Local Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. strolled into Urban Bean on Lyndale and ordered a mocha on the morning we sat with owner Greg Martin. “I like it shaken though, I like the froth,” he told Greg as he stood waiting for his drink.
“We don’t shake it,” Greg told him, smiling at the barista making the drink.
His reasoning is two fold: he thinks it’s classier to stir the drinks, just like a stirred cocktail. Secondly, which female barista would want attention drawn to them for shaking up a drink? As Greg discovered—none of them.
They make their own chocolate to begin with, so they developed a system of mixing this chocolate in the powder form with Dutch cocoa and cane sugar, using a small whisk. The result: a perfectly blended, powder-free mocha or hot chocolate (albeit, froth free).
Greg started working as a barista just out of college, a side job in addition to his 9 to 5 in sales. “My day job was very boring,” he told us, “I wanted to be learning, so that only lasted six months.” He left for Summit County, where he worked in opening a coffee shop from start to finish, from the build-out to the opening and drink-making.
With this knowledge under his belt, he opened his own bakery in 1995 (which has since closed) and the first Urban Bean location in 1997. “There’s something about coffee that people are passionate about,” he told us, “And I’ve always been into things that are palate-y like cigars and chocolate.”
“I also love the social part of the job—it’s easy to collaborate,” Greg explained to us. “I can be at work and meet interesting people, then do other things,” he told us, “I meet a lot of creative freelancers.” For example, he meets folks like Martha McQuade, who helped him remodel his loft apartment building (where P.O.S. is actually a resident) and design the Urban Bean space on Lyndale.
“I know plenty of lawyers and doctors,” Greg continued, “They all studied in the shop.”
Coffee and coffee shops are community builders in themselves, but the coffee better be good to keep people around. “You can’t say ‘good enough’ and rest on your laurels,” Greg explained to us. In the early 2000’s after opening into Urban Bean, he really started to get into the process of making coffee, attending barista conferences and taking notes from roasters like Stumptown and Intelligentsia.
As one of the few non-chain shops in Minneapolis, Urban Bean is worth seeking out for your daily pick me up.
Greg is wearing the Bensen in Greystone
Photos by Collin Hughes