Our story begins in 1995; a story not so different from many other entrepreneurs and dreamers. At the time, finding great tasting, fresh roasted coffee was surprisingly elusive. So, Doug Zell and Emily Mange decided to do something about it. They didn’t set out to change the world, just a small corner of it.
Relocating from San Francisco, they opened their own coffeebar and retail store in Chicago’s eclectic Lakeview neighborhood. Roasting their coffee in-store, with equipment that was more antique than state-of-the-art, they honed their craft, seeking nothing less than perfection in every aspect of the experience. Little did Doug and Emily know that what started as a way to connect with people and the community in an intimate, personal way would blossom into something that would help shape an entire industry.
Fast forward 21 years, and Intelligentsia still holds true to the values that have inspired us since day one. We’ve grown, we’ve evolved, but we certainly haven’t changed. Through our coffeebars, Roasting Works, and training labs, we now make our home in five quintessential American cities, each possessing distinctive characteristics that resonate within the Intelligentsia brand.
From Chicago, we inherit the Midwestern work ethic and pragmatism that embodies the city of Big Shoulders. Los Angeles inspires us to dream big. New York reminds us of the need to be authentic and to live up to our own lofty expectations. Atlanta’s unmistakable Southern charm creates a model for our commitment to service. And cosmopolitan San Francisco fuels our continual push for innovation. Alone, each of these attributes is formidable. Combined they define our commitment to sourcing, developing, roasting, and distributing the world’s finest coffees.
Why We’re Different
We didn’t adopt Direct Trade practices because it’s a trendy way to do business; we introduced the concept to the coffee industry. Our commitment to direct trade allows us to cut out unnecessary importers and exporters, and enables us to truly partner with our growers.
Our buying team travels the globe and is collectively in the field virtually every day of the year, sourcing new grower relationships and working with our existing farmers.
We meticulously collect data, insights, and best practices from all of our growing partners and share them to improve overall quality. We also tie adherence to sustainable farming and environmental practices with our commitment to paying above Fair Trade prices for truly outstanding coffee. This ensures responsible stewardship of the land, and a sustainable business model for our farmers, resulting in partnerships that thrive year after year. Because of this, we’re able to provide you with exclusive, remarkable coffees you won’t find anywhere else.
What It All Means
We believe coffee in all its forms—whole bean, brewed, and espresso—should be an approachable, accessible luxury. Our goal is to make our coffee a memorable addition to any experience, and to make the act of preparing and enjoying a cup of our coffee an experience in and of itself.
The pursuit of exceptional coffee is a lifelong journey of discovery and delight. Whether in one of our coffeebars, at home, or at your favorite restaurant or café, we hope you’ll join us for your next cup.