For someone who didn't try coffee till college, Randall Denton sure has made up for lost time over the last 17 years. He’s done it all in the Phoenix coffee scene, beginning as a barista and then manager at The Willow House (the Phoenix coffeehouse and hangout for artists and alternative types in the '90s and aughts). Twelve years ago, he started Xanadu as a roaster and wholesaler. Later, he added machine maintenance to his resume.
This past October, Denton opened Xanadu Coffee Co. in the former Street Coffee spot at 625 North Seventh Street.
Co-owner Jessica Bueno joined Denton four years ago. They met at the now-closed Artisan Food Guild Community Market. Bueno, who was working in hospitality, shared Denton’s love for coffee but also had a knack for business.
“Seeing how hard Randy worked, I offered to help with the finance and marketing sides of Xanadu,” Bueno says. She moved to Phoenix from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012.
Bueno recognized that to succeed as a coffee company, you need different sources of revenue. In addition to equipment repair and the coffee shop, Xanadu roasts coffee and sells beans, tea, and syrups. “We are trying to implement a coffee culture in Phoenix,” she says. "Having a retail space allows for it." It also has a co-op side, which leases roasting equipment to other shops.
For Denton, the coffeehouse lets people get to know Xanadu, its roasts, and its business philosophy.
“When we sell our coffee to clients, we rely on them to communicate to people. We have something we want to communicate, too," he says. “Certain programs get lost at the consumer level when we are selling coffee in bulk. Having our own space allows people to directly interact with us and know our philosophies.”
As for the coffee itself, Xanadu offers a house blend and two espressos — one to pair with regular or alternative milk and the other to shine on its own. It also highlights a fun, fruity coffee every month, like a specialty pear and almond latte. The beverage sizes are specific. For example, drip coffee is 12 ounces only.
Denton chooses coffee based on availability, price point, and traceability. Currently, he uses two or three sources that share his values. About 90 percent of Xanadu’s coffee comes from a single estate, small co-ops, or micro-lots.
The teas come from Cha Cha's Tea Lounge, a local shop on Grand Avenue about two miles away. Xanadu prepares tea to Cha Cha's owner Ashley Hoekstra’s specifications. There are also pastries from JL Patisserie and vegan options from Dark Hall Coffee — two more local businesses.
Inside Xanadu Coffee Co., jars of loose-leaf tea stand at attention on the counter. A sign reads: “Hold the tip. Our prices are all-inclusive, so we don’t accept tips. We appreciate the sentiment.”
Choose your spot at the shorter round tables with red chairs or at the tall rectangular ones with turquoise stools. If it’s a comfy corner you seek, Xanadu has a plop-down-with-a-book corner too. One colorful wall holds three announcement boards. There's also a separate area with a solar system accent wall and a larger table, which feels right for small work or school groups. (COVID won’t last forever.)
However, if you prefer to make coffee at home or you're not in the Phoenix area, you can order Xanadu's coffee online. Those in zip codes 85000 to 85020 receive free delivery.
Denton's recommendation for getting the best flavor from your coffee is to grind your own beans, use good water, and get a Chemex Coffeemaker or French press. He also recommends you invest in a nice grinder. “A good grinder can last you 10 years, but a coffee machine lasts probably three years,” he says. “There are too many parts in it that can break down.”
Big on education, Denton currently provides barista training (basically, he'll train anyone who wants to learn how to be a barista). He always used to offer cupping (coffee tasting), however, that's been put on hold because of the pandemic. If you want to learn about coffee, he's collected a wealth of information on the Xanadu blog. He also plans to extend Xanadu’s hours when First Friday starts again.
For now, hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
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