In this season of renewal and change, we are happy to bring something fresh and exciting to HubBub: single origin coffees from Chicago-based Metric Coffee Company, featured on our pour over menu as a Guest Roaster. We started our Guest Roaster program back in November with Passenger Coffee, whom we've come to know and love, and hope you have as well. We're keeping Passenger on through May, but are really digging the idea of a rotating Guest Roaster spot, and after being seriously wowed by samples sent from Metric, we knew they had to be next.
We are beyond stoked to be able to share some offerings from this independent roaster with you all. HubBub is currently the only place in Philadelphia serving Metric's beans, so if you're looking for something new, come try the Tanzania Tarime AB and Colombia Cauca Laurentino Quinto that we'll have on deck starting today. The Tanzania, from the Tarime district of the country, was harvested last November and shines with sweetness, both high tropical notes (look for mango) and the bass-ier low notes of dried fruit (think raisins and dates). The Colombia comes from Pedregal de Inza de Cauca, Southern Colombia. Lauretino's small farm is located in the village of Alto de Topa, just above Pedregal town, with some parts of the farm exceeding 2,000 meters above sea level. The cherries are manually processed with hand crank depulpers, fermented in tiled tanks for 20-26 hours, washed in the same tanks and dried on parabolic beds for 12 - 20 days. A Chemex pour over yields clean but complex flavors: wildflower honey, lemon rind and caramel.
Of course, in addition to being impressed by the quality and nuance of these coffees, we were curious about the story behind Metric, which was founded in early 2014 by two Chicago coffee veterans, Darko Arandjelovic, owner of Caffe Streets, and Xavier Alexander, the former Roasting Manager at Intelligentsia Coffee. In addition to having total superhero names, we were intrigued by the fact that these folks, who already had rad coffee-related jobs, decided to embark on the wild adventure of owning a small business. We got the chance to ask Xavier some questions - read on to learn more about the duo behind Metric Coffee.
HubBub: How did Metric get started? How did you two meet and choose to take the leap to go into business together?
Xavier: Metric was founded by myself and partner Darko Arandjelovic back in March of 2014. The conversation about us partnering began a year before that, while out about town eating tacos and tossing back a few beers at a local joint. At that time, things were going well enough for me at Intelligentisa but I still dreamed of taking a different direction. What made me decide to take the leap in to starting Metric with Darko was simple - I wanted to have a voice in representing coffee in my community and I felt that I could finally do it with partner like Darko. I have been roasting and buying coffee for quite a while, but opening a cafe, staffing, training, managing...I haven't a clue how that works. So, having a partner with that experience and drive is really valuable to our business relationship. For him, he wanted to have his own voice too, to be able to not only express his thoughts about designing beautiful cafes, but also having a voice in the quality of coffee. He knows what he likes, and we both are on the same page with our vision for Metric...I have found the best partner any guy could hope for.
HubBub: That is awesome! What were some initial challenges (and victories?) that you faced at the start?
Xavier: Well, even if I could summarize what we went through with our Roaster, I would still end up with a novel! I managed to find that machine by searching for used equipment in Germany, which led me to our Probat. That machine, a UG 15 was being sold by the great grandson of the founder of Probat, so it made everything seem that much more legit. After we foolishly paid the man in full, we heard from him intermittently telling us everything was great and that the machine would ship in another week. After 7 months of waiting, we were ready to hop on an airplane and confront the seller, when we received an actual notice from the shipper that the machine was indeed on its way. Fast forward to a month later, and here we are finally with our beloved machine, Darko and I both equipped with hammers and crowbars, tearing apart at the crate like children at Christmas. Suddenly, we get a glimpse of our machine and low and behold, it was in worse shape than we had thought. We had paid for a full refurbishing, but what we'd received was a spray painted hot mess with grease and sand from top to bottom. Needles to say, we had two options: a) fold and go home, or b) fix it ourselves. We went with the latter, which meant a solid three months of tear down, sanding, replacing bearings, belts, gas, electric...essentially the works. The moral of the story is, when starting any coffee-related business, most importantly roasting, get in touch with people you know and learn from their mistakes. Thankfully, we made it out okay and learned some valuable lessons along our journey, but my biggest advice would be to ask tons of questions, do your research, and measure twice before cutting.
HubBub: Wow, that sounds insane! So now that things are up and running, what specifically do you do at Metric?
Xavier: Up until recently, all of the work was managed by the both of us but thankfully, we now have an amazing crew that is helping us stay in the straight and narrow, which is essential to any operation. There are six of us on deck and because of this, we are now more efficient than ever. In terms of roasting, we are doing about 1,600 lbs per week but those numbers fluctuate depending on the season. In terms of where we sell, most are local relationships. We are still relatively unknown, so unless you have established relationships with folks outside of your city, it gets to be a little tough to build on those relationships without being visibly present.
HubBub: Does your roastery also have a cafe? What can you tell us about the neighborhood where you're located?
Xavier: We are currently in the process of building our cafe inside our roasting works. We are located in the West Fulton Market, an area that is all industrial, and our warehouse is owned and operated by a locally funded incubator that offers solid working spaces for small businesses in Chicago. There are hundreds of makers (wood workers, glass blowers, florists, cheese makers, wine distributors, bakers) situated on our block and no coffee, so our goal is to allow Metric Coffee shop to be the hub of our community, as well as our training center for all of our wholesale partners.
HubBub: We know it's hard to pick, but what's your favorite coffee right now? What's your daily coffee routine?
Xavier: My favorite coffee as of the past two weeks has been the Colombia Laurentino Quinto, and I start every morning with a Chemex.
HubBub: What's the best part of your day?
Xavier: The best part of my day is when I get to come home and spend my evening with the wife and kids, but unofficially speaking, it's cracking open one of my favorite local beers and degassing from a full day of production.
HubBub: We are also fans of decompression beers! What are you into outside of work?
Xavier: Right now, work is my life. I see my guy friends going on cross country motorcycle trips or going on tour, both of which I deeply love. But when we started Metric, we made a decision to dive in head first until something, anything happens.
Thanks so much to Xavier for sharing Metric's story with us. We can't wait to explore and share more of their coffee with you all over the next few months!