ROASTER NAME: Tony Querio
YEARS ROASTING: 6 years
COMPANY: Spyhouse Coffee Roasters, Minneapolis, MN
RELEASE: Tony Querio featuring Mauricio Ayala
The process of interviewing something is illuminating. To see what’s on their minds or the stories they want to share weaves a narrative beyond what’s said. Meeting Tony Querio, Director of Coffee at Spyhouse Coffee Roasters in Minneapolis, felt that way—like chasing a tale that extended beyond his stories, making ties and connections throughout his life, sailing through anecdotes and ideas and trying to find an end point. The stories themselves seemed endlessly tied together, inexorable, as if one story’s end could be the beginning of another. “I look back at my life and see these circles of things overlapping and hobbies or weird obsessions, giving up on at one point and coming back in a different form,” he shares.
It makes sense that tying together ideas and themes was on Tony’s mind. Being selected as Matchbook’s second featured roaster harkens back to his former life as a graphic designer, and doing coffee on the side years ago. “For the first two years out of college, coffee was my side gig. I would shoot weddings and try to make enough money as a photographer. I ended up turning down all these coffee opportunities early on.” Along with roasting his coffee, Tony designed all the materials you’ll get in your Matchbook box.
Circular experiences permeate Tony’s life, from his experiences growing up in a small town in Michigan (“there was only one stoplight”) to his ultimate job as the green coffee buyer and final decision maker for all things coffee. “I think everyone assumes that their childhood experiences are normal. In my family when we get together, most of the time we plan where we’re gonna eat, and they still live in that one stoplight town,” he shares, reflecting on the unique importance his family put on food and tasting new things. “My family would make me an exotic fruit basket for Easter…and now I’m in a sensory-based job. I can obsess over those things that were just what we did normally.”
As a father to a toddler, perhaps Tony is more attuned to these patterns, looking back on his own childhood experiences to realize how they shape his life. And perhaps its because Tony himself hasn’t lived a linear life—you know those people who always know exactly what they want and do the things they’ve been called to do since they were small? Tony’s life has never been that way. “There’s that tension as a kid, that I like this end more, but my friends are doing something this way.” So Tony’s childhood and early adulthood found him trying on a number of different jobs and hobbies. “I initially went to school to be a youth pastor,” he shares. As a teenager, he picked up the guitar even though now he admits he’s more of a base player, but as he mentions, “it’s rare for a kid to pick up the base.”
Finding patterns and meaning permeated a lot of Tony’s reflection on himself, and that’s why we chose to represent some key facts about Tony through a series of graphics. We took some of the things we found interesting and attempted to represent them through pictures and charts, perhaps a subtle nod to what we think Tony’s way of thinking is—organizing data and creating meaning to find answers and understand the world around us. We also think this is what makes Tony an amazing roaster. He’s thoughtful and multi-faceted and pays attention to the details. No one thing is meaningless, and everything fits together. That attitude is reflected in his coffee choices at Spyhouse, where he values sweetness and balance above all else, and through the choices he’s made throughout his life. “I’ve always gravitated more towards things that have flow and rhythm versus aggressive things,” he shares. “I notice that when I analyze things, it’s important to me that the parts work together. You can handle more acidity if there’s more sweetness. You can have more complexity when you have proper balance.”
For this release, Tony drew inspiration from 70’s rock-and-roll. “Being in music in the past and having a design background, one of my favorite things, and what I base my inspiration in design is classic gate posters, screenprints, and being that the inspiration of this project is indie record labels, I wanted to make a lot of allusions to that.” As for the bags themselves, “it’s made to look like a 70’s record label—even to the end where I redesigned the Matchbook logo and put it at the top.” Tony likes playing with imagery and symbolism, but not everything will be readily apparent. “One of the things I like doing in design adding hidden layers to my work. Sometimes not everyone will get it. There’s meaning to me and it gives depth to my work.”
We hope when you receive this coffee, you’ll take a moment to fully enjoy what Tony has crafted. Stare at the materials he’s made, and see if you can find something secret, something hidden. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for, if you don’t see what’s hiding, come back later. There’s no rush.