Ep. 029 – Matt Greenfield, owner of QED Coffee

Ep. 029 – Matt Greenfield, owner of QED Coffee




This week’s guest is Matt Greenfield, owner of QED Coffee. QED Coffee started as a wholesale coffee roaster and now has multiple locations in the Mt. Baker and West Seattle neighborhoods. They really excel at perfecting the flavor of their coffee through the roasting and brewing process, while also providing the customer with a great experience.


Highlights From This Episode:

  • QED started in 2012 as a wholesale coffee roaster.
  • Matt met and partnered with Jason Venhuizen in 2013 and decided to put together plans for opening a cafe, which they opened in 2015 in the Mt. Baker neighborhood of Seattle. They just opened their second QED Coffee cafe close to the Morgan Junction in West Seattle at the end of 2016.

What do you love most about what you do? There are so many facets to owning your own business and since the gourmet coffee industry is only about 25 years old, there are still a lot of things to be figured out and not a lot of absolutes… So there is this aspect of getting to play with things and experiment with all the factors that make for a great coffee (different coffee beans, from different places, processed differently, different roasting techniques and brewing techniques… all have huge impact on the finished coffee’s characteristics and taste).

  • So from the technical side of things, there are many ways to geek out over the roasting and brewing of the coffee but at the end of the day, it’s just coffee that tons of people enjoy daily. He being able to simply make that connection with people by handing them a delicious cup of coffee for them to enjoy.
  • Matt also really enjoys serving people and making connections. They have their cafe’s in neighborhood locations so they can be part of those neighborhoods and build the community connections with their regular customers.

Matt has a Bachelors Degree in Pure Mathematics and the name his business, “QED”, is a mathematical term used at the end of a solved mathematical proof. It is an abbreviation for a Latin phrase, meaning “That which was to be proven”… which is basically a sign of completion (not to mean it is the best thing period, but rather that this is what they decided to show and share with their customers… this is what they wanted to do with these coffees).

Matt gives a little history lesson on the relatively new rise in popularity of gourmet coffee and the “waves of coffee” trends.

  •  There are examples of pockets across the nation (and in Seattle), that have been making espresso 25 or 30 years ago (before the rise of Starbucks brought it to the masses.
  • First Wave – Black coffee at home.
  • Second Wave – Lattes, Macchiatos and such (Italian made machines imported for specialty coffee drinks)
  • Third Wave – People started modifying the equipment to do different and customizable things.
  • While there are some places with high-turn over (more of a job) but being a barista and working in coffee is now a viable career option… and that is what places like QED, Stumptown, Victrola and Cafe Fiore do, where they have employees that have been there for a very long time, providing a wealth of experience and coffee knowledge.
What in your estimation is the difference between what creates a “this is just a job” environment vs. the longer term invested employee?
  1. The management and owners need to create a culture that takes care of their employees and strives to understand the unique challenges that people in the service industry have (inconsistent hours/shifts, no-paid vacations, avoiding employee burnout, etc).
  2. The engagement of knowledge – Providing employees opportunities to learn about the product, how it’s made, tasting it, asking questions of them… so they are engaged in what they are doing, who they are doing it and how to best serve and engage with both the product and customer.
Summarized: Matt’s vision for QED Coffee is to have a high focus to detail… both on the details of taking care of people; their employees and customers and the details that go into roasting and serving delicious gourmet coffee.
One issue with the top 1% of quality coffee places in the country, are not enjoyable places to get coffee due to their pretension… the customer may not be familiar with how they are suppose to order there drink and the barista will be condescending and snarky that the customer doesn’t order “right” or use the right terms… And QED Coffee will never tolerate this sort of attitude.
  • He uses the classic example of the “Carmel Macchiato” (which was popularized by Starbucks but is different then the classic Italian beverage) and how some specialty coffee shops try to shame customers that order “wrong”.
  • What is your biggest challenge now? Time. Not enough of it. Matt is working 6+ days a week… but normally, the challenge is staffing. Initially he only hired part time barista’s but he found they were very vested and now all of QED’s employees are full time and they are very supportive of each other and the shop.
  • What set’s you apart from others in your industry? Coffee wise, he tries to bridge the gap between the traditional and new school trends in roasting to give a well rounded, unique and consistent flavors. He goes deep in the weeds in the difference between single origin coffees and blends (Matt only does blends to blend the best body flavors with different notes and characteristics). Good coffee isn’t about the function of getting caffeine into your body… it’s suppose to be an experience.
  • What is your greatest strength? Given the right tools, he can solve any problem (this is the basis of Pure Mathematics, the subject
  • What are you passionate about? Coffee. The Bean… getting the roast right, getting the brew right. There isn’t a “correct” answer but there is a best answer for right now. The problem solving involved in getting the coffee tasting just right today.
  • What’s in store for QED Coffee? Still building the whole sale accounts and working on a secret larger cafe roaster location.
  • Parting Guidance – “If it was easy, everyone would do it”. It’s a well known saying but it’s something he has to remind himself of it sometimes.

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Thanks for joining me again this week. If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode – email me at christianharris@sea-town.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post. Thank you! And finally, please leave an honest review for The Sea-Town Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show and I read each and every one of them.

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