After supplying the Phoenix area and beyond with freshly roasted specialty coffee over the past dozen years, Xanadu Coffee Company has at last opened a coffee shop of its own.
The downtown shop is not particularly reflective of the “stately pleasure dome” as decreed by Kubla Khan in romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s vision of Xanadu; it’s more in the spirit of the 1980 roller disco musical fantasy movie starring Olivia Newton-John.
“We wanted bright electric colors to match our retail packaging, with a space theme also incorporated,” Xanadu Coffee Co-Owner Jessica Bueno told Daily Coffee News. “Since we are located downtown, we wanted to keep the energetic vibe that the city offers.”
A colorful community bulletin board and coffee flavor wheel liven up one corner of the shop. Across the space, a red neon sign reading “Goodbye is a crime” — a quote from “Suspended in Time” from the “Xanadu” soundtrack — casts a scarlet hue over a community table in a corner wrapped in galaxy-print wallpaper. Plants, colorful chairs and white walls freshen the rest of space. Behind the bar, baristas prepare drinks on a pink UFO-like La Marzocco KB90 espresso machine.
Full compensation for baristas is built right into the prices for those drinks, as the shop does not accept tips and starts all workers at a minimum of $15 per hour, well above Arizona’s $11 minimum wage. Xanadu Coffee Co-Owner Randall Denton said a 50-cent markup on all menu items helps cover the labor costs, and that the pricing system is a work in progress.
“At first people seem kind of upset they aren’t allowed to tip the baristas, which I like. It shows people do want to take care of our retail workers,” Denton said. “I’m perfectly okay being transparent with anyone that’s interested, and for me, it’s all about fairness and creating a team that shares common goals and responsibilities. It’s not hard at all to communicate that. I think most studies put the living wage in Arizona at $17 or $18 an hour, so we have a ways to go, but we’ve been 100% transparent with the baristas with the plan and have milestones established to get us there, and hopefully beyond.”
Roasting for the cafe and ongoing wholesale accounts occurs on the Artisan-connected 12-kilo Probat that also serves as the workhorse of a co-roasting business established by the company several years ago.
Clients gain access to the Probat, an Ikawa V2 sample roaster, a range of roasting tools and packaging equipment, some storage, and assistance from staff for general help with green coffee receiving.
“I just wanted to be around and roast coffee with other coffee nerds like me,” Denton said of the side business. “I was willing to open up our space and teach people what I spent 10 years learning to achieve.”
Denton assists clients, described as co-op members, in learning how to safely operate and maintain roasting equipment, while also coaching them in selecting green coffee, developing profiles, using analysis tools, translating data into roast profile adjustments, and more.
Membership prices vary depending on the level of education, supervision and resources needed by the client. Denton said that to each aspiring roaster, he explains that while roasting their own coffee may cut costs compared to buying roasted coffee, there’s also a trade-off in terms of dedication and commitment.
“Yes, you may save some amount of money on the end product by [roasting your own],” said Denton, “but if you’re doing it right and actually spending the time to research, roast, and cup every thing you put in the roaster, any amount of money you save on the price per pound should be offset by your personal time spent learning and growing as a roaster.”
Moving forward, the co-roasting operation may transition into a standalone business with its own distinct goals and an actual cooperative ownership structure, said Denton. In the meantime, the company is refining operations at the new cafe, where more breakfast items may soon be added and opening hours extended, pandemic permitting.
Said Denton, “We are still feeling out the COVID-19 situation before we go all in with those things.”
Xanadu Coffee is now open at 625 N 7th St. in downtown Phoenix.
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.