Founded with a mission to push the boundaries of the café experience, Reborn Coffee has developed a painstaking approach to sourcing, roasting, preparation and store design. As the specialty coffee business embarks on ambitious plans to scale in the US and internationally, World Coffee Portal speaks to CEO Jay Kim about and the brand’s imminent launch in South Korea and establishing a strategic blueprint for expansion across Asia
Reborn strives to optimise every step of the coffee journey | Photo credit: Reborn Coffee
Founded by Jay Kim in 2015, Reborn Coffee is a specialty coffee roaster and café group with 14 stores across California. The business strives to optimise every step of the coffee journey – from sourcing to roasting, preparation and customer experience. At the heart of this approach are Reborn’s ethical and sustainable partnerships with coffee farms in Hawaii and Colombia, from which the business sources its single origin and microlot ranges.
From there, the Reborn Process deploys magnetically treated water to wash imported green beans, further weeding out impurities and kickstarting the early stages of germination to increase nutrient levels and achieve what Reborn describes as an ‘entirely new flavour profile’ before roasting.
Following the completion of a $7.2m IPO in August 2022, Reborn Coffee has set its sights on international expansion and in December 2022 acquired a coffee shop, roastery and R&D facility in Daejeon, South Korea. Currently in development, the 2,000sq ft site will house Reborn’s first international store and form the beating heart of its operations in South Korea – with Malaysia, the UAE and Austria slated as future markets.
What was the idea behind Reborn Coffee?
Reborn Coffee was created from a passion for crafting exceptional coffee experiences and a vision to provide customers with a unique and revitalising coffee journey.
The name ‘Reborn’ was chosen to symbolise the company's approach to coffee and overall customer experience. We believe that a great cup of coffee has the power to rejuvenate and uplift one’s spirits, much like the feeling of being reborn or revitalised. The name also represents the idea of starting fresh, embracing innovation, and continuously evolving to meet the changing needs and preferences of customers.
By adopting the name Reborn, the company aimed to convey its commitment to providing a coffee experience that leaves customers feeling fulfilled in every way. It reflects our dedication to paying attention to every detail, ensuring that each step in the coffee making process matters, and ultimately delivering a product that brings joy and satisfaction to our valued customers.
“Our investment in Daejeon, South Korea, is not merely a localised venture – it is a cornerstone of our larger strategic blueprint for Asia”
Tell us about your project in South Korea
South Korea has a vibrant coffee culture and consumption has been steadily increasing in recent years. The country's population has developed a strong appreciation for specialty coffee, making it a prime market for a brand like Reborn Coffee. Additionally, South Korea has a growing middle and upper-class population with a high disposable income. These consumers are increasingly seeking elevated coffee experiences and are willing to pay a premium for quality and unique products.
The conversion of the roastery and R&D facility is on track and is a testament to our commitment to innovation and our vision for the Asian market.
We've secured a prime site in Daejeon, Korea's fifth-largest metropolis, spanning over 2,000sq ft. This space is equipped with a state-of-the-art roaster and a coffee extractor and is designed to be functional for our R&D needs alongside being inviting for visitors.
Our R&D team is working on developing new blends and coffee varieties tailored to local tastes, while also introducing signature Reborn Coffee flavours to the region. Preparations are also underway to launch in-house manufacturing of other specialty Reborn products, like macaroons and cookies.
A Reborn Coffee store in Irvine, California | Photo credit: Reborn Coffee
How will this investment serve the Korean and wider Asia market?
Our investment in Daejeon is not merely a localised venture; it is a cornerstone of our larger strategic blueprint for Asia. Our long-term vision is multi-dimensional, addressing both the immediate Korean market and the broader Asian landscape.
We envision the Daejeon facility being the central hub for our Asian market operations. With its state-of-the-art equipment and resources, it is poised to set the standard for quality, innovation and customer experience across all our future Asian outlets. We also see the Daejeon facility as a potential centre for coffee education in Asia. By offering courses, workshops, and certifications, we can elevate the coffee culture in the region, training baristas, franchise owners and coffee enthusiasts.
“We aim to offer a unified Reborn Coffee experience to our customers, irrespective of the outlet's location”
What will Reborn’s approach to franchising be in South Korea?
We are looking at adopting a master franchisee model which will enable us to leverage localised expertise and networks, ensuring a more efficient, rapid and culturally informed expansion. This approach allows us to harness local business insights and operational know-how while maintaining the integrity and standards of the Reborn Coffee brand.
However, while we're leaning towards this model, Reborn Coffee will be deeply involved in the process. Our facility in Daejeon will serve as the headquarters for our franchise programme in Korea, ensuring direct oversight, support and training for all franchisees.
We aim to offer a unified Reborn Coffee experience to our customers, irrespective of the outlet's location. Our franchisees will benefit from our strategic marketing campaigns and branding efforts.
How will Reborn stand out in the increasingly competitive South Korean market?
We recognise the challenges involved in entering South Korea’s ever-evolving coffee market, especially with established domestic players and international brands making their mark.
Our mission is to lead a new wave of coffee, emphasising every step of the coffee-making process. We combine science and art, ensuring that our brews stand out not just in flavour but also in their entire creation process. This detailed approach differentiates us from many other coffee shops.
Beyond serving coffee, our ‘Reborn Social’ slogan is a commitment to create coffee spaces that foster community and connection. Ideas like ‘pet social with coffee’ position our coffee shops as hubs for more than just a quick caffeine fix.
In an increasingly saturated market, Reborn Coffee's combination of quality, innovation, community engagement, and ethical practices gives us a unique identity. We believe these elements, woven into the fabric of our brand, will ensure that we don't just compete but thrive and lead in both the Korean and international coffee landscapes.
Jay Kim is CEO of Reborn Coffee.