insignia – blue.
Tasked with conveying Blue Bottle Coffee’s identity inside its first Osaka outpost, Japanese studio I IN has opted for an effective, if not obvious, leitmotif. Azure glass table tops on the ground floor are a clear reference to the brand’s signature hue whilst also drawing the eye of passersby strolling through the city's vibrant Chayamachi district.
In addition to smooth plywood giving more warmth to the space, these blue accents are a welcome flash of colour to otherwise desaturated interiors largely defined by a material palette of plaster, concrete and stainless steel, all of which tie in with the building’s industrial aesthetic. But blue accents are not the only way I IN wants to entice city-goers off the sidewalk and inside for a cup of coffee. Beyond this, the studio has formulated a hybrid space incorporating digital technologies within a concept inspired by one of Japan’s most sacred social gatherings – tea ceremonies.
The ground level is arranged around a large polished stainless-steel bar, inviting guests to interact with the cafe’s baristas while upstairs visitors are enticed by a multi-sensory experience in the form of immersive sounds and images, which ‘fall from the ceiling’ through a large rectangular screen. Surrounding this is a seating arrangement that sets the scene for a more intimate exchange anchored by a frosted glass enclosure and lined with terrazzo benches to encourage coffee drinkers to sit and chat with one another as they re-energize.
Blue Bottle Coffee has achieved cult status since it opened in California some 18 years ago. Since then, the brand has opened several outposts across Japan representing the brand’s identity with their clean and sophisticated look. It speaks to an Instagrammable minimalism that flies in the face of Starbucks’ Roastery locations whose maximalist, theme-park interiors offer an altogether different experience. Here, there is still an element of theatre, thanks to the subtle inclusion of digital art, but Studio I IN wholeheartedly embraces the brand’s cool, calm and collected approach – and it works.