The Build #42: Hospitality

HEX Coffee is a hospitality company that doesn’t just serve coffee. By focusing on unique experiences that exceed customer expectations, Hex Coffee has grown to a brand that is roasting their own beans, managing a physical cafe, and shipping products across the country.

These three partners have positioned themselves in a place of growth and acceptance in the expanding Charlotte, North Carolina community. They admit that they’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned important lessons along their entrepreneurial path and they have tips on how to turn anyone into a lover of high-quality coffee. It’s the story of Hex Coffee on The Build.

More about today’s guest:

Key Takeaways

[1:30] Introducing HEX Coffee and their journey from pop-up shop to roasting in their own space.
[7:32] Are Americans asking for more than ever from their relationship with coffee?
[9:47] Growing the skills and setting the milestones required to build a large-market coffee business.
[13:47] Defining roles, hiring staff, and sharing responsibilities within a growing company.
[20:16] All about the Coffee Shot.
[28:06] Carving out a niche in a growing community starts with forming a loyal customer base.
[30:20] Looking ahead to the future of HEX Coffee.
[34:17] Overcoming obstacles in order to keep moving forward.
[40:45] Developing a taste and a love for good coffee.
[44:20] Bringing people together is a dream come true at HEX Coffee.


Anouncer (00:01):
From 2820 Radio in Philadelphia, It's The Build. Conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators about their dreams, their triumphs, and their challenges.

Joe Taylor Jr. (00:15):
Hospitality. It's the warm feeling you get when you're taking care of at your favorite business and it's the pride every entrepreneur takes when serving a customer. And yet many businesses, something as warm and friendly as a cup of coffee can turn into a transaction instead of a moment of relaxation and reflection. John Michae Cord, Tanner Morrita and Chandler Wrenn share a passion for hospitality and even stronger desire to help more people discover what great coffee can truly do for your body and your soul. By focusing on unique experiences and by exceeding customer expectations, they've grown from a series of pop-up events in Charlotte, North Carolina into a brand that's roasting its own beans, managing a physical cafe and shipping product across the country. It's the story of HEX Coffee coming up next on The Build.

Anouncer (01:10):
The Build is made possible with support from 2820 Press, providing business consulting and content strategy services to customer obsessed companies nationwide. More information

Joe Taylor Jr. (01:24):
It's The Build. I'm Joe Taylor Jr, joined today by the guys from HEX Coffee in Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm joined by John, Tanner and Chandler who are in the roastery. Tell us a little bit about the physical space that you've set up for your brand.

John M Cord (01:46):
So I guess the best thing to say is we're in a very large room that we have our coffee roaster, we have a lab set up in here for us to do training and small scale retail, and we also do a good amount of cold brew production in here as well. Yeah, it's a pretty multi-functional space.

Tanner Morita (02:15):
Imagine a white box that we're roasting out of -- that's pretty much it. There's not a lot to it.

Joe Taylor Jr. (02:24):
One of the things I find compelling about your story is that you started by hosting a number of pop up experiences. Tell me a little bit about your origin, how you decided to get together and tell me a little bit more about that journey from having no physical space to actually having a space where you can control the quality of your product.

Tanner Morita (02:46):
Yeah. Well so I guess we started back in 2015. I was working at, basically, one of the local specialty coffee shops here in Charlotte and I was working as a barista there. John Michael was also working as a barista at a different shop and then recently transferred over to that same shop. So we became good friends through working on bar together. Chandler, at the time, was a regular at the shop and we kind of all linked up. We lived all really close to each other so we would always meet up for drinks at this local bar and basically through working in coffee together and just kind of chatting and dreaming and scheming. Charlotte was in this place where there was a, I'd say a lot of buzz about the city. The city was growing pretty rapidly. Although with that kind of instant rapid growth, you're going to have a lot of businesses that kind of lagged behind where other cities are developmentally. And for me being from Portland where I'm very used to like coffee shops on every corner, Charlotte was in this place where it had like one or two in the entire city doing really good things. So we knew that we wanted to kind of provide a voice in there. Because there were a lot of voices that could be said in coffee that we're not being said, just because of the nature of having so few coffee shops. So we met up at that bar and we were just chatting and kind of going over ideas and kind of like spit balling off of each other for how we could introduce our own voice into the city of Charlotte through the lines of coffee. So, you know, with two barista salaries and a salary from, like, a volunteer government employee basically. We built a couple of tabletops and bought some pour-over equipment, a couple of waffle makers, and just started making cold brew and pour overs and waffles and basically asking local businesses if they would want us to kind of take over their space in the mornings and turn their physical space into our cafe space for like three or four hours that morning.

