Intelligentsia is a Chicago-based coffee company. Recently expanding to Los Angeles with locations in Venice, Glassell Park, Pasadena and Silver Lake. But People... this is not not just any coffee..
Their baristas win international brewing contests. The buyers fly across the world to buy the beans directly from farmers. To ensure that all is done fairly and with integrity. This is not just fair trade- it's DIRECT trade. Only sold when in season. Roasted on site at each cafe. From their website:
"Intelligentsia Coffee’s buying philosophy is not very complicated. We believe in coffee quality and have made a commitment to our customers to offer only truly dazzling Specialty Coffees that speak for themselves in the cup. We believe that to get such coffees we need to work closely with actual producers, not just importers or exporters, so that we can build great coffees from the very start.
Almost all coffee roasters claim that they "work with farmers" but few can back the promise. Intelligentsia travels to our coffee’s source each of the 12 months of the year. We visit farms, roll up our sleeves, and get to it. We take 24-hour redeye flights and 10-hour, high-altitude pick-up rides over serpentine roads. You pick up our coffee and we shake the hand of a farmer in Peru. Or Rwanda. Or Guatemala. And when you see the Intelligentsia Direct Trade logo on our bag, you know how much effort is invested in each bean.
In the broadest terms, these coffees should be understood as a true collaboration, with both sides investing a great deal of time, energy and ideas to produce something great. At the end of this process, the coffee farmer who grows an award-winning cup is an artisan, and should be regarded as such. We believe human effort is the most critical factor in quality coffee and that the growers who do the best work should get the best price and individual recognition."
Here are some of their seasonal, single source roasts. (blends are also available):
Agua Preta, Brazil: Santa Helena
"Maple syrup and molasses. A full, buttery mouthfeel cradles ardent baking spice and notes of concord preserves. The finish lingers as toasted almonds and hazelnut with a dash of cocoa."
Sulawesi Toarco Jaya
"A nonconformist in its own right, this coffee eludes the typical Sulawesi profile. A bouquet of coffee blossom, violets and fennel combine with candied tropical fruits and crème brulee to make for a complex and exciting cup. The acidity appears as a distinct and tangy mandarin orange at times while citrus cream at others. The finish comes cleanly and sweetly with light caramel and cane sugar."
These descriptions sound more like a fine wine than coffee beans. But that's just it. The passion that Intelligentsia demonstrates for a good, complex bean is only trumped by the exellency in which they brew it. They are so passionate, in fact, that they hold workshops for their coffee bean farmers to share their already innovative ideas, in order to find more ways to produce a delicious coffee. These workshops include the collaboration of their baristas, roasters, buyers, agronomists and farmers. All to bring you a brilliant cup o' joe.
For those of us trying to bring the cafe experience home:
Intelligentsia iPhone App
"The Intelligentsia Coffee application allows you to view the current coffee offerings with details from Intelligentsia Coffee. Additionally, you are given step-by-step instructional illustrations and descriptions for preparing coffee on multiple brewing devices. An integrated brewing timer with alerts ensures that your coffee will be perfect every time. Share coffees with your friends via email or Facebook or leave feedback about coffees for others to view. Directions, information and maps about our locations will help you to find the best place to grab a cup of coffee on the go."
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