The World's Biggest Starbucks Just Opened In China

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It's home to three "coffee experience bars", one of which is 88 feet long, making it the longest Starbucks coffee bar in the world.

Put in slightly less flowery tones, Starbucks has opened its biggest ever outlet in the world - a huge, 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters) flagship operation in Shanghai, China.

The "Starbucks Reserve Roastery" is on Nanjing Road West, the city's most-famous shopping street, and has been hotly promoted for months on social media.

Tea curators brew drinks at the Teavana Bar.

The one bright spot was China, which stood out as Starbucks' fastest growing market.

"The Starbucks Roastery environment honors coffee innovation as a modern-day Willy Wonka experience, where customers are only feet away from the theatre and artistry of our coffee craft", said Howard Schultz, executive chairman of the Seattle-based coffee giant.

The company is riding that wave and expanding aggressively in China, opening a new Starbucks store every 15 hours on average.

Augmented reality shows where coffee beans came from.

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Starbucks is looking to leverage its huge growth in China, which is now the brand's fastest growing market, where a new store opens every 15 hours.

The Shanghai location also includes a Princi bakery, using local bakers to bring "Rocco Princi's artisanal Italian recipes to customers in China for the first time".

The Roastery is a window into Starbucks' future as the coffee chain attempts to bolster its premium image. It also expects to add Reserve bars to up to 20% of its global locations by 2021.

However, given that there are around 6,500 cafés in Shanghai alone (around 600 are Starbucks) and a growing "coffee culture" in other cities around a country whose preferred drink has traditionally been tea, the company faces an increasing challenge to retain its chunk of a rapidly growing market.

Same-store sales at United States cafes were up 2% for the quarter ended 1 October, while sales in China were up 8%.

In 2016 sales at the original Roastery grew by 24% over the previous year. It's a draw for fans of the brand and a way for the company to lure new customers.

This is an important step forward for the company in China and in its efforts to grow the Reserve brand. Whether that will translate into less-special, but still-more-expensive Reserve locations remains to be seen.

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