Charleston Starbucks Inch Closer to La Boulange Pastry Rollout

Classic CroissantStarbucks isn’t saying when its new pastry line will reach Charleston, but local staffers suspect the switchover’s imminent: According to a barista at the chain’s International Boulevard location, the store last week received new warming equipment.

The coffee giant in April rolled out La Boulange products at its stores in San Francisco, which birthed the bakery responsible for the upgraded cookies, cakes and croissants. The pastries are now available in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Chicago and New York, with Boston’s stores set to start carrying the sweets and savories this month.

Starbucks last year bought La Boulange for $100 million with the intention of elevating the quality of its baked goods. “Starbucks has 40 million customers per week in America,” La Boulange’s owner Pascal Rigo this spring told the San Francisco Chronicle. “How do you scale that? How do you bring great product to that many people?”

The answer seems to ride largely on appliances: According to the Chronicle, Starbucks is installing new freezers in every store, and repurposing existing ovens to toast items in less than 15 seconds. “Served hot” is the hallmark of the new pastry line, which is also instantly identifiable by pink paper display case labels and packaging. As Rigo told the Los Angeles Times, the new pastries are supposed to register as rustic and handmade.

Early reviews of the pastries have been mixed. (Since I don’t drink coffee, I never conducted a thorough survey while living in Seattle, but the croissant I tried was overly soft and very buttery. I liked the cheese Danish, which took well to the toasting.) The newly-available pastries include chewy chocolate meringue cookies, banana pecan walnut loaf cakes, wheat spinach croissants and blueberry scones.

A Starbucks spokesperson says, “While we haven’t yet launched in South Carolina, a full roll-out of La Boulange in more than 7,000 U.S. company-operated Starbucks stores is planned by year end 2014.”

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