James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee Company , started selling coffee in August 2002. His first customers were the crowds at farmers markets in California—first in Oakland, then in Berkeley and at San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Over the next several years, the buzz around Blue Bottle grew, and café and kiosk locations followed. Then the company began to look beyond the San Francisco Bay Area’s borders.
New Resource funds East Coast expansion
In 2009, Blue Bottle began searching for funding to open more retail locations and buy new vans and equipment. “I talked to four or five reps from different banks,” recalls Freeman. “New Resource [was the one] that made the whole process easy, and it had the best offer.”
The company now has several locations in Oakland and San Francisco, plus two in New York. Next up: two additional New York locations are slated to open in January 2012. Freeman notes that Blue Bottle’s four venues in New York will add up to 45 new jobs. “That’s pretty cool, right there,” says Freeman.
Freshness and sustainability at Blue Bottle’s core
Freeman’s passion for freshly roasted coffee is as strong today as it was nine years ago. His definition of “fresh”: whole beans are sold just one or two days out of the roaster, max. So when Blue Bottle ships a Sumatran and Ugandan blend ordered online, it guarantees that the beans in the mix were roasted that day or the previous one. That commitment to freshness is part of the farmers market ethos that remains core to Blue Bottle’s business. Maintaining a direct link to producers, Freeman says, contributes to greater sustainability all around, and he applies this philosophy to his company’s operations.
Buying from certified organic merchants is a huge priority: 85 percent of Blue Bottle’s coffee suppliers are certified; the remaining are small farmers who can’t afford the certification process. Blue Bottle also uses organic milk, sugar and flour in its pastries.
Blue Bottle coffee beans are stored in bags lined with eco-friendly polylactic acid (PLA) instead of plastic. The company recently introduced compostable lids (again, made of PLA) to accompany its compostable PLA-lined to-go cups. Less than 10 percent of Blue Bottle’s waste goes to landfill. And the company makes good use of its space: six beehives thrive on the roof of the company’s Oakland headquarters.
New Resource supports Blue Bottle’s commitment to sustainability, Freeman says, and that’s another reason the relationship works: “They are aligned with what’s important to us.”