Philz Coffee is just about the official beverage of Silicon Valley. Founder Phil Jaber tells Business Insider that his 30 unique blends fuel employees of Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn through long coding sessions into the night.
The San Francisco-based coffee chain just raised $US15 million in venture capital from Summit Partners and angel investors, including Yahoo’s chairman, Maynard Webb, Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, former Apple exec Ron Johnson, and rapper and investor Snoop Dogg, according to TechCrunch.
The company has 18 shops in the Bay Area and one outpost in Los Angeles. It plans to expand in 2015, possibly to New York, DC, Detroit, Austin, Denver, and San Diego, although Jaber’s still scouting locations. “I’m like a German shepherd — I like to sniff a place out,” he says.
We checked out Philz’ original location on 24th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District to see what we could expect.
Founder Phil Jaber tells Business Insider that Google, Twitter, Apple, and LinkedIn employees buy the beans wholesale for their offices. Facebook has a standalone location at its Menlo Park campus.
The company plans to expand nationwide, thanks to a $15 million Series B round led by Summit Partners, which has invested in Uber, Belkin, and Arista. It's not every day you hear about a coffee chain getting venture-capital money from a firm that usually backs tech.
We visited Philz' original location at 24th Street in San Francisco's Mission District, to see what all the buzz was about.
If you're a first-time Philz customer, the menu board may overwhelm you. The 30 oddly named blends, like Canopy of Heaven, Anesthesia to the Upside, and Sooooo Good, give little indication of the flavour. You won't find any lattes, cappuccinos, or fancy Italian-language beverages here.
Do not fear, you're in good hands. When taking your order, the barista asks questions like, 'What's your 'usual'? Do you prefer light, medium, or dark roast?' They select a blend. Some use single-origin beans; others mix seven different beans from around the world.
Baristas brew one cup at a time using a pour-over method, which allows for specificity and diversity in taste for each customer.
Two to three minutes later, the barista calls you by name and invites you to take a sip. Then you're told, 'See if it comes to your taste,' a catchphrase of founder Phil Jaber. They're happy to keep making you something until you're 100% satisfied.
And satisfied you'll be. Tesora, the first blend Jaber created that took seven years to perfect, is a full-bodied roast that tastes of nuts, butter, and caramel. Baristas recommend you try it 'Phil's way,' with medium-cream, medium-sugar.
A bright bouquet of mint sits on the counter, and the barista plucks three leaves for every cup of the Philharmonic, a house-favourite blend. The floral brew gets an extra kick from a sprinkling of cardamom.
Jacob's Wonderbar, a dark-roast blend named for Jaber's son, is poured from a dramatic height. The stream aerates the coffee and opens up the chocolaty flavour more.
Philz has long harbored a 'secret ingredient' in every cup, which manager Emily Smizer tells us is 'love.'
Every blend on the menu has been researched and developed by Jaber, a grandfatherly character who speaks in poems and keeps a stash of fedoras behind the cash register. 'I was born to make coffee, like Frank Sinatra was born to sing,' Jaber says.
A Palestinian immigrant, Jaber began experimenting with beans 25 years ago in the corner grocery store he ran. Once he perfected his craft, he brought in the dining-room table from his home (seen below) and transformed the space into a coffee shop.
There's no mistaking one of Philz' locations for a cookie-cutter coffee chain. The couches sink like they've been lived in, and the ceiling murals form a canopy of creativity.
Philz has always been a family business. Jaber credits one of his daughters with changing the name from 'Phil's' to 'Philz,' and appointed his son Jacob Jaber as CEO when he was just 17 years old.
Today, the company operates 18 shops in the Bay Area and one outpost in Los Angeles. With the new funding, Philz plans to add 10 locations nationwide by the end of 2015, possibly in New York, DC, Detroit, Austin, Denver, and San Diego.
While Philz embraces individuality in all aspects of business, whether it be the employee dress code or its brew method, Jaber doesn't fear losing the brand's identity with expansion.
'I'm not afraid to change my church, because I become better at what I do every day,' Jaber says. 'I'm gonna take coffee to the moon.'
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