Quietly tucked away down a side street in Rittenhouse Square, Elixr Coffee offers up a refreshingly laid-back atmosphere amid Philly’s hustle & bustle. But don’t let the luxury-laden location fool you, because it all comes down to comfort and a good cup in this newly relocated and renovated space. With a homey and eclectic array of repurposed dry goods and decor, it’s no secret why this shop is, well, not so secret after all.
To continue with our exploration of all things amped-up and amazing in the world of Philly’s burgeoning caffeine scene, we took a visit to Elixr’s roastery in Fishtown — which also happens to be shared with ReAnimator Coffee — for a casual chat with its affable barista, Tyler Feickert, who immediately won us over with his approachable vibe.
What got you into coffee?
Well, I started drinking coffee while studying abroad in Spain for four months, usually opting for a cafe con leche, which is similar to what we’d call a cortado. Once I got home, I couldn’t make myself coffee like that and eventually got into trying a home-brewed espresso machine. When I moved to Philly, I decided to start working in the coffee business because I truly loved it. After working at a few cafes, I got the urge to move into specialty.
How did you break through from non-specialty to specialty?
It’s kind of difficult… you kind of have to know people. In Philly, there are a limited number of shops that focus on specialty coffee. The first one I went to was Ultimo because a friend of mine had worked there. At first, I just thought their coffee tasted funny, like kind of lemony, and eventually one of the baristas said something about it being very different from regular coffee — he said it was very tea-like. So something clicked and I became interested in trying different types of coffees from all over the world, which can taste very different depending on where they’re grown…
…Soon after that, I started to get tired of just making regular coffee. A lot of shops in Philly don’t really give too much thought to the coffee aspect. To them, it’s more about the atmosphere — which is cool, and definitely important, but I wanted to progress in the coffee world. So I thought, the only way I can do that is by transitioning into the specialty market. I started going to the throwdowns, where they pour latte art, and through that I was able to make a lot of connections that eventually brought me to Elixr.
What’s your favorite specialty drink to make?
I really enjoy hand-pouring coffee — it’s incredibly pure in that form.
Espresso, on the other hand, is very cool but a totally different animal. It has this mysterious quality. People may not like me saying this, but there is always this element of chance that comes with pulling an espresso shot. It has the potential to be very different depending on small differences in preparation, and tends to change throughout the day. When I walk into the shop in the morning, I immediately have to adjust the grind setting and dose to get the taste on track.
Once you know a particular blend of espresso, it’s easier to see all of the possibilities. Some are bright, tart, and fruity, while others are a little more chocolatey. It’s really important to know what you’re working with and it takes time to get the true profile of an espresso. Even throughout a normal shift, the way it’s being pulled needs to be tweaked. Espresso is very volatile in that way.
What’s your favorite type of music to play at the shop?
Recently, I’ve been listening to a ton of Grizzly Bear… electronic music. It makes me happier while I brew. Traditionally, coffee shops have been a place to exchange ideas, a meeting place. They had a reputation as a place where intellectuals would meet and talk about things. Now, it’s becoming more of a study hall, I guess.
I’ve discovered a lot of music while sitting in cafes. A lot of times, baristas end up being people that are musicians, artists… There’s a better chance of getting something interesting in a coffee shop, especially if the employees have to listen to 8 hours of music a day.
What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood?
To be honest, I’m not too much of a Center City person. But Elixr is tucked away from the Walnut Street madness, down a little alleyway, which is pretty cool. Even though we don’t have a sign, people still manage to find us. Customers used to come in all the time and tell us, “Oh, you need a sign,” and I would confusedly look around at the totally packed cafe, haha.
Why do you love working at Elixr?
I have access to some of the best coffee in the world. The staff is great. Evan, my boss and the owner, is awesome. We get a lot of freedom here, but everyone still takes their job seriously enough to keep things comfortable yet running smoothly. The abundance of reclaimed wood in the shop gives a nice sense of warmth, too. All in all, the space is pretty unique — we have an elevator shaft door for the bathroom.
Coffee is best enjoyed with…
Any combination of the following: a cigarette, a loved one, a friend, and good music.
We couldn’t agree more. Are you single?
Introduction. Natalie Opsitnick
Images. Lendl Tellington
Ambience. Elixr Roastery | Fishtown. Philadelphia, PA