The Monday morning after a Daylight Savings time change seems especially appropriate for the opening of a new coffee shop, and Starbucks took advantage of the auspicious timing to debut its newest location in Downtown Disney Anaheim. The very first Starbucks owned-and-operated location on Disney property (the four theme park locations in Anaheim and Orlando are franchise operations), is located on the east side of Downtown Disney, perfectly positioned to capture the attention of hotel guests walking to and from the theme park, as well as those using the tram from the Mickey and Friends parking structure.
Bill Sleeth, Starbucks Vice President of Design, Americas, said the new location is based on Starbucks' Green Store model, and is LEED-certified (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating means the store meets a set of standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council). Sleeth said his team tried to preserve much of the original space as possible, building around existing support columns rather than moving them. Interior and exteriors walls of the shop are paneled from wood reclaimed from railroad box cars, and bear the distinctive holes of their origin.
Disneyland Resort president Michael Colglazier, Starbucks CEO Arthur Rubinfeld and Daniel Delcourt, vice president of Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney at the grand opening of the Downtown Disney Starbucks. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Although construction of the 2,300-square-foot outdoor patio required demolition of a planter between the shop and the World of Disney store, the ficus tree inside that planter was preserved, with the new patio area built around it. The mature tree provides shelter from the sun, and the light from bulbs hang in its branches. A living wall forms a screen between the patio and the nearby Grand Californian Hotel, with nearly 1,000 growing plants forming the abstract image of a coffee cup.
While this is purely a Starbucks operation, the new store is filled with elements that make it feel right at home on Disney property; a backlit mural shows coffee growing locations across the globe, and botanical sketches of coffee plants, painted by a local artist, decorate walls and chalkboards.
The chalk art theme carries through to an interactive digital chalkboard, a first for Starbucks. The 70-inch touchscreen has several modes that invite users to play and interact. One mode uses a built-in camera to create a chalk sketch of the user and surroundings. From there, users can draw right on the image to add details or text. Sleeth predicted a trend of chalk "selfies" taken at the location.
Another mode provides a display of picture frames, encouraging users to sketch their own artwork. When the new Starbucks opens in Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney later this year, Sleeth said that users at the two locations could interact, hinting at cross-country games of tic-tac-toe. The chalkboard is housed in a nook on one side of the 5,600-square-foot store, with a large bench and low ottomans forming a cozy waiting area.
The centerpiece of the new store is a Clover exhibition coffee bar, sure to be a major draw to Orange County coffee afficionados. Just as oenophiles swirl and sniff their way through the wine landscape, the coffee world is filled with enthusiasts who cup their hands over a mug of coffee to capture the steam, and wax poetic about "chocolate," "nutty," or "fruity" notes in their favorite roast. The Clover brewing system is the holy grail for some coffee lovers, and this new Starbucks has two of the $10,000-plus machines.
In the most basic terms, the Clover is a very complicated single-cup coffee maker. Starting with whole beans, the barista weighs and grinds the beans, then pours the grounds into the top of the Clover. The barista then inputs temperature and brew time settings that are specific to each coffee blend. Hot water pours over the grounds from an integrated tap, and the barista uses a small whisk to incorporate the water and coffee grounds. At the end of the brewing cycle, the coffee is extracted straight into the cup via a vacuum filter, and a puck of nearly dry used grounds is pushed out of the machine.
This is where I have to admit that I'm far more fascinated by the technology of the Clover machine than I am with the finished product, because I'm just not that into coffee. Still, even to my untrained palate, there is a noticeable difference between a cup of Starbucks fresh-brewed coffee, and the very same coffee bean brewed through a Clover. Clover systems are only placed in select Starbucks stores - before now, you'd have to travel from Disneyland to Irvine or Fountain Valley to see one in action.
Most customers order Starbucks Reserve coffees brewed using the Clover, but you can have any whole-bean Starbucks coffee made to order. This means those who prefer the lighter Starbucks roasts like the Blonde or Veranda blends can enjoy a cup in a new way.
A nine-panel LED screen above the Clover bar displays photos and video of coffee growing at Starbucks' agrarian center in Costa Rica. The display is surrounded by coffee sacks and vintage scales that help tell the "farm to cup" story. The theme continues with a large mural above a merchandise display is the Starbucks version of a produce crate label. This location currently sells the Starbucks You Are Here collection of mugs from West Coast locations, including San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Orange County.
The new location offers the standard Starbucks menu, including La Boulange pastries and hot breakfast sandwiches. A grab-and-go case contains the usual assortment of packaged Starbucks foods and bottled beverages. Lease restrictions prevent the store from selling its Ethos bottled water, but you can purchase an exclusive reusable Starbucks bottle and fill it yourself at the filtered-water tap located at the condiment bar.
As a company-operated store, this Starbucks has different pricing and policies than the theme park locations. Starbucks gift cards - including an exclusive Orange County design - are sold and accepted here, as is the Starbucks smartphone app. Unlike the Disney parks operations, members of the Starbucks Rewards program can both earn stars and redeem rewards at this location. The Downtown Disney Starbucks participates in regional and national promotions, like the Treat Receipt and birthday rewards. However, the Downtown Disney location does not offer an annual passholder discount.
Free Google Wi-Fi is available, and was fairly robust when tested on opening day. Sitting in the outdoor patio, I was also able to pick up the free Wi-Fi offered from the nearby Grand Californian Hotel, and predict this terrace will become a hangout for Internet-hungry caffeine fiends.
Starbucks opens at 7 a.m. seven days a week. Monday through Thursday, the store closes at 11:30 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, it remains open until 12:30 a.m.