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Blue Bottle Coffee Opens With Crowds, Free Caffeine

Blue Bottle Coffee
Blue Bottle Coffee.

UPDATED: February 3, 2018 at 5:42 p.m.

Large crowds and the scent of freshly brewed coffee filled Bow Street as students and Cantabrigians waited in line to sample Blue Bottle Coffee’s free drinks on the cafe's opening day Friday.

The coffee shop officially opened its doors months later than expected. The Oakland, Calif.-based franchise first announced its new location near Harvard Square in Dec. 2016; at the time, Blue Bottle representatives said the store planned to open for business in summer 2017.

For the duration of the day Friday, Blue Bottle—located at 40 Bow Street—offered customers a free drink of their choice from its menu of drip coffee and espresso drinks. Customers could also purchase pastries or sandwiches, with all proceeds going to Boston-based charity organization Artists for Humanity.

Students who stopped by said they were impressed by the store’s open decor and tasty coffee.

“I really like that it has a lot of windows. It feels very bright and cheery,” Grace C. Eysenbach ’20 said.

Rick Li ’21, another student at Friday’s event and an active Crimson editor, also said he enjoyed the feel of the coffee shop.

“I love it. I love the ambience,” Li said.

In an interview Friday, Blue Bottle CEO Bryan Meehan cited what he called Cambridge's "numerous" city regulations as the primary reason the coffee shop took longer to open than expected.

“There’s a lot of delays that happen in the sign offs with the city so it’s been like an 18 month journey getting it done. But, you know, good things are worth waiting for,” Meehan said. “I think Cambridge prides itself on preserving the greatness of the community so we’re very respectful of that. And, you know, we’re gonna be here for a long time.”

Blue Bottle Coffee enters a Harvard Square market chock-full of caffeine competitors including Starbucks, Crema Cafe, JP Licks, and Tatte. Despite abundant competition, Meehan said he has faith that Blue Bottle will attract plenty of business.

“We like to say we serve delicious coffee. It might take a little longer because we make every single cup by hand,” Meehan said. “So it’s a longer process but I think if you’re interested in learning more about coffee, this is not a company that processes its products. It’s a craft here.”

Though coffee tasters on Friday said they generally liked their drinks, some took issue with the store’s higher prices.

“Black coffee is more expensive here than other places,” Courtney DeLong ’21 said. “That’s usually what I drink and I’m not trying to spend another dollar every day."

Other customers did not share DeLong's reservations. Cape Cod resident Kristi J. Regan—who said she drove up to Cambridge specifically for the coffee shop's opening day—said she is thrilled the coffee shop has come to Harvard.

“I love Blue Bottle,” Regan said. “I’m familiar with Blue Bottle Coffee so it’s exciting that they’re here finally."

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said she is also pleased the coffee shop has finally opened.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Jillson said. “So exciting. You know, particularly for that area in the Square which tends to be a little quiet. It’s a beautiful building and a lovely space.”

—Staff writer Henry W. Burnes can be reached at henry.burnes@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Franklin R. Civantos can be reached at frank.civantos@thecrimson.com.

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