The Intelligentsia Cup is Back!

For the third consecutive year, Intelligentsia Coffee is the proud title sponsor of the Prairie Street Cycling Series. These fantastic bicycle races run in six cities across Chicagoland from July 17 – 26, and attract racers from across the country. The last race takes place right outside our roasting works in Chicago’s Fulton Market!

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“To see the series mature and grow into being among the best in the country, a permanent fixture of mid-summer racing, is very gratifying,” said Doug Zell, Intelligentsia Coffee co-founder. “We are hopeful that this is a series that will bring great racers and bike racing fans to Chicago and surrounding areas for decades to come.”

Beginning in 2012 as the Prairie State Cycling Series, it took on the name ‘Intelligentsia Cup’ in 2013 with the initial title sponsorship of Intelligentsia Coffee as well as expanding to seven races. In 2014 the series grew to eight races – seven criteriums and a road race. For 2015 the series is proud that the road race was selected by the Illinois Cycling Association to host the Illinois State Road Racing Championships.

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“We are extremely excited that Intelligentsia Coffee has taken the leadership position to help grow the sport of cycling in the Chicago area,” said series partner and former pro cyclist Tom Schuler. “Our goal is to make the Intelligentsia Cup one of the premier cycling events in the United States and thanks to the support of Doug Zell and Intelligentsia Coffee we will be able to bring the exciting sport cycling to even more Chicagoland communities.”

Also new for the Intelligentsia Cup in 2015 is an expanded offering of racing categories. The series is committed to developing women’s racing with the addition of a third women’s category. As well there is a new age group category for 50+ and 60+ age racers. These additional categories gives even more variety of racing options on offer for all levels of racers, while still finishing each day with the top professional men and women from around the country and all over the world.

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We’ll be posting photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages, so be sure to follow us and stay tuned. You can learn more about the races series here.

Intelligentsia partners with SOMA Water

Just in time for Father’s Day, we’ve teamed up with our friends over at Soma to launch the perfect gift for the coffee loving Dad.

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By some measure, coffee is flavored water. We do our part to make sure the 2% of coffee in your brew is delicious, but the remaining 98% requires great water for the full cup to taste delicious. To help make this easier, we’ve teamed up with the water experts over at Soma to launch the perfect gift set for Father’s Day.

Soma is dedicated to improving life for everyone who drinks water – including coffee drinkers. They’ve worked with the world’s leading water filtration experts to design sustainable, plant-based filters that remove chlorine, odor and improve taste. Their products are beautiful additions to any kitchen, and we couldn’t be happier to announce this collaboration.

Each kit contains a Soma carafe and filter, a 12oz bag of a Soma Blend we put created especially for this, a beautiful customizable mug with a erasable marker, and a bespoke guide to better coffee by Intelligentsia and Soma. Head over to Soma’s website to buy this perfect gift for Father’s Day.

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Grado x Los Delirios

It’s been a minute since our last music collaboration, but as Summer approaches and Spring lets us shake off the last cobwebs of Winter, it’s time we celebrate the things that happen around the cup and partner with the best out there. Tomorrow we announce a new collaboration with Grado Labs, a Brooklyn based company that hand makes headphones and cartridges. The team from Grado came by our New York lab last week and tasted a bunch of our fresh crop arrivals from Central America. Their favorite was Los Delirios from Nicaragua. This year’s harvest has been really impressing us, and so to celebrate Grado’s good taste, we’re giving away 12 of their SR-80e headphones.

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Once we make the announcement on social media, anyone who orders a bag of Los Delirios online will stand a chance of winning the headphones. We’ll be placing a Golden Ticket inside twelve different online orders throughout the week. The offer applies to online orders only and will fulfill out of Chicago and LA.

Family run since 1953, Grado has seen three generations: Joseph, John, and Jonathan Grado. As Ars Technica says, “…on a quiet street in south Brooklyn is a manufacturing operation that produces some of the most renowned headphones… it’s just the Grados in their narrow townhouse making the little-known, well-loved line of headphones.” It’s nice that they chose Los Delirios, as it’s also a family run business. Brothers Donal, Milton and Norman Canales run the farm, their father is still involved, and his father originally established it.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Must be 18 years of age or older and a resident of the United States to participate. To enter, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Intelligentsia Coffee Inc., 1850 W. Fulton Street Chicago, IL 60612 attn: Grado Headphone Contest. All entries must be postmarked by Friday, May 15, 2015. Retail value of headphones is $99.00. A purchase of Delirios coffee will not improve an entrant’s chance of winning. Odds of winning dependent upon the number of Los Delirios bags purchased during the contest period.

Brewing Iced Tea on a Fetco

As Spring attempts to establish a hold – we’re starting to seeing warmer weather in our home city of Chicago. Yes it snowed during the week, and yes you still need to wear a coat outside, but it still got us thinking about summer and things you drink and serve to help temper the heat. Few things do this better than iced tea. With a ingredient cost of $0.06 per 16oz cup, iced tea presents a remarkable simple and delicious addition to your menu at a great margin. We made a short video outlining the steps to brewing iced tea on your Fetco.