Joe Taylor Jr. (05:40):
What kind of businesses did you approach with that offer?

Tanner Morita (05:44):
Charlotte was in this place where it was a lot of craft beer spots were opening up. And that was kind of the tie that the city was in a at the moment. So we saw this correlation between craft beer, if you understand the difference between drinking a Coors Lite and drinking a mixed fermentation Saison, you could probably understand the differences between drinking Folgers and what we're serving. So we partnered up with a lot of beer concepts. That bar that we would always meet at - that was like our local bar - that was one of our first pop up spots. And then a growler shop, a couple of breweries, and kind of like a marketplace kind of thing. A lot of different places, but we kind of skirted the line with beer centric places.

Chandler Wrenn (06:48):
A lot of our mentality when we were doing our pop up was creating our sense of place in something that already has a sense of place. So putting HEX's kind of feel to something that has an identity in itself, which has worked really well with a lot of evening time businesses such as beer stores because the Charlotte market was that and I think it really gave our popups kind of another level compared to other popups that are around because it was more or less people would come there specifically to visit us in the mornings rather than going there to that beer shop for another experience that they were used to. So they would walk into what felt like a natural coffee shop inside of something that they were used to getting beer at.

Joe Taylor Jr. (07:33):
I find this fascinating, too, because I think the experience you're describing in Charlotte is something that I've seen in a lot of places across America in that our country's relationship with coffee has changed a lot. Even in the last 10 years. Describe for me what you've observed about how we're asking for more from our relationship with coffee.

John M Cord (08:01):
Well I think that kind of stemmed from our, I guess kind of, obsessive nature- at least recently- with knowing more about where our food is coming from. Knowing more about where our clothes, our cars, anything that is a tangible product. We've started to focus a lot more on traceability and transparency and wanting to make sure that what we are consuming as, it is our nature and a lot of ways in America and the developed world, we just consume a bunch of stuff. And so we've started asking a lot of questions about, like, why is this better than others? Why should I spend more for this than something else? With coffee, being this product that has been around for Millennia. We've only recently started taking interest in how to produce better, how to produce at aa higher quality all the way down the supply chain from the producers all the way up to yourself being a consumer of coffee. Asking those questions as far as why is this better? Where can I find good quality and how does this separate from something like the commodities market, like a Folgers or like a Dunkin Donuts or something like that.

Joe Taylor Jr. (09:48):
Having immersed yourself in this culture, how did you grow the skills to be able to go from a couple of friends working on the bar to sourcing product and building out a roastery to be able to serve such a large market?

Tanner Morita (10:06):
I think something that has been our focus from the beginning and kind of just naturally occurring, core of our business is that we've always been very relationally based. This business was born out of the relationship that we all had together and we could all support and lean on each other. And in that whole process of brainstorming, and even before that when being on bar and learning. We've worked with a lot of really great people here in the Charlotte coffee industry and we've leaned on those people to get feedback on and learn from and that's kind of just expanded as we've grown. We've been able to tap into and rely on a lot of really great people and really great relationships that have been able to support us and help us along the way. I mean, it's still a learning process and at different points you're kind of alone in that process and a different points there are people that can kind of lend you a hand. For us it was, I don't know, I'd say the relationships that we've been able to have through- initially the roaster that we started using when we started our pop ups, which was Pasture Coffee based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

John M Cord (11:40):
Because we didn't start roasting our coffee when we started our concept. We were sourcing through another coffee roaster that we prized a good bit for their coffee as well.

