Browsing articles in "Coffee Shops"
Aug 2, 2013

La Boulange at Starbucks: My First Look

Starbucks in pink!

The new La Boulange pastries are starting to roll out at Starbucks stores, first on the West Coast and then heading to the midwest and east coast. Los Angeles, where I’m based, is just starting to see the line pop up at stores and I was lucky enough to stumble into one on the first day of their launch. The pink balloons were to celebrate, since pink is the color of the La Boulange lines, and they were a dead giveaway that something fun was happening in this Starbucks.

As promised, just about every item in the pastry case (with the exception of the cake pops) was replaced with the new and improved La Boulange pastries. They are all served warm, warmed in a special oven that heats them up in just about 7 seconds. The barista told me that it was to “wake up the butter” in the pastries.

Loaves at La Boulange

Croissants at La Boulange

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Jul 29, 2013

Starbucks celebrating La Boulange launch with a little pink

Starbucks Pink Sleeve

Last year, Starbucks acquired San Francisco bakery chain La Boulange, which has been turning out deliciously authentic French pastries since 1999. The plan was to raise the bar for croissants and all of the other pastries in Starbucks cafes by upgrading them, serving more authentic pastries made with the same artisan techniques that La Boulange has been using since its inception. La Boulange did some high volume production in the Bay Area, but it needed to scale up production to be able to supply Starbucks’ west coast stores with pastries before they could be rolled out (and used as a model for other baking facilities across the country) officially. The original estimate suggested that the integration of La Boulange products would take up to five years – but now, at just about 18 months into the project, they are already launching.

Starbucks stores across the country (starting on the West Coast) are turning pink, since pink is the color for the La Boulange branded items. Just about all of the items in the pastry case will be replaced with La Boulange products – from croissants to cakes – and served with pink wrappers in pink bags alongside drinks with pink sleeves. Almost every pastry item will be served warm so you get that fresh baked smell and taste. Lunch items will include warm sandwiches and piadini, and a limited number of prepackaged salads and sandwich kits of sliced meats, greens, etc.

Early reviews are mixed, since a lot of customers feel strongly (for whatever reason) about the color pink and others simply don’t like change and would prefer to stick to the same pastries that have been around for years. Others love the change. The pink is probably a limited time promotion, but La Boulange products will be here to stay, so they’re definitely something to keep any eye out for!

Jul 25, 2013

Two people “pay it forward” to Tim Horton’s customers in Canada

Tim Hortons

A man at downtown Edmonton Tim Hortons made the day of 500 coffee-loving customers by pre-paying for 500 large cups of coffee when he stopped in for his morning cup of joe. It took the store from Monday morning through Tuesday morning to sell/give away that many large cups of coffee. The man’s bill came out to be just shy of $900 dollars and, although the store employees asked his name, he said preferred to remain anonymous. Needless to say, customers were surprised and happy – even though some were in disbelief about the “gift” until shown the man’s reciept!

Inspired by the first story, another man in Calgary went out to a local Tim Horton’s and did the same thing, buying $900 worth of large coffees to be given to the next 500 people who came into the coffee shop.

We’ll see if the trend continues – and if generosity is limited to Tim Horton’s fans or spreads to other coffee shop brands, either in or out of Canada.

Jun 5, 2013

Starbucks aims to raise the bar for croissants

French Croissants

Most of the croissants that you can get at American coffee shops are large, soft things that are buttery tasting but bear little resemblance to the ultra-flaky croissants you’ll find at French cafes and bakeries. The soft pastries are mass produced and inexpensive, while the French style pastries tend to be made by hand by artisans and they come in smaller sizes with a higher price tag. Starbucks has been stocking an acceptable American-style croissant for years, but they are aiming to improve their offerings in the future.

Last year, Starbucks acquired San Francisco bakery chain La Boulange, which has been turning out deliciously authentic pastries since the first one opened 1999. The acquisition of the bakery came after a meeting with the owner turned into a conversation about was that Starbucks pastries could stand out from the crowd. La Boulange was already raising the bar on bulk-baked pastries by producing artisan quality goods in the San Francisco plant. Starbucks ended up purchasing the whole business for $100 million.

The plan now is to use the San Francisco plant as a headquarters, not only to churn out pastries for the West coast, but to use as a model for other facilities across the country. Starbucks aims to have their products produced close to their stores so that they arrive as fresh as possible, and the key with this new venture – in the words of Nicolas Bernardi, the French-born manager of La Boulange’s marketing and product development, “to see if the managers are the kind who ‘want to grow and learn’ or the kind who are content to just ‘vomit products.’” so that every pastry that makes it to a Starbucks store will be as good as the ones headed to La Boulange locations.

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