I’m not shy in my love for the city of Phoenix, AZ. It truly feels like a second home for me. And there are few other cities that continue to impress me with the level of growth for specialty coffee roasters than that of here in the Valley of the Sun!
And it only seemed fitting that today on October 1st–which is International Coffee Day–that I feature one of my favourite “international” coffee roasters…’cause since I’m here in Canada, anything beyond my borders would fall into that category!
It was this past Spring when I finally got back down to Phoenix after 2.5 long years of covid travel restrictions, that I first stepped foot into this incredible space in the Biltmore neighbourhood of North Phoenix. And let me tell you what Matt Heltzel is doing is nothing short of spectacular. He was so gracious is showing me around his cafe & roastery and sent me home with a few bags of coffee. It was after brewing them up that I knew this was a roaster that I needed to share with you, my readers.
And so I reached out to Matt, had a great conversation, and I am so stoked to share the story of Moxie Coffee Roasters with you as my Coffee Roaster of the Month for October 2022!
Hey Moxie, so great to get the chance to connect with you! So, tell us a little more about yourself.
I got my start in coffee while attending college in Chicago. A friend of mine showed me how to roast coffee in a vintage West Bend Poppery Popcorn Popper. I started roasting coffee, then I bought a home espresso machine, and the obsession only grew from there.
In 2011, I traveled to a coffee farm in Honduras with a coffee roasting company from Chicago. While in Honduras, I learned a lot about how the growing conditions (terroir, elevation, processing) can have a huge impact on flavour.
I moved to Denver in 2012 and got a job at a mom and pop shop, where I began building some beginner level barista skills. Then I moved to Corvus Coffee, where I was a barista, roaster, and cold brew production manager. I eventually moved to Coda Coffee, where I was the production roaster for three years and helped a little with green coffee sourcing.
Eventually, that led me to moving to Phoenix in 2016, and opening Moxie in 2021.
When did your cafe in Phoenix open? What was it about Phoenix that led you to want to set up shop there? And why the name Moxie?
We opened May of 2021. I’d known for many years that I wanted to open my own shop some day. I’m extremely entrepreneurial, I love taking big risks, and I love betting on myself (even if I’m unsure about how I’ll pull it off). Phoenix is a huge city and it seemed like there was room for a specialty roaster in the city.
I kicked around a lot of name ideas, but I kept returning to Moxie. For much of my life, I battled with feelings of unworthiness and shame. Through all of that, though, there was always a small part of me that still believed that I was enough. And that I had something special to share with the world.
But for me, it wasn’t easy. It required a little confidence, a little grit… a little Moxie.
To me, the name Moxie embodies quiet confidence. It requires a bit of Moxie to create something and believe it’s worth sharing with others. That’s scary for me at times, but it’s also liberating to feel like I’m able to share beautiful creations with people.
This past Spring I had the chance to visit your café and I loved seeing that you roast all of your coffee right in the same spot. Can you share more with our readers about what equipment you roast on, and tell us more about your philosophy and approach when it comes to sourcing coffee & roasting coffee?
We roast on a Diedrich IR-12. I chose that size because I think it’s a perfect size to start out on. It’s small enough for a brand new business that’s still getting going, but we’ll be able to use this roaster for years and years, without having to buy a new roaster anytime soon.
In terms of philosophy in roasting, I think there’s a sweet spot of roast development where you’ve got bright, fruit-forward coffees that are still balanced and sweet. We’re probably not the lightest coffee roaster, but I feel like we’ve got great coffees that are really enjoyable to drink for a wide variety of audiences. We definitely cater more to the specialty coffee enthusiast in terms of roasting style.
For sourcing, we care a great deal about quality, sustainability, and transparency. What this means is that, when sourcing coffees, I try to only work with importers and growers that are really committed to their craft. When people take pride in their work, the results can be astonishing. I think that applies to most things in life. An extremely high level of quality is the first thing I look for. We also want to make sure that the land and people are well taken care of from a sustainability standpoint. Is the land being cared for in a way that will help it thrive for the ongoing future? Are the people who are growing and harvesting the coffee being paid a living wage? Do we know where the money is going? Can we trace that?
Some of those questions are tricky, but generally I think we’re doing a decent job of that. Over the next 1-2 years, we plan to make that a central focus of our green coffee sourcing and education in our shop.
So you just did a massive re-brand of your bags and your interior café space. Can you share a bit more behind the process behind that and what you were hoping to achieve?
In 2020-2021, I had a lot on my plate. Branding was something I put on the back-burner and wasn’t really able to give a lot of attention to. After we got open and got operations running, I realized I wanted something more vibrant and “alive” and I also wanted something that very clearly aligned with and represented “Moxie.”
The cracked cup is a visual display of finding beauty in imperfection. It’s a reminder that there’s beauty all around us in the imperfect and unfinished. We’re constantly striving to be the best we can, but we recognize and realize that we’re always a work in progress.
Getting back on the topic of Phoenix and its coffee culture for a moment…in your opinion, what’s the specialty coffee community like in Phoenix? What do you love? What are you noticing in terms of the coffee culture in Phoenix/Arizona that is unique compared to other parts of the US?
I’ve done a bit of traveling to various cities in the last 2 years. New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver. One thing I’ve noticed is that the people of Phoenix are very supportive of the coffee scene here. I feel really grateful for that. I also find that other shop owners, baristas, and coffee pros tend to be really supportive of one another too. I’m the type of person who wants to see everyone win, and I think the coffee scene here is also that way. That’s been cool to see.
So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
I’ve been drinking a lot from La Cabra. I’m always drinking stuff by Corvus, SEY, Sweet Bloom, and a few other international roasters. At the moment, I’m geeking out on coffees that are doing unique processing but are still allowing the terroir and varietal to shine through.
I was struck by the tagline “UNCOMMON COFFEE” on your website. Can you shed some more light on to what that means to you when it comes to specialty coffee and what you offer your customers?
This phrase continually came up in our branding conversations. One of our core beliefs is “uncommon discoveries.” When I started Moxie, I wanted to bring a fresh take on specialty coffee and share uncommon takes on coffee. This extends to our hospitality, our design, our space, and of course… our coffee.
In every single thing we do, I’m always trying to ask, “Can we make this an uncommon discovery for our guests?”
Looking beyond COVID what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
I’m pretty bad at seeing the future or evaluating trends. I feel really focused on trying to create the best damn coffee I possibly can. If all else fails, I think that alone will keep us thriving as a coffee roaster.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Thanks for supporting the specialty coffee industry! We’ve been open for about 14 months, and I can’t tell you how surprised I am every day when hundreds of people walk through our doors to get coffee. It’s mind blowing to me. I’m so thankful for people who choose quality over quantity when it comes to their coffee.
Find their beans: If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting.
If you happen to find yourself travelling to the great city of Phoenix, AZ, make sure to stop by their cafe!
I just want to say a huge thank you to Matt and the entire Moxie Coffee Roasters team for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in the Phoenix, AZ. Check out their site, grab yourself some beans and enjoy!
–AND IF YOU HAVE READ THIS FAR…STAY TUNED FOR A MASSIVE GIVEAWAY ANNOUNCEMENT TOMORROW (OCT.2)–YOU OF ALL PEOPLE DESERVE THE HEADS UP FOR READING TO THE END!