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Elixr Coffee Brings Custom Aesthetic To Downtown State College

Early in December, downtown stape Saint’s Cafe announced its closure after 20 years in business. In its Instagram post announcing the closure, Saint’s welcomed Elixr Coffee Roasters to its space to “continue the tradition of superior coffee on the corner.”

We sat down with Elixr owner Evan Inatome and director of operations Christine Hughes to discuss their expansion to State College, their design aesthetic, and their favorite menu items.

“We’re kind of in expansion mode right now, and I’ve always admired State College. I’ve been here several times,” Inatome said. “It’s always been a really special cafe to me and Christine, who grew up here, went to State High, and graduated from Penn State.”

When Saint’s Cafe decided to close, it reached out to Inatome and offered the space to him for expansion after buying coffee blends in the past from Elixr, which is based out of Philadelphia.

“They brought this opportunity to us, and it was an opportunity that we couldn’t turn down because of Saint’s history and what it was,” Inatome said.

As far as feeling any pressure moving into the spot that housed Saint’s Cafe for 20 years, Inatome said the two cafes are so similar that they’re hoping to simply continue the Saint’s tradition.

“It’s pretty similar, the type of coffee that we do,” he said. “We just have a couple of different spins on things, a couple of different pour-over options, but the espresso bars are pretty similar.”

Transitioning from Saint’s to Elixr was rather easy thanks to the former cafe’s staff saying on board. Not needing to worry about rehiring took a lot of pressure off of the big move.

As far as Elixr’s design, Inatome based the aesthetic on the traditional Japanese concept “wabi-sabi” due to his Japanese heritage.

“Wabi-sabi is really simple,” he said. “It’s based on natural elements like wood, stones, and glass. So, some of our lighting is reminiscent of a Japanese fishing buoy, for example. But we honestly kept it very simple.”

As for what makes Elixr different from a large chain like Starbucks, Inatome had some personal experience to compare his cafes to.

“I used to be a barista at Starbucks, and the difference really is everything,” he said. “The temperature of milk, a lighter roast, the flavors — that’s all different. The presentations on the cup are different, too.”

Inatome mentioned Elixr’s custom ceramics, which are available to those who dine in. The ceramics used at Elixr also follow the wabi-sabi style.

“I custom-designed the ceramics myself,” he said. “If you look at Japanese tea culture, a tea ceremony is really important, and they present the tea in a ceramic that is in line with that wabi-sabi style. Wabi-sabi means ‘imperfect,’ so the Japanese teacup is actually wobbly, in a way. That’s how we designed some of our ceramics.”

Inatome also mentioned that he takes pride in the difference between Elixr and other small cafes.

“We don’t try to accomplish a lot, but we just try to do as best we can,” he said.

Elixr Coffee’s menu includes a wide spread of lattes, coffees, and espressos, plus baked goods like muffins and other pastries. Inatome and Hughes laughed as they couldn’t agree on a favorite from the cafe.

“Probably the strawberry milk matcha, which is actually Christine’s creation,” Inatome said while Hughes laughed.

Hughes didn’t pick her creation as her favorite drink, though.

“I would say a pour-over coffee is my favorite item, but the strawberry matcha is pretty good, too,” she said.

Inatome explained that while the strawberry matcha is beautiful to look at, the effort that goes into their single-origin coffee procurement is something he values when it comes to the coffees sold at Elixr.

“If I find a really amazing coffee, sometimes it’s really expensive and doesn’t make sense for companies to buy it,” Inatome said. “You know, we bought coffee that was $80 a pound this year, but sometimes we’ll get those coffees just for fun. We’ll actually lose a little bit of money on it, just to get it out there so that customers can drink something interesting and something fun. The single-origin program is kind of the crown jewel of Elixr and something we’re proud of.”

Elixr Coffee is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 123 W. Beaver Ave. You can find more information on Instagram or the cafe’s website.

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About the Author

Caitlin Burns

Caitlin is a senior majoring in english. She watches "Dance Moms" from the beginning three times a year and thinks she's a barista because she can make one drink from Starbucks. She can usually be found taking a nap or being unreasonably angry at small inconveniences. You can contact her at [email protected]

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