Craft coffee is having its moment in the United States. In a relatively short amount of time, the high-end coffee experience has gone from Folgers to Starbucks to Stumptown to Tandem Coffee Roasters. Perhaps the clearest expression of this progression is Elixr Coffee Roasters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Founded in 2010, Elixr continually engages in the art of sourcing, roasting, preparing, and presenting exquisite coffees. Elixr Coffee specializes in light roasts from Central and South America.
“When you roast a coffee lighter, it’s easier to pay homage to the character of the origin,” says Evan Inatome, founder of Elixr Coffee. “If you roast coffee dark, it’s going to taste like dark coffee. And that’s fine if you want to put milk and sugar into it. But we spend a lot of effort and time and money getting unique coffees. So if we’re going to do that, we also want to roast it in a way that showcases it.”
Currently, Elixr maintains several locations around Philadelphia and plans to open a new location in Nashville, Tennessee.
Where To Find Elixr Coffee
If you live in Philadelphia, you’re in luck. The City of Brotherly Love is home to four Elixr locations.
As the story goes, founder Evan Inatome was attending school in Southern California at Pepperdine University when his sister moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her boyfriend, who’d been drafted by the Eagles. After a couple trips to Philly, Evan realized it was the perfect place for a coffee business.
“It was my first time in an East Coast city,” says Inatome, who grew up in Michigan and California. “I saw people walking to work and the streets were packed. In California, everyone drives. But there’s so much density in Philly, and my sister was already there, so I said, if I ever want to do this thing, this is the place.”
The first Elixr location opened in July 2010 at 15th and Walnut. Although the location has since been turned into a Cheesecake Factory, the original location gave Inatome the proof-of-concept he needed to open a second location nearby. Inatome still runs this location at 207 S. Sydenham Street today.
After S. Sydenham, Inatome opened the coffee bar at Double Knot, a partnership with celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson, founder of Izakaya, Sampan, and Harp & Crown, among others. The bar and restaurant focuses on sushi, a nod to Inatome’s Japanese heritage.
Then came the Elixr roastery and cafe at 315 N. 12th Street, as well as a store at 3675 Market St in West Philadelphia. Later this year, Inatome plans to open a new location at 16th and Market. Additionally, he and his sister (who now lives with her husband and children in Nashville) are planning a Nashville-based Elixr at 5th and Broadway.
Omakase at Elixr Roastery
Unlike many roasters, Elixr runs an omakase program. Translated as “entrusted,” the experience leaves coffee in the hands of the barista. Over the course of the experience, the barista presents consumers with six different coffees, styles, and / or brewing methods.
“Generally, we’ll do three filtered courses as well as three espresso courses,” says Inatome. “The last three are usually straight espresso, espresso with milk, and a signature beverage with that same coffee.”
As Elixr caps omakase at five people, tastings feel quite intimate. They’re a great time to ask questions. Often, Inatome will lead the tastings himself. Elixr also employs competitive barista Rodrigo Vargas, who uses the omakase as a way to prepare for competitions.
“The idea was to have the opportunity for the baristas to showcase what we’re really into, or different coffees I may have bought a very tiny amount of,” says Inatome. “This could be a nano lot or an experimental lot. The amount we have might be too small for a full-scale release but it’s great for omakase. Additionally, it’s a great way to have an intimate experience with your barista. It’s meant to be an open dialogue.”
The omakase experience is only available on weekends from 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM EST at the roastery and cafe. Availability is limited. Your best bet is to make an online reservation. The experience costs $20 per person.
What About The Awards?
In the past few years, Elixr Coffee Roasters has racked up quite a number of impressive awards.
In 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019, Elixr was a US Roasting Championship Finalist. In 2018, they also took home 2nd place in the United States Barista Championship, and in 2019 they took home 3rd.
Other awards include a 1st place in the 2017 Coffee Champs Reno Roasters Competition and a 2nd place in the 2018 America’s Best Espresso Baltimore. The brand has been awarded a place on Business Insider’s 50 Best US Cafes list and has also won a Krupps Best Brew Award.
The Bottom Line
If you’re into lighter roasts showcasing coffees from Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, and Ethiopia, try Elixr Coffee Roasters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The roastery is soon expanding to Nashville, Tennessee, and also offers terrific service and a completely unique omakase experience.
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