Deep Dive into our Coffee Supplier: Metric Coffee
Metric Coffee's Xavier Alexander
Last week, we took some time to sit down with the person behind all of the coffee we serve at CRAFT, to showcase the quality and care that goes into it. Xavier is the co-founder of Metric Coffee, and also their green buyer. He started out with his first coffee job back in 2000, working for Starbucks in Orlando, FL. Coffee began as a means to make a living, but it turned into a lifelong passion.
How did you begin working in the Coffee Industry?
After a couple of years at Starbucks, I got an opportunity to switch gears and work for a local startup that roasted their coffee in-house, and that’s where my coffee curiosity took the next step. I proved myself over time, and then the owner gave me an opportunity on their 5-kilo roaster, which became an obsession. After five years of making beans brown in Florida, I then made a move to Chicago. One, two, skip-a-few I got a gig at Intelligentsia Coffee as a roaster/QC specialist. After four years with the Chicago staple, I broke off with my business partner, Darko Arandjelovic, to start Metric Coffee and we haven't looked back since.
What made you want to start Metric Coffee?
For me, it was the notion of being able to explore my ambitions; turn them into tangible things that people could enjoy, for example coffee. I've had a love affair with coffee for awhile and being able to have a little cohort of coffee people centrally focused on sourcing, roasting, and educating compelled me to start Metric (and still motivates me today).
How has coffee changed since you started?
Back when I started, coffee roasting was mostly “eye-balling” with much less rhyme-or-reason. Of course, most seasoned roasters would log their roasting (which I slowly started out doing). It wasn’t until my first visit to a Specialty Coffee Association Expo in 2004, where I tasted coffees that didn’t taste like the french roast “coffee” I was used to but more like art. showcasing discernable fruit and balanced flavors.
What I learned there was how delicate coffee was during the roasting process, and even more so how each step before (harvest, elevation, varietal & process) affects everything in the roast and the brew. Fast forward fifteen years later, technology has gotten far more accurate, our understanding of how to approach roasting and sourcing is more understood across the industry, and how we communicate with producers at Origin has evolved through technology which allows us to share information and to develop an ongoing dialogue on elevating quality.
How do you find sourcing?
Generally, it has been through word of mouth. All of the relationships that I have at origin stem from a conversation I had with a friend, who then introduced me to their friends. Once a connection is established, I visit new producers in their country checking out their farm and tasting their crop. Currently, we source directly from Peru, Honduras, Colombia, and Brazil. As a smaller outfit working in the industry, we have a lot of work cut out for ourselves which we love.
What does a Metric Coffee Producer look like?
There is no stock person or type of producer, but there are specific characteristics that correlate with our producing partners. In general, they can be meek and humble but are almost always incredibly hardworking and inquisitive. The most successful producers are making efforts to communicate with us and other roasters, looking for feedback to tweak their growing process to meet our quality requirements.
How do you decide who to purchase from? Certifications?
No certifications. While they seem beautiful to look at, they only look pretty on paper and are often too costly for a lot of good producers to afford. It's not 1-to-1 that certificates equal quality, so we look for coffee from producers we trust and enjoy paying sustainable pricing regardless of their wall decor.
How often do you visit the farmers you're purchasing from?
Once a year at the very least. Some coffee buyers go more often, but due to familial commitments, my frequency won't likely change anytime soon (which is another reason why I try and establish strong dialogues with farmers, so that we can communicate even while I'm stateside). Visiting producers, while rewarding for me, is also crucial for the producer to build strong relationships; it creates communication paths for offering advice and support.
Which coffee(s) will you find at CRAFT Donuts + Coffee?
CRAFT is currently buying single origin beans from Colombia and blends that come from Peru & Brazil, countries we have close relationships with that offer complimentary and approachable flavors. Because we love the flavors of South American coffees and their consistent availability to us, we have partnered with producers to offer coffees that are both sweet and big bodied. And really, that's everything you (or I) can want in a good cup of coffee.
What roasting equipment do you use?
We currently use an antique 15-kilo Probat Coffee roaster from Germany and a newer 25 Kilo. In the beginning, we started with just the 15-kilo purchased sight unseen, which required a full refurbishing (both a nightmare and a huge learning lesson for us). Today, both machines are purring like giant kittens and churning out beautiful coffees at our West Fulton warehouse.
What differentiates Metric from others?
Two things: our commitment to quality and to being staunchly independent. Metric Coffee was not born out of several rounds of private investments or from our treasure trove. We were born in a garage with a bag of beans and a big vision. My partner, Darko, and I knew we could bring delicious coffees to our customers, but that maintaining our own identity and growing on our terms would be the difference maker. Sure, there were initial struggles of investing every penny back into your business. But in doing so, we gained the ability to adapt as our industry does, and also instilled a pride into Metric knowing that today's success is rooted in humble, hard work and will continue to be as we grow.
We are so pleased to be partnering with Xavier and the great team at Metric Coffee, and hope the love and care they put into their beans shines through in each cup served to you! If you're interested in learning more about Metric, check out their site. As always, we'll be open from 6AM-3PM serving up our delicious donuts with their meticulously roasted coffee!