Starbucks and Microsoft announce a “bean-to-cup” blockchain collaboration

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One of the reasons why we all love blockchain is its ability to “connect the dots” and communicate information in a way that is unprecedented. Starbucks is now officially going to use Microsoft’s Azure blockchain services to track coffee beans and connect farmers with consumers, according to an article published by GeekWire. Microsoft and Starbucks leadership revealed the details during Microsoft’s Build Developer Conference where they revealed three distinct tech implementations that Starbucks will be working towards in the near future.

The journey for Starbucks in tracing the coffee supply chain started last year, with a pilot announced on the company’s website. Now, one year into the two-year pilot, the senior vice president of global coffee and tea, Michelle Burns, presented a preview of the application that customers will be able to use to discover the authenticated information that their particular coffee bag took.

The application is expected to release in a limited quantity, eventually progressing to each and every one of Starbuck’s app users.

Beyond Blockchain

The last two of them don’t involve blockchain, but they do incorporate aspects of A.I. and I.O.T. devices. The first is a predictive drive-thru recommendation system, which GeekWire speculates may connect with face recognition or license plate reading in the future. The goal is to provide customers with precise recommendations about what they might like best and present them during the drive-thru ordering process.

The second is a system that will connect all of the devices that Starbucks uses to operate its business. Coffee grinders, brewing pots, heating elements, blenders, etc. The system will collect data about the devices and enable company-wide updates. The data collected will range from the number of espressos pulled, temperature, frequency and most likely much more. The idea is to switch from reactive maintenance to proactive, enabling the company to stay ahead of the curve and avoid unnecessary store downtime.


Starbucks is following the trend of major food and beverage companies. Applying blockchain to gather industry data and supply customers with a better insight into the business. Today’s customers want to know more and want to receive reliable information. Blockchain implemented in this way is very different from cryptocurrency and it does not guarantee immutability, as that part of the story means incorporating mining or other resource-intensive methodologies.

Regardless, this is good news. Before this announcement came, we had very little information to work with in understanding the technology behind Starbuck’s blockchain endeavors. With Microsoft’s Azure suite by their side, we have a clearer understanding of the framework and tech the company will use to provide transparency and traceability to their customers.

A notable mention is Starbuck’s participation in blockchain pilots initiated by the Intercontinental Exchange’s Bakkt announced in mid-2018, which enabled Starbucks to leverage the start-up’s infrastructure to indirectly accept Bitcoin as a payment option for coffee-loving customers. Starbucks is getting more and more involved with blockchain technology with every passing day, using it as an opportunity to generate buzz about their company, to increase the brand status in the mind of the customer, and to provide actual value for them.

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