Coffee should change the drinker

Coffee should change the drinker, and not vice versa.

I encountered Philz Coffee the first time working at Facebook.

Their approach to making coffee is slow, thoughtful, sensuous. The people behind the bar ask you about your taste preferences. They ground the beans after taking your request. They pour steaming water on the grounds for fifteen seconds, wait for them to soak and drain, then pour again. Over several minutes, a plastic beaker catches the bright liquid, the color of autumn – tan, red, and golden in the light. The coffee froths up like a jacuzzi in its cup. The makers ask for your reaction after the first sip. Every time I’d say yes, this is what I wanted. Thank you.

The lazy pleasure of the experience upended my relationship to work. It carved a space to observe and chat and feel in a business environment notable for its pace and intensity. My first sip was also my first step toward leaving Facebook entirely.

Yesterday, I caught up with a friend and former coworker outside of a new Philz in the financial district in San Francisco. The line was twenty deep at all times, and it cycled at a rapid pace. The person behind the bar took my order with a nod, and by the time I had paid, my coffee was ready. She handed it to me, no questions asked; she was busy preparing four more drinks. The first sip tasted like a faded photograph.

Considering the crowd of anxious customers queued out the door, Philz has done a great job scaling their business to meet a mighty demand. Yet as I sat in the shade and watched them shuffle through, I doubted that any of these people would soon quit their jobs.

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