In 2008, Intelligentsia launched the In Season designation to proudly call attention to any coffee in our lineup that is still within nine months of harvest. Because coffee is a fruit, the coffee tree, coffee blossoms, and coffee berries are just as reliant on peak, seasonal harvest practices as any other produce, and the equator splits most coffee growing climates into two polar opposite harvest times. Peak-harvest coffee berries contribute the highest amount of sweetness, brightness, and complexity to the seed itself. If properly processed, the coffee in its raw, green state can retain vibrant flavors and aromas for an extended period if stored properly, though coffee is still an agricultural product and those flavors and aromas can fade. The In Season label, along with harvest dates available on the website, showcase the freshest coffees and our commitment to seasonality. We are the only US roaster with this commitment to our customers and partners at source.
In 2003, Intelligentsia pioneered a new approach to the coffee trade that is driven by a relentless pursuit of quality, built on direct relationships with growers, and characterized by transparency throughout the supply chain. Fulfilling strict criteria founded on cup quality, price paid to the farmer, financial transparency, and on-site visits to coffee farms, our Direct Trade model broke new ground in the industry and contributed to important changes in the way that coffee is sourced. Our Direct Trade offerings represent years of hard work and collaboration with our partners at source, based on our mutual commitment to pursue quality and create value for everyone in the Intelligentsia supply chain. We know that for our model to be as influential and impactful over the next decade as it was during the last it must actively evolve. That’s why we are updating its criteria to incorporate what we’ve learned through practice and partnership over the last 15 years. Stay tuned for more about the exciting progression of Direct Trade in the new year.
Competitions and Awards
Cup of Excellence
The Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the work of coffee farmers by promoting standards of transparency and quality. It operates the prestigious Cup of Excellence program, a powerful showcase that recognizes and rewards talented farmers who create coffees of exceptional craftsmanship. This competition is the most rigorous in the industry; coffees that pass through to the international auction are evaluated dozens of times by more than thirty professional tasters during three separate stages. No coffee undergoes more scrutiny than a CoE coffee! Intelligentsia has long supported the program and participates frequently on the juries. We have often used the program as a catalyst to forge connections with coffee growers and discover potential partners.
Baristas are the final link in the chain that connects the customers in our coffee bars to our Direct Trade partners at origin. They prepare our coffees with a chef’s culinary precision and an anthropologist’s understanding of place and provenance. They are, in short, the ambassadors for our coffees.
That’s why we have invested to build a robust education and training program for our baristas and why we support their participation in the annual U.S. Coffee Championships. Every year, Intelligentsia baristas distinguish themselves among their peers through exceptional routines that push the boundaries of service. But they do not do it alone: the coffees they choose to compete with are some of the most remarkable and intriguing we have on our menu each year. That’s why we’ve chosen to highlight those that have been used with great success in these events.
The granddaddy of all coffee competitions is the annual Barista Championship, which began in 2002. Since its inception, no coffee company has had more success in this arena than Intelligentsia. Our baristas have claimed the U.S. Barista Championship four times: Matt Riddle (2006), Kyle Glanville (2008) and Michael Phillips (2009 and 2010). Michael Phillips, the only back-to-back champion in the competition’s history, went on to become the first U.S. winner of World Barista Championship in 2010.
In 2015, Intelligentsia Barista Sarah Anderson won the US Brewer’s Cup and went on to place fourth in the World Brewer’s Cup.
Good Food Awards
Good Food Awards is a culinary competition that incorporates standards for both quality and sustainability. Each year, GFA recognizes producers of tasty, authentic, and responsible foods in 14 categories. GFA’s unique, multifaceted criteria include sensory, cultural, and social/environmental sourcing criteria. Intelligentsia is proud to have sourced and roasted coffees grown by our Direct trade partners in Kenya and Ethiopia that were Good Food Awards winners in 2013, 2014 and 2016.