After hearing nonstop rave reviews about Handsome Coffee Roasters from caffeine-obsessed friends, I approached this young, LA-based team of coffee connoisseurs to donate product for our Happiness Issue launch party. They did, everyone loved it, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Here at the Work Magazine, one of our favorite things to do is to spotlight individuals that are working hard to provide something of the highest quality possible. We love innovators, instigators and cultivators of all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds working in all different industries. When those individuals happen to be local (and crazy nice), it makes it all the sweeter.
Charlie Habegger is the heart and soul of Handsome Coffee Roasters and our newest Workaholic.
What do you do?
They call me the “coffee boss” at Handsome Coffee Roasters. I curate the coffees we work with, direct the roasting crew, and generally am the voice of our coffees: “sips finish with a taught flick of acidity and the lingering freshness of marjoram”… all that stuff is me. Wanting to put great coffee into peoples’ hands is a humble goal, but it means mastering a pretty complex process if you want to do it well. Coffee is both a hard science and a natural, imperfect thing at the same time, so my job involves a lot of empiricism, patience, and wonder. And a lot of spitting.
On any given day I’m roasting, cupping, running the production team, rebuilding our old sample roaster, doing dishes, writing sensory reports, tasting with the baristas, or planning trips to producing countries to stay connected with the coffees we buy, which is invaluable for a buyer to do. There’s a huge logistical element to the job as well, because we’re watching coffees move all across the world, which can be unpredictable; but this makes each new arrival all the more special to the Handsome team.
How did you get to where you are now?
I finished a masters degree in psychoanalysis and nobody had work because it was 2008 in Chicago, a city where you either work in corporate or in service. To pay rent until my PhD applications were due, I found a job at a coffee bar with a cut-throat barista culture and got swept away. Without realizing it, everything else got left behind and six years later here I am. It is weird: I was supposed to be on this academic track, and found myself choosing this job instead that was part service industry and part chemistry, and zero parts money, and feeling like I wanted to be good at coffee more than I had ever wanted to be good at anything. But coffee’s so benign to everyone, right, so why coffee of all things? Maybe that was it. Maybe that was the academic part for me.
One day an old mentor called me out of the blue and offered me the part at Handsome. I had spent about twenty minutes in LA but figured I was at a place in my life where I saw the benefit of trading it all in, so I sold 90% of my belongings in Chicago and moved out West to be my own boss.
What made you turn to this direction?
I loved the rigors of struggling to make something perfectly for an audience, which is what being a barista in a busy place can be like. I was addicted to the perfectionism and also starting to grasp just how vast the world of coffee producing, trading, and tasting really was. It was also circumstance; I didn’t know how badly I needed a craft in my life until I had one. It took all the headiness out of me and made me focus. It’s the perfect marriage of physical and abstract. It’s also literally the most complex thing we consume, but one of the things most taken for granted in our day.
Was this always your dream job?
I never had a dream job, but this is it. Isn’t that nice? I made my dream job. My other dream job is bicycle messenger. I love the flow state.
How much of the week is work, how much is play?
I usually work ten or twelve hour days when I’m home and take a day for fresh air every week or two. Sometimes the work is all physical — un-automated roasting is very physical — and sometimes it’s a string of visits to remote farms on the equator, which means patience and the ability to sleep well in a car.
When you work in coffee your work grafts itself onto your life: you see your coworkers around the clock, you crush on your customers, you see the same people so often and often in a state of pleasure and chattiness. It’s hard not to submit when that’s your daily environment. And it’s hard to leave once you do. Coffee induces productivity, and the people who want to work with it value that feeling and want it to be shared. It makes for pretty delicious times.
How do you find your inspiration and do you find it easy to stay organized?
The DNA of my work is repetition. I spend vast amounts of time doing the same things over and over — pouring hot water for a cupping, watching the same coffee cook over and over again, making a mess in the lab and cleaning it up — hundreds, thousands of times. Which might be someone else’s hell. But it’s actually different every time and immensely challenging. I’ve learned I’m the type of person who reaps extreme value from endless tasks, because there’s a peace to be found in the center of them. I’d say that’s my inspiration. Anyone who makes or does something repeatedly with renewed purpose each time is my other inspiration. There’s also no better feeling than seeing the bar full of people drinking our coffees, and watching our work punctuate so many lives on the daily, but it’s really hard to stay organized when your job is so many things. I’m by far my most organized whenever I’m delegating, which is hard for me to do because I always want to be involved.
