Reimagining the Café… in Legos

Have you ever been to the Blue Bottle cafe at the Mint? Then you'll find this as eerily amazing as I do.

Reason #38,965 why I love coffee people: They do stuff like build Lego models of espresso machines.

I was recently in the sunny San Francisco Bay Area for a family visit and also a chance to catch up with some of my old coffee pals; Stephen Vick, who buys coffee for Blue Bottle, is one of my original coffee peeps; we met back in 2002. So I hooked up with Stephen for lunch in Downtown Oakland, and then he swung me by Blue Bottle’s gorgeous, latest café, located in the historic WC Morse Building, for a tour.

We were chilling at one of the tall bar tables sipping on Cascara Fizz ”one of Blue Bottle’s signature cold beverages that was awesome, by the way; it’s made with Aida Batlle’s cascara as simple syrup, sparkling water, and lemon ”when this guy walks by. Stephen called out, œHey, Daniel! Come meet my friend, Sarah! 

Daniel Lee is the store manager of the café. He came right over, super big smile on his face. Stephen said something like, œShow her the Legos,  and that was when it all happened. I had my first encounter with  Blue Bottle for the second time ¦ through Legos.

The Master At Work: Daniel at home working on his Lego models.
The Master At Work: Daniel at home working on his Lego models.

Daniel says this is how it started: He and a friend were kind of tipsy one night, and they ended up in a Toys ˜R Us (Don’t ask questions. Just keep reading). They found themselves in the Lego aisle. They had a credit card.

Fast forward a few months: Daniel has fashioned a La Marzocco Linea out of Legos. He’s made a Spirit. And he made a mini San Marco lever.

The Linea.
One version of the Linea.
Another version of the Linea, and the San Marco lever.
Another version of the Linea, and the San Marco lever.
The Kees van der Westen Spirit.
The Kees van der Westen Spirit.

And then he decided to go bigger.

œI thought, what if I made the Blue Bottle at the Mint out of Legos?  Daniel says, like it’s a rational musing. But thank goodness he did. It’s pretty genius ”check it out.

It took Daniel around 100 hours to complete the Blue Bottle Mint café. He used to work there, which is why he had such a good sense of the place and how everything fit together in the famous shop.

The busy interior of the Blue Bottle cafe at the Mint Plaza in San Francisco.
The busy interior of the Blue Bottle cafe at the Mint Plaza in San Francisco.
Have you ever been to the Blue Bottle cafe at the Mint? Then you'll find this as eerily amazing as I do.
Have you ever been to the Blue Bottle cafe at the Mint? Then you’ll find this as eerily amazing as I do.
Daniel says his next project is to work on the exterior of the Mint cafe.
Daniel says his next project is to work on the exterior of the Mint cafe.
Daniel is particularly proud of the dish area in his Blue Bottle Mint cafe model. Having worked in this cafe for a long time, he knows the area well.
Daniel is particularly proud of the dish area in his Blue Bottle Mint cafe model. Having worked in this cafe for a long time, he knows the area well.

Daniel says he’s spent around $500 on Legos since he discovered this ”well, hobby’s not the right word, because he’s so damn good at this ”passion, that’s better. I want him to make a Kickstarter to raise money to make models of way more cafés. That is to say, I am a fan, and a big one.

Blue Bottle knows they have something pretty rad in Daniel, which is why they posted an article about him to their blog. But I wanted to share it with you here because, well, I think Daniel is a pretty freakin’ big deal.

I mean, c’mon! Legos!

About Sarah 918 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.