Joe Taylor Jr. (11:53):
Yeah. So I think in that case, in those very early days, you're partnering with folks on the space and you're also partnering with suppliers who share the same kind of values that you have, and you're synthesizing this into a story that you're calling HEX. So I'm fascinated to learn a little bit more about how you could see that trajectory. What were the milestones that you set for yourself along the way to say, okay when we get this big now we can get a physical space. We can start sourcing our own beans. When we get this big, we can start doing packaging. How do you know that you're on the path that you want to be on for the right kind of growth?

Chandler Wrenn (12:43):
So I think for us, one thing that we've always valued is sustainability. As John Michael said earlier, from the people who are producing the coffee all the way to the consumer. So when we started as a retailer, we chose a great wholesale partner that we knew shared the same values and ethics and quality that we were looking for. So it was a natural thing for us, being more interested in kind of creating sustainable processes from the producer all the way to the consumer. We wanted to open our roastery and that was something that we were always interested in from day one. We've always been trying to think about our business five years ahead and trying to create steps to get to those places. As we work through these things that we have on a daily basis, we have just as much interest in what's coming for us five years ahead and trying to create something that is equitable and also sustainable for anybody that's going to come into the process.

Joe Taylor Jr. (13:47):
As you've grown along the way, have you found yourselves focusing on specific roles within your company?

Tanner Morita (13:56):
That's a big learning process along the way. As a business owner, you're just asked to wear every hat there is. At least at first you start out doing everything. I mean, when we started the business we all had other jobs as well, so we had to wear each others hats too. There wasn't even like a specific roles that each of us could play. It was just, this is what needs to get done, how these things get done it doesn't really matter. We can all just kind of share the workload and do things at different times and make sure that things are all tied up in a bow. As we've grown it's become blatantly obvious that wearing that many hats is difficult to do as you grow and, kind of, deciding on which hats are yours and kind of isolating your role specifically becomes really helpful. But that's something that's kind of a blurry line, you know. It's a slow transition to move into those spaces where you're kind of focusing on those specific things that you feel you can specialize in or bring the company.

John M Cord (15:20):
I think there were definitely times - and still are times- like when we first got started where we were trying to get stuff done and whether it be through the fact that we were working other jobs outside of this passion project of ours or physical space that we shared together. There were definitely times where at least one of us was feeling a little left out because those roles weren't necessarily defined. So over the past few years, just trying to get out of the mentality of like we just have to get stuff done, but I'm moving more so into a mentality of- we have to get things done, but how do we get things done with the level of quality and integrity that we want our company to be known for. In a lot of ways it's necessitated our division of labor. It's necessitated a lot more collaboration outside of just muscling through the day to day. It's really kind of forced us to look more holistically at the things that we want to do and how those things integrate into the bigger picture of the company of HEX Coffee.

Joe Taylor Jr. (16:59):
How big is your team right now? Have you grown beyond the three of you?

John M Cord (17:02):
Yeah we have. Mainly over at the cafe. We've had, over the course of the past two years, six people working for us. Six or seven people working for us. We have four people working for us now. We've contracted out help over at the roastery. But the roastery is still in, I would say, in its infancy state or infancy phase of growing in the needs that it has. But the cafe is actually growing well enough for us to be able to bring on a staff of four and support them which has been really, really cool.

Joe Taylor Jr. (17:53):
So given that you started on the bar and now you're handing that responsibility over to folks. Who are, or what's the talent that you want to attract to HEX? And tell me a little bit about how it feels to hand off some of the responsibility on the front line? Because I hear you so passionate about that front line customer experience. I'd love to know a little bit more about how it was for you to bring folks into that world.

Tanner Morita (18:27):
So at the cafes where we've brought in most of our staff, I think. I mean from the get - go, we have -- how do I explain this -- a. Really high standard for what we want to achieve with coffee, with the quality of the coffee that we're putting out. And even above, that it comes down to the way in which our coffee is served. So the first thing that we're always looking for when we're hiring anybody, whether it's at the roastery or at the cafe, is hiring for quality of personality and character first. And after that I feel like we have a pretty thorough understanding of our product and the quality that we're trying to achieve and how to get there that training somebody to produce that quality is not nearly as difficult as training somebody to be a great person. So, I mean, we just have really great people on staff and we've been really lucky with finding the people that we have on and it's been very easy to pour into them and they've been able to take on responsibilities, kind of, naturally as we've grown and needed to hand off those responsibilities. Just hiring for character is really just like made it very, very easy on us in that regard.

