Interview: Philz Coffee owners Phil Jaber + Jacob Jaber

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Coffee California

Photos courtesy of Philz

Phil Jaber and son Jacob have taken Philz Coffee from a single unit in San Francisco’s Mission district to a California coffee power with stores in Washington, D.C. Philz eschews espresso in favor of custom blends like Tesora and Tantalizing Turkish, all delivered “one cup at a time.” Philz has also become popular for iced coffee beverages in flavors like gingersnap and mint mojito. Learn more about the Jaber family coffee connection.

Food GPS: What’s the very first cup of coffee you ever remember drinking?

Phil: My mom was making coffee for my dad and I stole a few sips. It was love at first sip. My parents never got mad at me for stealing their coffee because it made me happy.

Jacob: Similarly to my dad I used to steal sips here and there from my parents, but I didn’t love it as much as my dad except for the smell. As I grew older my love for coffee began to grow.

Food GPS: At what point did you know you’d work with coffee for a living? Also, what were you doing for a living leading up to coffee?

Phil: I’ve loved coffee my whole life! As and 8 year old, I sold coffee beans door to door, so you could say I’ve been doing this my whole life. In 1976, I opened Gateway Liquor & Deli on the corner of 24th & Folsom in the Mission neighborhood. During the time that I was running the market, I was also creating my first coffee blend.

Jacob: I grew up in the store, so you could say I’ve been doing this my whole life. I joined Philz full time in 2005.

Food GPS: What inspired you to start Philz Coffee?

Phil: When I was a kid, my mom used to have people over in the evenings. I witnessed her going in the kitchen to make coffee and food. She made it with love and brought it to the table where everyone sat around connecting. The coffee table is the original social network and I remember helping my mom almost every time she had people over. This love, warmth and hospitality is deeply rooted in my veins and values and I finally had the epiphany and courage to change my business to carry this forward. I want to share this with millions around the world.

Food GPS: What motivated you to start roasting that very first time, and how did your very first batch turn out?

Phil: A customer of mine who used to visit the grocery to re-inspired my love for coffee. I began experimenting with varietals from around the world after the grocery store closed sometimes until 2am. To me, the best coffee in the world is the one that comes to your taste and the blends we specialize in celebrate different cultures and flavors that mesh into what I believe is the perfect cup. But to truly perfect it you have to get to know and care for your customers. My first batched turned out ok because I had good teachers. It took 7 years to perfect my first blend, the Tesora, which is my personal favorite and Jacob’s too.

Food GPS: What’s your favorite aspect of working in the coffee world?

INTERVIEW CONTINUED ON THE NEXT PAGE

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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