"To be honest, Intelligentsia was my first awakening to quality coffee as a consumer. I walked into their Broadway shop and grabbed a bag of some Kenyan Auction Lot and it was $40. I was too embarrassed to say that I didn’t want it, so I took it home and made the best coffee I’ve ever had until that point. The next day I made another press pot of it and it was horrible. After that I was stuck. I kept going back in and pestering the baristas about what I doing wrong until finally I decided that it wasn’t going to be a simple process. When I opened my shop a couple of years later and was looking for a roaster, obviously I went to Intelly first. Their coffees and staff had won me over as a consumer and that’s what I wanted to do with my shop. I wanted refined, conceptual coffees that had the ability to change perception.
As a roaster, Intelligentsia was a great fit for us. We found a company that was progressive and was helping to shape the landscape for a craft or culinary coffee movement. They took risks and supported us when we did. We found a company that believed in the culinary aspect of great coffees, which is something that is really a defining characteristic of our shop.
We have an in depth food program, run by my partner, who comes from a fine dining background and we work with some of the best restaurants in Chicago to raise the level of quality of their coffee service. All the coffees we prepare and serve are scrutinized for their culinary value, which is something that Intelly can not only get behind, but get excited about. It’s a big deal for a small company like ours to able to talk openly with roasters and baristas and buyers about what we want our program to be and Intelligentsia has always supported and assisted us in our evolution.
In practical terms, as a shop owner who works the bar 7 days a week, the level of support that we get from Intelligentsia is invaluable. Our point man Jay Cunningham has become a good friend to us. Whether it’s hauling us coffee in the middle of the day because I messed up my order to talking retail strategy and what he’s seen work, to just talking about the general state of the coffee industry he continues to be a resource for us both personally and professionally. Besides Jay, the tech dept is probably who I’m on the phone with most often.
We are obsessive about our coffee and our gear. I call Jim Karr and the tech guys at Intelly more than they want sometimes, but they have not only helped us keep our equipment running the way we want it to, but they have helped to teach me how to do a lot of it myself. That is something we did not expect when we bought our machines. You know what they say about teaching a man to fish and all. Doug Palas and our regular tea tastings, Stephen Morrissey and his coaching for barista competitions, Curtis Kearby and the roasters letting me cup with them whenever I’m at the works and explaining the coffees and their roasts to me firsthand. I can’t say where my knowledge level would be at now without access to the resources and people at Intelly."