Joe Taylor Jr. (20:19):
I think one other thing I'm interested in, when you're hiring folks, especially for the bar. You do things a little bit different than many of your competitors. Tell me a little bit about the coffee shot.

Tanner Morita (20:32):
Yeah, I mean I can't say that we will seek credit for it or anything. I'll say we can take maybe credit for being first in the states to start debuting it.

HEX (20:46):
On a production, like a day to day production level.

HEX (20:51):
Yeah, maybe.

Tanner Morita (20:52):
Its origins, as far as I know, is kind of through whispers on the Internet. There is a barista named Matt Perger who did these coffee shots in a 2013 barista competition as a way of, kind of, replicating a filter coffee type experience but doing that through the espresso machine. And he wrote little articles about it. There were people talking about it at the time, kind of all leading up to it. So when we started we knew it was something that we wanted to experiment with and the theory of it was always very interesting to me. So when we were able to kind of move out of our pop up phase and settle down into our cafe space phase we purchased our first espresso machine, which was set up in. Me and John Michael were roommates at the time. It was set up on our dining room table and we were experimenting with espressos, experimenting with these coffee shots and doing trial and error and figuring out, okay is this something that we can actually do? Is this something that we can actually figure out how to do and make it tasty and replicable? And I don't know, it was just like a lot of trial and error. Dissecting the brewing process and kind of understanding of what goes on in a pour over and how that can relate to what you are making the coffee to when you do a coffee shot. But essentially, I mean if your listeners haven't ever heard of it, it's essentially a pour over a that you do using your espresso machine. So it kind of blurs the line between what is espresso and what is filter coffee becuase you're brewing it with the espresso machine, but it tastes like filtered coffee. It comes out like filtered coffee. There are also a lot of benefits to on a, kind of, heady theoretical coffee perspective. It's a really great way to achieve really flavorful, high extractions of coffee. And for us, the kind of coffee that we've look to achieve as high extraction, really flavorful coffee. Which means we're essentially getting the most out of our coffee as we can and coffee shots allow us to do that. Allows us to do it quickly and it allows us to do it really consistently.

John M Cord (23:45):
I think, too, part of the reason why we ended up using or utilizing the coffee shop was just as much out of necessity as it was out of curiosity. When we moved into our cafe location, we were sharing a space with this bottle shop and so we created a bar and a place that didn't have the utilities that you would necessarily need to start a coffee shop. One of those being running water for a batch brewer. And so because we weren't able to set up a batch brewer for people to get a grab and go cup of coffee. Like if somebody walks in and just like, I just want a cup of coffee -- because we didn't have the utilities to do that in our space, we had to, we had to get creative with how we were going to address that problem so that way we didn't isolate or --not necessarily isolate but -- kind of abandon a customer base that really just wants a cup of coffee first thing in the morning that they don't have to really think too much about. So it gave us the ability to make our approach to brewing coffee a little bit more approachable outside of just saying, yeah we just brew espresso. Which, for a lot of people, before we kind of came onto the scene espresso was a kind of something that you would either drink to get a punch of caffeine or you just liked it tasting strong and bitter. It just felt a little unapproachable and, much like taking a shot of whiskey or something like that. Like it's something that only certain people can do. And so we did our best. And I think we've done a really good job of, kind of, making espresso much more approachable to people and by blurring the line of what a filter coffee can be, for what an espresso can be. And also paying pretty good attention to making sure that when we brew something, we're brewing it well and brewing it fully so that way it does taste sweet. It does have a complexity and flavor. It really has made our concept fairly approachable to be more of the adventurous coffee lover and the person who is just, like I said, just coming in for that quick cup of coffee on their way into work.

Joe Taylor Jr. (27:00):
Well it strikes me that there's probably lots of opportunities to surprise and delight somebody. As you said, that customer that's coming in for that grab and go cup, you probably have a lot of conversations that say we're going to do something for you. Just trust us.

