Seventeen years after Blue Bottle founder James Freeman first started roasting coffee beans in the oven of his Temescal apartment, the $700 million company that he built will no longer roast any beans at its roastery in Oakland’s Jack London district — or anywhere in the Bay Area. A representative for Blue Bottle confirmed to Eater SF that the company is in the process of consolidating all of its West Coast roasting operations under one roof in Sacramento — a move that started in the spring and should wrap up by the end of the year. The new facility will serve all of California, which means Blue Bottle’s Los Angeles roastery is also shutting down operations.
The move signals the end of an era for the Webster Street roastery in Oakland, which had served as the third-wave coffee giant’s headquarters since 2009 — and, for that matter, the end of Blue Bottle’s identity as a home-grown Oakland business. Of course, it’s been a long time already since Blue Bottle grew into a multi-million dollar international chain.
Blue Bottle’s spokesperson was unable to share any other details about the particulars of the new roasting facility in Sacramento. But last year, the Sacramento Bee reported that the company had opened a packaging and distribution center at the Riverside Commerce Center in West Sacramento and started hiring for production jobs. Blue Bottle would not confirm if this site is also the location of the new roasting facility, which is slated to officially open in 2020. But the company stressed that there won’t be any changes to existing cafes — regulars will still be able to get their New Orleans iced coffee and Liège waffles at their usual spots. It remains to be seen whether the consolidation move is a signal that Blue Bottle has even more ambitious expansion plans in the works.
When Freeman first started Blue Bottle in 2002, he would roast six-pound batches of coffee beans and personally drop them off on customers’ doorsteps. In a little over a decade, the business went from running a single farmers’ market kiosk, in Hayes Valley, to operating more than 40 locations across California, New York, DC, and Miami, plus international outposts in Tokyo and Seoul. Famously, the company has gotten big infusions of venture capital, raising $20 million in 2012, $25.75 million in 2014, and $70 million in 2015, after which point the Swiss megacorporation Nestlé acquired Blue Bottle for more than $500 million in 2017, putting the company’s value at roughly $700 million and officially folding it into the largest food company in the world.
Eater SF has reached out to Blue Bottle Coffee for comment on future expansion plans and other possible impacts of this Sacramento move, so stay tuned.