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Davis, California

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Best of Davis: Coffee

Winner: Philz

Walking into the Philz in Downtown Davis, you’re immediately hit with the subtle smell of fresh coffee. This location opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. everyday, and throughout the day (as early as 8 a.m.) tables are packed. Most of these people have laptops and appear to be working, but there are a few people in serious discussions and others reading the newspaper or a magazine. There are even some who look like they’re on an awkward first date. They mostly appear to be students, but sometimes older people or young families walk in — they tend to stay for less time than the people intently working. Around the coffee shop, there are armchairs, sofas and a coffee bar, in addition to the many tables. The low strains of conversation are overpowered by the beats of contemporary R&B music from artists like Daniel Caesar, Frank Ocean and H.E.R.  

Philz Coffee was founded by Phil Jaber, who, according to the Philz website, wanted to “create a blend that was flavorful, complex, rich, smooth and low in acidity.” In pursuing this goal, Jaber traveled around the world and visited thousands of coffee shops. The first Philz opened in 2002 in the Mission district of San Francisco, starting its trend of personalized coffee. In 2005, Jaber’s son Jacob Jaber took over and became its CEO, leading expansion of the company, and Philz locations can now be found all over California as well as in Chicago and Washington D.C.

Paying attention to the little details of Philz makes it easy to realize how quintessentially Davis it is — with a bike and bike wheels prominently displayed on the walls along the E St. side and a wooden peg board with jars of spices, like cinnamon and cloves, sitting atop shelves on the opposite side of the shop. Along the coffee bar where baristas take orders, there are pride flags as well as stickers for sale that will benefit the Orphan Kitten Project. If a customer uses their own mug, they can get up to 24 ounces for the price of a small and there are mugs everywhere, so regular customers can leave one and use it when they go in.

“Our team personally changed [a lot of the decor],” said fourth-year landscape architecture major and Philz barista Hayley Chung. “It’s fun as a design student to get to do some stuff here and put some things up. Philz has a design team, and they try to get the essence of a place, so if you go to a different Philz anywhere else, it’s going to be a completely different aesthetic.”

There is a sign near the register that says that they have teamed up with local bakeries to “bring you the best.” They boast freshly made-to-order food and “wholesome (and delicious)” ingredients.

“We try to keep everything as local as possible,” Chung said. “It makes it fresher and also cheaper in terms of transportation costs and how much we’re impacting the environment. Most of these bakeries are Sacramento local bakeries […] it’s nice to keep it around here.”

According to Chung, about half of the baristas are students at UC Davis, and because of that and the age of people who generally come in, she’d describe the vibe as “young.”

“It’s laid-back, everyone who works here is pretty young,” Chung said. “I feel like we relate to our customers more, because we know [them] from classes and such.”

“If [Philz] were on campus, I’d be there all the time.” said first-year biological sciences major Anuprit Gill. “It’s a little bit of a bike, so I go at least every weekend. It’s the perfect place to study, because for me personally, I can’t sit in a dead-silent place. I can’t go to the library because there’s tension in the air. At Philz, there’s always music in the background [and] chatter. It’s just a nice vibe.”

Gill’s regular order is the iced Philtered Soul, sweet and creamy, and it’s her favorite because of its hazelnut flavor and because she finds it to be “refreshing” year round. Gill first tried Philz in Davis, because there wasn’t one where she grew up, and she strongly believes that Philz has the best coffee and is the best coffeehouse in Davis.

“Something about Philz, it’s just filled with love,” Gill said. “It feels like [that because] it’s hand-made. They make it in front of you. The vibe is [such that] you can go study there [or] just chill.”

Chung shared why she thinks that Philz is considered to be the best of Davis.

“I think Philz allows you to customize your coffee a lot more than other places do,” Chung said. “I think it has a younger feel than the other coffee shops. It has the convenience of a bigger chain, but it feels more Davis.”

Drinks at Philz can be ordered with differing sweetness and creaminess, and of all of the combinations, the Mint Mojito, sweet and creamy, and iced Philtered Soul, sweet and creamy, are the two most popular.

“Learning how to become a Philz customer is kind of intimidating, but we’re here to help people and it’s our whole job to do that,” Chung said. “So don’t be intimidated!”

Written by: Anjini Venugopal — features@theaggie.org  



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