Tanner Morita (27:16):
Between the people that are coming in. You can kind of read the room to see what that person is looking for. Whether they're looking to be intrigued by something or if they're looking to just be like - hey, shut up, I need a cup of coffee. You can be like, yeah absolutely you'll have it in 45 seconds. Or you can be like -- hey if you're up for it, we don't do pour overs. We don't do batch brew or anything. But if you're willing, I'll do this coffee shot for you. It's super delicious. That'll be really great. And it's something new that I know you've probably never had before. So it's definitely a great talking point while also serving a kind of utility purpose as well.

Joe Taylor Jr. (28:07):
Well it leads me to my next question about carving out a niche, especially in a city like Charlotte that has grown significantly in the past few years. You've got competitors coming at you from all sides, most of whom are large multinational organizations that have drive throughs, that offer fast service, that do have that batch brew. What are you doing to ensure that you're growing a customer base that's going to understand what you're offering and remain loyal to HEX Coffee?

Chandler Wrenn (28:44):
Honestly I think a lot of this just boils down to southern culture, in general. Southern people are super loyal. But that can either be a good thing or a bad thing.

John M Cord (28:52):
They refer to soda as Coke or Pepsi, soda pop or whatever.

Chandler Wrenn (29:00):
And I think one of the things that we've always, in kind of speaking back to how we hire, we always viewed ourselves as a hospitality company that does coffee. We want to be able to take someone from where they are. And if that person who wants just like -- Hey, I want a cup of coffee -- and you can tell they have no desire to know about extraction theory or something like that. That's okay. We're here to provide a service and provide quality with this thing that we are serving. And if we can create a relationship there, then we can open up people's minds more to what coffee can be in more of the specialty coffee industry in general. And hopefully we can create, what I would call, converts into that world into that world. Because honestly it does us no good. Let's be honest. There's probably a little bit of a reputation with baristas to turn our nose up or push people away thinking -- Hey, we know something more than you. Because education, in itself I think, is something that is a service. But it also can bring up a lot of pride things. Because if you feel like you don't know something or you feel uncomfortable with the situation then you're never going to open your mind to what that can be. So if you can relate to those people and reach them where they are, you can take them to where you're going by providing a service of education. You just happened to get a cup of coffee with it.

Joe Taylor Jr. (30:21):
Thinking back to the five year plan. Is the five year plan something that you update annually and it's always about the next five years or do you have a sense that there's going to be a five year chapter and then another five year chapter?

Tanner Morita (30:39):
Depending on who you ask. I might update mine every five minutes.

Joe Taylor Jr. (30:42):
Like five years from now.

Chandler Wrenn (30:48):
This exact moment -- I'm writing mine currently.

Chandler Wrenn (30:55):
For me, being someone who didn't work in coffee and, kind of, falling in love with this industry based off the relationships that I had. I've always, as Tanner mentioned earlier, I was a public servant working for the city of Charlotte. I got sick of talking about doing things and I just wanted to do something. So that's why I wanted to work in specialty coffee because I felt like there was a great communal asset there to create something that was unique for Charlotte.

John M Cord (31:22):
For whatever reason the city didn't think you were valuable enough to keep you.

Chandler Wrenn (31:30):
That being said, it's just something that has always been at the forefront of thinking forward. I've worked in urban planning and I see the potential in Charlotte and I see how truly great it can be. And we are in a major city. I think the fifteenth biggest city in the country now. We're in a major city where you can still write a lot of culture of what's to come. Whereas if you go to New York City or you go to LA doing something like we're doing, we honestly would probably be more part of the noise rather than being on the front end of the culture. So we just wanted to create something that wasn't here in Charlotte. And so a lot of our plans go further than just coffee. We have other ideas and other concepts that we potentially want to do in the future. And we're always kind of talking through those things but knowing that we're focusing on kind of the same core principles. And that's why we've always said we're a hospitality company that does x. Right now it's coffee, but it might also be something later you're down the road.