Brewing Iced Coffee on a Fetco

Last summer we saw countless stories about iced coffee in the press. Most of these focused on the various ways of doing it at home, but regardless, the popularity of this drink is only on the up. We use the cold brewed method in our stores, which yields a very dense, decadent brew. But for those who but for those of you who have Fetco’s, we made a short video showing you the steps.

Intelligentsia Sponsors the United States Aeropress Championships

We’re excited to announce that we’re sponsoring the 2015 World Aeropress Championship, taking place this month in Seattle. Designed to celebrate the versatility of this beloved brewer, the competition will see national champions from over thirty countries converge in Seattle to see who’s plunge stands out. The event takes place on Thursday April 9th at 6pm in WithinSodo, an event space at 2916 Utah Ave South, Seattle.

Borderlands Project

The Borderlands Project is one of the most exciting and innovative development programs being operated in coffee today. Its mission is relatively specific: to help improve the livelihoods of thousands of smallholder farmers living in the border regions of Southern Colombia and Northern Ecuador. Coffee was identified as the most appropriate vehicle to support this goal, as the area is blessed with advantageous climate conditions that create the potential for extraordinary coffee quality. Coffees from Nariño have long been recognized by the industry as special, yet few of them make it to the marketplace in traceable condition and growers there have rarely been able to reap much benefit from their work. This is largely a result of the ongoing conflict in the region that has made access to the farmlands difficult and discouraged investment in coffee development in the area. Over the past couple decades Colombia has made some tremendous forward progress with coffee quality in many of its remote highland growing regions; departments like Huila and Cauca have had much success in the last ten years penetrating the specialty market and connecting growers with premiums for added quality. By comparison, Nariño has remained largely untapped: fewer than 4% of the growers in the region have access to markets that pay for cup quality, and over 98% of the coffees produced there are bulked and sold as untraceable, undifferentiated lots into the mass market for a marginal premium.

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Borderlands uses a very creative approach to helping farmers overcome some of the obstacles that have stood in the way of success, and its accomplishments thus far are powerful testaments to the value of collaboration and patience in the effort to solve complex problems. The first year (“year zero”) was spent studying the landscape and engaging with leading minds in the specialty coffee industry to brainstorm ideas. Rather than rushing in headfirst, Michael Sheridan and his team took the slow road to developing an action plan and wound up with something that is impressively comprehensive in scope and effective thus far in practice. Their program in Nariño attempts to enable lasting sustainability by fomenting the conditions in which growers can improve qualities, buyers can access traceable, consistent coffees and communities can work together to realize economies of scale. The plan includes systematic separation of coffee lots, technical support for community-based farmer organizations, construction of centralized wet mills for better post-harvest processing, and engagement with exporters and specialty coffee roasters to workshop ideas and facilitate farmer-buyer partnerships.

This limited edition lot comes from Fidencio Chamorro, one of the participants in the Borderlands program whose coffee finished at the top of our rankings for two consecutive years. His farm “La Loma” is located in the Linares, a small municipality in central Narinõ that is the site of one of the washing station projects slated for 2015. The local community has been especially active in assisting the project; the mayor donated municipal land for construction of the washing station, and the local public school has partnered with Borderlands to incorporate coffee seedling production into the existing applied agriculture curriculum. Fidencio himself is a young farmer—only 27—who represents the future of coffee in Nariño and is leading by example in Linares; his farm is meticulously managed and his enthusiasm for quality control has inspired others in his association to step up their game as well.

Intelligentsia Wins US Brewer’s Cup

This past weekend, Intelligentsia barista Sarah Anderson won the 2015 US Brewers Cup. Sarah is a senior barista at our Pasadena location in California and won the South West Regional back in October. It’s the first time Intelligentsia has won this competition, and the first time it’s been won by a female competitor.

Sarah’s brew method was very simple. It was essentially a cupping technique, but after steeping the grounds in hot water for 5 minutes, she decanted the whole thing through a V60 filter, cleaning up the mouthfeel of the brew, and enabling great articulation of flavor.

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This technique mitigated the risk of variance in pouring hot water over the grounds, and allowed Sarah to focus on her dialogue – telling the story of a Geisha grown at the highest coffee farm in the world. Her coffee was a blend of roasts: a base roast by our Head Roaster in Chicago Alex Burbo, which was then topped off with a selection of sample roasts done by Head Roaster in LA, Sam Sabori in Los Angeles, each bringing out different aspects of the coffee.

The coffee was ground on a Mahlkoenig EK43 and then sieved to different particle sizes and carefully blended together to achieve greater control in the extraction. Her water was prepared to 140ppm at our Pasadena location using the Reverse Osmosis system installed in the store. By doing all this, Sarah was able to mitigate many of the variables that preparing the coffee on-stage might have presented.

