Recent Posts

ECWx Notebook: Small is Beautiful

ECWx Notebook: Small is Beautiful

It’s been more than 18 months since I published this account of our inaugural ECWx event: ECWx 2018 Colombia.  At the time, the memory of the event was still fresh. I was excited by the potential of ECWx to deliver real value to smallholder coffee…

Finca Chelín’s 22 Flavors

Finca Chelín’s 22 Flavors

In the early 1950s, the ice cream parlor chain Baskin-Robbins unveiled a new slogan.  Its iconic “31 flavors” tagline reflected its commitment to a menu so vast, customers could order a different flavor every day for an entire month.  The Baskin-Robbins vision was ahead of its time, and prefigured…

Los Delirios Labor Diaries

Los Delirios Labor Diaries

Our current Nicaragua Flor Azul lot comes from Milton Canales and the Los Monos section of his family’s Los Delirios farm. It was shade-grown and shade-dried at the family’s new dry mill, and represents the culmination of years of effort and investment to rehabilitate Los…

Our collective blind spot

Our collective blind spot

Intelligentsia’s Chicago Roasting Works is located in a light industry area a few miles west of the Loop, the center of the city’s financial and cultural districts.  Every morning on my way to work, I walk past manufacturing plants, dodging forklifts and rigs making deliveries…

ECW 2018: Bolivia

ECW 2018: Bolivia

As 2018 draws to a close, we look back at an Intelligentsia milestone: our 10th annual Extraordinary Coffee Workshop, held September 6-13 in Bolivia.

ECWx | The Big Idea

ECWx | The Big Idea

Before joining the team at Intelligentsia in 2016, I spent 14 years working for an international development agency.  A long-time collaborator in that work with a track record of innovation had so much success in rolling out new initiatives in part because he thought through…

Being there

Being there

The core principles and standard practices of our Direct Trade program contribute to the resilience of our supply chain partners by insulating them from risk.

ECW: What’s risk got to do with it?

ECW: What’s risk got to do with it?

Once a year, we convene all our Direct Trade partners from around the world — more than 50 growers and representatives of farmer associations, washing stations and exporters from 15 countries on four continents — for a week of farm visits, cupping sessions, presentations, meetings,…

Busting the microlot myth

Busting the microlot myth

The idea that Direct Trade is all about microlots is pervasive.  And persistent. And, at least in our case, dead wrong.

Escaping the commodity trap

Escaping the commodity trap

From the day we opened the doors at our original location on Broadway in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood back in 1995, our business has been built on quality-based differentiation: we have always worked to deliver the best coffee and the most elevated experience in the marketplace.  When…

The signal and the noise

The signal and the noise

Arguably the most important principle of our Direct Trade model is the one implied in the name: a commitment to direct engagement with the farmers who grow our coffees.

The Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen

Beginning about a decade ago, the term resilience began a steady climb to ascendancy in the field of international development.  In that domain, resilience refers to the ability of disadvantaged people to draw on different forms of capital — financial, natural, physical and social —…