Tanner Morita (32:36):
And we are also... being from the position that we're in where we started by chatting at a local bar and being baristas, to building our own tables and everything that we've done has been very organic and just baby steps at a time, which has led us to this place

John M Cord (33:01):
We're actually constructing cabinetry in our roastery right now. Kinda doing that ourselves.

Tanner Morita (33:08):
So our five year plan is, for me at least, it's something that's very fluid. We're constantly thinking about where we can go in any specific thing. But it has also been really helpful to be flexible. Because I know for me specifically, our cafe space is actually almost kind of like an installation at, basically the bar that we had our first pop up in. The owner at the time basically contacted us and asked us if we wanted to put in an installation and kind of convert that into our cafe space. So that's been our main spot that we've been working out for a long time. But if you asked me at that time if that was what I wanted to do, that was definitely a hard pill to swallow. It wasn't necessarily on the five year plan, but being flexible and seeing the utility of it, and the. Potential of where that could take us has been really helpful. You kind of have to swallow your pride a little bit and just take the next step as it comes, as well.

Joe Taylor Jr. (34:20):
Well, along those lines, tell me about a time that something didn't go as expected and you either had to retreat or pivot or change your mind about how you were going to proceed to keep the brand moving forward.

HEX (34:34):
Where to begin? Which time?

Joe Taylor Jr. (34:36):
That's the usual response! Which time?

John M Cord (34:39):
You mean like last Tuesday?

John M Cord (34:50):
I would say that a lot of the things that we wanted to do when we first sat down, this is a little bit more macro. But when we first sat down to try and conceptualize HEX, we had a pretty good idea about how we wanted to go, the things that we wanted to do, but without really having the means to get there. I mean, like we were saying, we worked as baristas and obviously that job is not the most lucrative when it comes to investing and starting a business. We ended up having to, kind of, compromise and rely on other people to just be able to either take that first step or to get something up off the ground. And so I feel like, in so many ways, our company has been defined by the things that maybe didn't go according to plan and finding ways for us to adapt and to improvise. I mean we started a cafe in a bottle shop. We started a roastery because we had a relationship with another coffee roaster in town that wasn't utilizing their space one day a week.

Chandler Wrenn (36:24):
The list goes on.

John M Cord (36:25):
The list goes on.

John M Cord (36:25):
I mean it's literally, in a lot of ways, as much a lesson in business as much as it is the lesson improvisation. That has probably the biggest headache for me, personally. Out of the three of us, I'm much more of a static person. So having to be flex, having to change venue, not having a place that we could call our own for the first two years of our company was a lesson in like -- we believe in the concept, we believe in what we're trying to do. We believe in being hospitable people. And if that means that we have to be hospitable and host in a place that isn't ours for a time, then we will do so with pride and integrity and everything else will fall into place.

Joe Taylor Jr. (37:34):
So understanding how strong that sense of place is and that sense of community is in your plan. What's in the cards? Is it more dedicated physical location? Is it more co-location like what you've got now? Or are you focused on building out a brand in a way that you're bringing your product more directly to the consumer at their home?

John M Cord (37:58):

HEX (37:58):

John M Cord (37:59):
Yeah- I'd say it's a little of all of that. The coffee business is at the core of what you're doing right now and that is really, really important to us. But we know that there are a lot of other ways to bring people together. Obviously the bottle shop that we're working in has a very loyal and dedicated family that comes there on a regular basis. We know that food brings everyone together. Finding ways to generate that sense of place, that sense of community for anybody is the direction that we want to go and whatever vehicle we have to take to do that is viable.

Tanner Morita (39:08):
And I think, for us, it's been structuring our business to be able to provide the experience that we're looking to achieve in any sort of environment that comes at us. If there's an opportunity for another cafe, we know that we can execute that the way that we want to. If there is an opportunity for a growth at the roastery, we know that we can execute that. If there's an opportunity to start a new concept or a shared concept or anything like that, we know that our values, our ethics, our attention to detail and the quality that we're after and we're confident that we can achieve that. For us currently, it's taking the things that we have now and doing them well. So it's serving at the cafe, growing at the cafe, growing our family there. And it's growing at the roastery, serving people, sourcing better coffee, finding more avenues to get our coffee out there, and trying to expand our own family of employees as well. So we're thinking the things that we have currently constantly growing them a while also keeping an eye out for what else we could be digging our mitts into.

