Interview with Los Angeles Rising Star Artisan Charlie Habegger of Handsome Coffee Roasters

by Antoinette Bruno
May 2014

Antoinette Bruno: You’re Director of Coffee at Handsome Coffee Roasters, what’s your educational background?
Charlie Habegger: No culinary school, I have a master's in social sciences from University of Chicago, class of 2008.

AB: What was your first F&B job? 
CH: I worked at an ice cream parlor in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, called White Mountain Creamery.

AB: Where was your first coffee industry job? 
CH: Istria Café in Hyde Park, Chicago.

AB: Where else have you worked? 
CH: Intelligentsia Broadway and all the other Chicago Intelligentsia locations.

AB: Who are your mentors? 
CH: Geoff Watts, the co-owner and lead buyer for Intelligentsia. Tim Varney, the roaster for Tim Wendelboe, until last year. Nick Cho, brewer extraordinaire; Andrea Correa the pastry chef at Parallel 37; and Michael Kirby, the former head roaster at Intelligentsia. 

AB: What’s your favorite roasting resource?
CH: The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo.

AB: What’s your favorite tool? 
CH: The cupping spoon.

AB: What’s your favorite coffee to drink? 
CH: Currently, the San Isidro cooperative's coffee from around Puno, Peru, because it's such an accomplishment for that country.

AB: And to make? 
CH: All coffee is fun to make.

AB: What do you think is the most underrated roasting or coffee ingredient?
CH: An extraction palate.

AB: What coffee trend would you most like to see take hold? 
CH: Cleaner espresso roasts.

AB: On your mornings off, what do you drink? 
CH: Coffee and roti buns with the roommates.

AB: Which coffee area of the world do you most want to visit? 
CH: Currently, Santa Bárbara, Honduras.

AB: What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path dish and restaurant?
CH: Tacos from Guerrilla—anything Wes makes with vegetables will floor you. Santouka Ramen in Culver City, too. Honestly the produce out here is so good that I never want to cook food anymore, I just want to eat the ingredients on their own.

AB: How do you like to brew coffee at home?
CH: I make filtered coffee at home. I bring filtered water from work, where we have a finely tuned water purifier. We can count ppm of mineral count. Coffee you drink is 98.5 percent water. I make coffee very generically at home. I use a good coffee grinder, a Burr grinder, and boil water in a pouring kettle. I pour over a scale to make sure the ratio is exact.

The way I like to drink it is, I brew into a 12-ounce glass caraf and I have 1-ounce tea cups. I pour myself an once at a time. Each sip cools off differently. I like to drink from teaware, they make a beverage feel sacred. We talk about the crop, roasting, etc., but we serve it in clunky, ugly coffee mugs.