How important is your work, and do you feel it defines you?
People would say my work does define me. I’m hesitant to say so, but then, coffee has made me opinionated, generous, well-traveled, has determined where I live, the food I value, who I respect, the length of my relationships, and has shaped the way I look at the world of things. I can’t leave it out when I look at my life. It’s the purest thing in it.
What has been the most exciting thing you have done with your work, and what is a dream situation you’d like to find yourself in?
That’s hard. Coffee’s taken me straight to little corners of the Earth I’d just never, ever know existed if I didn’t have business being there. Amazement of that kind blurs together though. When I was a barista people used to tell me they admired my hands when I worked. That might still be the coolest to me. That kind of complement lasts a lifetime.
I dream of my own coffee bar constantly even though I don’t want one. It changes every year. This year it looks a lot like a bustling sushi restaurant but with more light.
How do you define your personal style, work and clothing, etc.?
I’m rarely put together. I think I’ve figured out how to cobble being unshaven and overly-focused into some kind of style. When I’m roasting I’m in jeans I haven’t washed in longer than should be printed, clogs, and a beanie. And I’m so happy. Swap boots for clogs and less smelly jeans and I’m out on the town.
Do you listen to music during your work day?
Yesterday we did Burning Spear, The Specials, Op Ivy, The Donkeys, Primus, The Mountain Goats, Brother George, Kurt Vile, Del The Funky Homosapien, D’Angelo, and then I cleaned up to Graceland by Paul Simon. I swear Brazil coffees roast better to Steely Dan, but it will take a while to prove that.
What’s something someone may not know about you?
I’m a Buddhist. And I’m colorblind.
Anything else you would like to say or for us to know?
We’re constantly studying at Handsome. We’re constantly challenging the way we do things with our coffee and gathering data for everything along the way. It’s an affliction, really, but that’s our process. Each cup is just a snapshot in this longer process that we’re living every day.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
582 Mateo St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Instagram: @handsomeroaster // @brainofcharlie
All photos by Suzanne Strong
- Katherine Aplin
Get tickets and more info here.
We are excited to announce the collaboration between fine artist Nathalie Du Pasquier and the American-made company, American Apparel.
Nathalie Du Pasquier was born in Bordeaux, France in 1957 and has lived in Milan since 1979. She works as a designer and is a founding member of the Memphis Group.
She has designed numerous “decorated surfaces” including textiles, carpets, plastic laminates and some furniture, and now clothing for American Apparel.
The 20 piece collection is currently available at 20 retail stores in select global markets and online at americanapparel.com for both men and women. The colorful and graphic textiles that are distinctly Du Pasquier’s signature style have been used for new and classic silhouettes. The outcome is the perfect meeting of the minds! New pieces, including swimwear and leather accessories will be released each month for the duration of summer.
All Artwork: Nathalie Du Pasquier
Tokyo. You seriously put it out. Grandmothers in hot pink whizzing by me on a bicycle. The pairing of colors I would never dream of. THAT PINK UNDER EYESHADOW. The shout outs to American teams & cities.
I recently had the pleasure of walking the streets of Tokyo on way too many ume cocktails. The liquor gave me the boldness to ask (and mime) the same question over and over “Photo Fashion?”
These are some of my favorites!
She’s back. For the first time since 2007, Kate Moss is teaming up with Topshop to create an effortlessly cool collection. Debuting in this month’s issue of British Vogue, Moss styles Freja Beha Erichsen in a rather autobiographical collection. Moving away from the usual Topshop super trends, Moss brings her personal style and own wardrobe heroines to the table. Here is a peak of what’s to come:
The full collection will be available in-store and online at Topshop from April 30th.
It’s fair to say that this film is at the top of the list for visual beauty and intrigue on its own, but these images of the goings-on behind the lens are just as mind blowing, if not more so. Not to mention the fact that these are all taken on film; remember when analog was the only option?
I love an artist with a signature style and Wes Anderson is nothing if not consistent. I fall hard for his colors, his costumes, his incredible recurring casts and the overall world that he creates through his obsessively curated shots and stories. Kogonada, who makes short videos that highlight the distinctive cinematic styles of some of the film-making greats (Stanley Kubrick, Yasujirō Ozu, and Richard Linklater, among others) has released a new project that highlights the ever popular “down the middle” shots in Anderson’s movies. Seeing them in this way was incredibly satisfying, especially on a Monday morning. Enjoy getting centered.
- Katherine Aplin
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