Joe Taylor Jr. (40:51):
Well we're almost out of time, but I am going to ask a very selfish question that my wife, who is our executive producer of the show here, insists that I ask. I am told that because my parents never invested in good coffee growing up, I've never developed a taste for it myself. It always registers to me as being very bitter. So if I wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee with my wife, who adores coffee, what's the entry point for someone like me? Where would I start to learn to love coffee the way that you all do?

Tanner Morita (41:32):
I mean, well if you send us your address, we'll send you some of ours.

Chandler Wrenn (41:41):
Send him some coffee.

Joe Taylor Jr. (41:41):
So I just I haven't had access to HEX Coffee, is what I'm hearing.

Tanner Morita (41:46):
Yeah, exactly. No. Well, I think, I'm kind of maybe in a little bit of a similar boat around coffee all growing up and my parents had coffee every morning, but it was bad, bad coffee made really strong, really bitter. You know the old stuff you get at Costco and that's not my taste at all. And so our ethos for sourcing coffee is high quality coffee, roasting it in a way to preserve vibrancy, clarity of flavor and sweetness while not introducing any bitterness as well. Which I think is, for most non coffee drinkers, is the biggest turnoff is how bitter the coffee can be. So I think for some of those people, it's just finding the right kind of coffee. I don't want to say that we're the only roaster that does coffee in this style or anything like that, but that's just our ethos with it. I feel like our coffee is pretty vibrant and sweet. I mean if you like teas and stuff, I think you could get into our coffee. Our coffee definitely doesn't register on that bitter note that a lot of like coffee flavored coffee people are familiar with.

John M Cord (43:14):
I think another way that we've managed to convert people is meeting people where they're at. One of our best selling to date, drinks that we sell is a vanilla latte that we make with cold brew and serve on draft. And so getting people -- even though our coffee is great without cream and sugar -- adding milk and vanilla to it just seems to just do it for people.

Tanner Morita (43:51):
I mean, it tastes like melted ice cream. It's hard to argue with it.

John M Cord (43:54):
And the fact that it's on draft. If somebody were to walk in and say -- ph, I like sweet things. I got you covered and we're handing them an essentially melted ice cream drink that they just go nuts over. So yeah.

Joe Taylor Jr. (44:14):
Well, it sounds like I need to get back to Charlotte pretty quickly.

John M Cord (44:19):
That'd be fine with us. Let us know when you're here.

Joe Taylor Jr. (44:23):
Before we go, just to really put a button on this. What's your dream for HEX Coffee? How big does this operation get for you to feel like you're really having the impact that you want to have in coffee culture?

Tanner Morita (44:42):
I think personally, for me, a dream somewhat already realized and the fact that we've been able to make great relationships with incredible people using the vehicle of coffee. That is just awesome. It's really cool to kind of witness. The other night we actually had our Christmas party with four other companies who all are either directly tied or loosely tied to HEX. We brought these people in and I was sitting in the room and I realized I didn't know any of these people three years ago. That was a really, really incredible thing to kind of experience from almost like an out of body experience just watching these people who are creating and doing incredible things in Charlotte, be in one room together. And when we started a HEX, sometimes I felt like we were a little bit alone in a battle and we didn't have a lot of resources. We hopefully can just be an access point for people to be able to create and develop something really special just to make Charlotte, overall, a better place.

Joe Taylor Jr. (45:55):
Extraordinary. John, Tanner, Chandler, the team from HEX coffee in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thanks for spending time with us today on The Build.

HEX (46:03):
Thank you so much. Yeah.

Joe Taylor Jr. (46:07):
Thanks again for listening to this episode of The Build. Our talent coordinator is Nicole Hubbard. Our production team for this episode included Leah Gruber, Amelia Lohmann and April Smith. Podfly Productions manages our post production. Or theme music is performed by Arrows and Sound. Or Director of Operations is Katie Cohen Zahniser. And our executive producer is Lori Taylor. I'm Joe Taylor Jr.

Anouncer (46:32):
Thanks for listening to this episode of The Build.

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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