In October of 1995 Doug Zell and Emily Mange left San Francisco to open an in-store coffee roaster-retailer on Broadway Avenue on the north side of Chicago. At that time they were simply hoping to bring great, fresh-roasted coffee to their own coffeebar with the help of a charming, but perhaps too often erratic 12-kilo roaster. Since then Intelligentsia has evolved considerably.
Intelligentsia now has three cities it calls home: Chicago—a city that is brooding, practical and reluctantly beautiful; Los Angeles—a city that views creativity as a birthright, is immensely vast, decidedly impractical and equally messy and marvelous; and New York—a city of paradoxes, hulking but chock full of intimate corners, timeless but achingly current, polished but decaying, worldly yet oddly provincial, all crashing together in perfect cacophony (or is it harmony?).
Honestly, we love all of these places, but for very different reasons. Straight backed-Midwesterness gives us pragmatism and self-discipline, West Coast optimism leads us to believe anything is possible, and the dynamism of East Coast is an unending source of energy. This combination provides the fuel for what we love to do: sourcing, developing, roasting and delivering the best coffee in the world.
Others talk about working with coffee producers and in many cases that’s all it is, talk. Intelligentsia’s buying team cumulatively spends over 365 days each year at source. We do not just buy coffees; we actually develop them while working alongside the farmers we work with who grow our coffee. Our coffees are unlike any others, and they are exclusive to Intelligentsia. We take insights, practices and expertise in preparation and processing garnered from our work around the globe and apply them to each of our Direct Trade coffees to make them the absolute best they can be.
We also want the growers we work with to prosper so we guarantee a price that is paid directly to them, which is set far above international fair trade standards. By combining focused attention at source with cup-quality price incentives, we continuously expand economic opportunity and culinary possibility.
In our coffee bars you can expect to find this remarkable coffee in all of its forms: whole bean, various approaches to brewed, and carefully prepared as espresso. Our goal is that each of these is presented in an environment steeped in education and humility. We want great coffee to be revered, yet democratic, approachable and accessible. By illuminating what is possible with coffee, we hope to change forever how you think about it. And that would be something.