Café Stories: Passion House Coffee Roasters, Chicago, IL

December 20, 2019 in Partner Stories

As told by Passion House Coffee Roasters founder, Joshua Millman. All photos courtesy of Passion House Coffee Roasters.

Tell us a little about you. How did you get into coffee?

When I was 16 years old I was really into the beatnik generation – they were always in coffee shops, discussing life, pushing boundaries, and I wanted to be in a setting like that. So I got my first job in coffee as a barista at Starbucks in Glenview, IL, and I haven’t stopped since!

My journey through coffee has touched almost every facet of the industry, from managing cafes, roasting coffee, fixing equipment, to starting my own roasting company and cafes.

What about the coffee program? What are you excited to bring to your customers in this space?

Our mission is to connect people all over the world through coffee. We want our coffee program and retail spaces to be inviting, warm, and welcoming. Our desire to make coffee approachable plays directly into our coffee program – we break our coffee into three genres, Ambient, Mainstream, and Experimental. Ambient coffees are our year-round blends, with consistent and more crowd-friendly flavor profiles. Mainstream coffees are rotating single origins; a little more complex than our Ambient coffees. Experimental coffees are the rarest, most unique coffees in the world – crazy processing methods, uncommon genetics, microlots that are difficult to find. The goal of this system is to have something good for all kinds of coffee consumers, from casual drinkers to full-fledged coffee connoisseurs.

A lot of things might keep you up at night working in the coffee industry. What’s top of mind for you right now?

Two worries sit at the front of my mind – climate change and political instability. Climate change will deeply affect coffee farmers ability to provide for their families by growing consistently high-quality coffee. If we don’t take serious steps to address our rapidly changing climate, we’ll be risking the livelihoods of millions of people around the world who work in the coffee industry – not to mention hurting our supply of delicious coffee!

Political instability, both in the U.S. and abroad, makes it increasingly difficult to do business responsibly. Looking at coffee growing countries like Nicaragua and Ecuador that have gone through upheaval recently, it just feels deeply unfair that our ability to establish and grow partnerships with farmers is impacted by seesawing political trends.

If we don’t take serious steps to address our rapidly changing climate, we’ll be risking the livelihoods of millions of people around the world who work in the coffee industry – not to mention hurting our supply of delicious coffee.

What kind of feeling were you looking to create with this space? Tell us about some of the decisions you made to achieve this.

Delivering a great customer experience goes beyond what’s in the cup we serve you, but also includes the type of space we create and how we want a customer to feel when they are in one of our shops. Because music is such a central part of our identity, our cafes all have state-of-the-art sound systems with playlists curated according to our genre system (check out https://www.passionhousecoffee.com/inspiration-2 to listen to the playlists for yourself!) and weekly live DJ sessions.

Our newest location on Goose Island in Chicago was our first chance to do a complete buildout from scratch, which was a really exciting opportunity for us. We incorporated lots of natural light, and centered the energy along our core coffee bar – using a brand new La Marzocco KB90 and a custom light fixture to draw attention to where drinks are crafted for customers.

What’s one thing you’re proud of that you built into this space?

One of my personal favorite touches is our neon sign that says “Just relax you’re doing phine” – I love to share this positive energy with everyone who walks into our space! It’s a reminder to trust in yourself and your talents, to not get overwhelmed by the world around you. I hope it gives people a moment of pause, and an opportunity to have a cup of coffee and catch their breath.

Follow Passion House on Instagram at @passionhousecoffee. Visit the Goose Island cafe at 1200 North Branch St., Chicago, IL 60642.

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