Music lovers all over the world celebrated Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, this year, which also happened to be the fitting first anniversary of Chicago-based Purple Llama, a multiroaster coffee shop and record store hybrid in Wicker Park.
With more live performances and community events in the works, founder Joel Petrick and the rest of the Purple Llama team, including Director of Coffee Dylan Connell and General Manager and Vinyl Buyer Adam Hirzel, envision the shop not just as a coffee spot or a music spot, but as a true hybrid inspired by both.
To commemorate its first year, Purple Llama is launching a Coffee & Record Subscription, a bi-monthly box set that will pair coffee roasters and records from all over the world. Each box will include coffee from a rotating selection of international roasters and an LP, which will be chosen based on the coffee or roaster’s country of origin, as well as the location of the recording artist or record label.
“We are trying to deliver an experience to our subscribers,” said Petrick. “For us, coffee and vinyl records compliment one another. Brewing a great cup of coffee is a ritual in the same way that spinning vinyl is. Both require a little extra time to focus on the product and method.”
A portion of the profits from a two-week-old Kickstarter campaign will go to Foundations of Music, a local organization that works to give children access to music education in over 30 under-funded Chicago Public Schools. Purple Lama plans to build in an option to donate within the subscription service in the immediate future as well.
“There are so many fantastic roasters in Europe, and globally, and it is often financially prohibitive to get your hands on a bag of coffee from these roasters,” Petrick mentioned. “Because we order these coffees in volume for our shop, we are able to feature them in our subscription service.”
Connell said that at any given day, the shop may feature roasters from four or five different parts of the world, with coffees hailing from countless coffee-producing regions.
“At Purple Llama, we are possessed by interesting and exciting coffees,” he said. “The feeling of excitement we feel when a new bean comes in the door and blows us away is unparalleled to anything else.”
The shop is currently serving coffees from U.S. roasters such as Counter Culture Coffee, Sey Coffee, Roseline Coffee, Maquina Coffee Roasters, Sump Coffee, AKA Coffee, and Ceremony Coffee Roasters, as well as from international roasters such as The Barn, April Coffee Roasters, and Langøra. Connell said the shop seeks a wide diversity of offerings to give coffee-curious patrons plenty from which to chose.
The shop offers filter coffee options, including batch brew on a Fetco XTS and pourovers using Hario V60s supported by a Mahlkonig EK43. For their espresso offerings, a Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinder is used for the house espresso, which is a rotating single origin coffee by Counter Culture. The second grinder is reserved for the rotating guest espresso, which changes every two weeks. Espresso drinks are made on a La Marzocco Linea PB. All water for brewing coffee is run through a reverse osmosis system, with two Marco boilers for dispensing the water.
“I have been a fan of both coffee and records since college,” said Petrick, who left the corporate world to open Purple Llama. “I spent most of my 20ss combing Chicago’s finest record stores and spending most of my hard earned cash on wax.”
Petrick equated a drinking a cup of coffee to playing a record, with both the last act in a long chain that begins either with the farmer who produced the coffee or the artist who wrote the song. In both instances, he noted, the consumer is part of the experience. This inclusion is what continues to excite him about the concept.
“Coffee was integral to the experience of dropping the needle on a new or classic record. Browsing the shelves with a good cup of coffee in my hand always seemed to heighten my senses, and thus, the experience,” said Petrick. “Combining these two experiences is what inspired us to introduce our subscription service. This is our way of including our customer in the daily ritual of coffee and music, whether in person or just in spirit!”
Lily Kubota is the managing editor and digital content manager for Roast Magazine. She is based in Southern California.