In a sunny storefront near the 202 freeway in Chandler, coffee roaster Dan Suh trains barista Tyler Adams in espresso-craft. Adams is brewing espresso shots on a La Marzocco GS3, calibrating his timing down to the second to produce the perfect espresso shot.
“Ok, give me some descriptors,” Suh directs as Adams takes a sip.
“I’m getting less chocolate, more caramel,” Adams says.
“I’d keep that profile,” Suh advises.
Under the name Provision Coffee, Suh and partner Lawrence Jarvey have been roasting coffee and selling coffee accouterments for almost four years. Recently, however, they opened a brick-and-mortar coffee shop inside Chandler's Palette Collective complex, a trendy share-space where guests will find beauty wares, boutiques and hair salons, and Provision’s flagship store.
Suh says the idea to open a store began as a way to build community, but also to create a cupping room for Provision’s coffee program clients.
“A lot of people just didn’t necessarily think of us as a real coffee business,” Suh says.
Provision started as a wholesale coffee roaster, buying beans green, roasting them, and selling them retail. But the company also supplies all the other products a business, office, or church would need to offer coffee to guests or clients. That includes everything from cups and service utensils to brewing instruments and condiments such as sweeteners and milk.
Breaking into the coffee business with a retail shop is hard to do, Suh says, because the return per customer tends to be pretty low.
“It’s difficult from a financial standpoint because you’re exchange is only like $5 [per person],” he says.
As a result, coffee shops must operate more like fast food franchises rather than sit-down restaurants, turning over tables and getting more people in and out the door. But herein lies the conundrum: for real aficionados, sitting down to enjoy a latte or sip an espresso takes time. Serious coffee people like to sit and linger, whip out their laptops and use the free WiFi or schmooze; serious coffee people like to hang out at the neighborhood coffee shop.
“What makes us a little more unique in the industry is that we try to do a little more community building,” Suh says. He explains that the philosophy behind the business model for himself and Jarvey is cultivating relationships. Culturally, coffee is simply a good way to bring people together.
“It’s just so natural for us when we are getting to know somebody to say: ‘Hey, can I buy you a coffee?’” Suh says.
Right now Provision rents space from another Tempe-based roaster, Cortez Coffee Company, to roast beans. But Suh says the dream is to have the space to run their own roaster, and he foresees that dream becoming reality in about a year. He envisions a warehouse that could hold the roasting plant and plus a cupping room or store, so they can have a showcase space more like a brewery or winery.
For the summer months, Provision in Chandler serves some cold drink options. We tried the Nitro Cold Brew, which Suh explains is made using a flash chill process, not drip. The flavor was rich and smooth with a mild cacao aftertaste and some hidden berry notes. The 12-ounce pour of the cold Nitro, served without ice, goes for $3.75. We also tried the house iced coffee which was also perfectly rich and didn’t seem shocked or bittered when served on ice ($2.75).
In addition to iced coffees and cold brews, Provision also serves Arizona beers and wines, and they’ve been building an audience of regulars for the 3 to 7 p.m. happy hour, Suh says.
Provision Coffee is located at 2100 S. Gilbert Road, Suite 22, inside Palette Collective at the Mill Crossing shopping plaza. Visit the Provision Coffee website for hours and more information.