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“Winning the United States Brewers Cup is a celebration of the coffee and those who put their touch on it. It is a celebration of producers Mariana and Carlos Iturralde at Takesi who grew an outstanding coffee in an extreme location. It is an acknowledgment of Ben Morse and James McLaughlin’s wise choice to buy this deliciously high-scoring coffee. It is a nod to the craft of roasting demonstrated by Alex Burbo and Sam Sabori. It is a culmination of my training as a barista to master the skills necessary to prepare this coffee and present it to a judging panel. It is the polishing of my competition team that made my routine (and glassware) shine. It is all fueled by Intelligentsia, a company that promotes quality above all else and gives its employees the training and skills necessary to execute deliciousness. ” – Sarah Anderson

We couldn’t be prouder of Sarah, and can’t wait to support her as she prepares for the World Brewers Cup championship taking place in Gothenberg, Sweden this June. Stay tuned for updates on her training and her choice of coffee!

Uppers & Downers Festival

Two weeks ago, we took our Uppers and Downers series to the next level, and held our first ever coffee beer festival. An ongoing, collaborative series with Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting, this was the biggest thing we’ve done yet: 600 people, a multi-roaster espresso bar courtesy of La Marzocco Home, 14 brewers and a huge array of beer styles with coffee as a key ingredient.

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The event was really special for us, and presented a unique opportunity to engage the broader craft beer audience and proselytize the virtues of craft coffee. Uppers & Downers began with an event at our Pasadena coffeebar in October 2013. From there we ran smaller events in Chicago in 2014, all leading up to this festival. But this isn’t the end, we’ve more stuff in the works – and can’t wait to share details. For now, check out Michael’s beautiful recap of the event over at Good Beer Hunting, and check out the video below.

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Watch a video Good Beer Hunting produced of the event.

Festival of Coffee Beers

For over a year, Intelligentsia Coffee + Good Beer Hunting have been working with some of the most creative brewers and roasters in the country to create and showcase innovative coffee beers. Through a series of educational and competitive events, the series has inspired some amazing creations, such as a coffee saison, coffee quad, and even a cascara cider among many others.

This event brings many of those concoctions together for the first time, as well as some of the best coffee beers on the market, a multi-roaster coffee bar, coffee cocktails, homebrew competition winners, small bites from Dusek’s, and new-to-the-world beers from a special series of one-off experiments with Goose Island and Solemn Oath breweries.

More specifics about participating breweries and their beers will be announced ongoing as their experiments continue to take shape. Get more information about the event here.

Each ticket offers up to 15 tastings. Passed small bites included.

ECW 2014 – Ethiopia

This week, we’re hosting our annual Direct Trade event Extraordinary Coffee Workshop. As many of you know, this is really special for us as it brings together all of our Direct Trade coffee producers to share coffee, ideas and forge friendships. Now in its sixth year, we can confidently say that the result of this event is better coffee for you and I, and more sustainable, successful businesses for our producers. This year’s event is particularly special as we’re bringing these world class producers back to the country that gave coffee to the world – Ethiopia. Follow the story via our social media, and learn more about last year’s event here.

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Intelligentsia is thrilled to be holding our Extraordinary Coffee Workshop (ECW) in what is one of the most exciting and intriguing coffee producing nations on the planet. This unique event provides a collaborative forum for coffee growers from around the world to develop a deeper understanding about the challenges, solutions and opportunities in the specialty coffee market.

The producers in attendance are some of the most progressive and quality-focused coffee producers in the world. However, many rarely get the opportunity to taste the coffees of like-minded producers from other countries or even neighboring regions. To address this, Intelligentsia will be conducting roasting, brewing and cupping workshops, throughout the event.

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Additionally, this year’s ECW will include a public symposium – a collaborative event design to create meaningful dialogue between thought leaders in the Ethiopian Specialty Coffee sector and a highly accomplished group of visionary coffee farmers from around the world. Intelligentsia has brought together a group of award-winning farmers and exporters representing 15 countries to share what they’ve learned over the last two decades about improving quality, navigating the marketplace and creating a sustainable, profitable coffee business.

Attendees will visit farms in the famous regions of Sidama and Yirgacheffe, an incredible opportunity to see one of the only places in the world where coffee has been an integral part of traditional culture for many centuries. The significance of this is particularly relevant these days in light of how rapidly the coffee landscape is evolving. Unprecedented volatility in the market, the growth of the global demand for specialty and the changes in climate in recent years are all signals that our industry must take a progressive and proactive approach to learning and finding new ways to adapt and collaborate to improve our chances of success.

This year’s workshops will discuss the history of coffee in Ethiopia, the state of the coffee market today, new farming and processing practices that yield higher quality and our hopes for the future. We’ll invite updates from all our producers on new ideas and techniques being employed, and Intelligentsia baristas and roasters will be on hand to share their impressions of this past year’s coffees and consumer trends.

Intelligentsia Wins at the Southwest Coffee Championships

The Big Western coffee competitions wrapped up on Friday and we are extremely proud of our Pasadena shift lead, Sarah Anderson, who won first place in the Southwest Brewers Cup as well as Silverlake manager, Eden-Marie Abramowicz, who took second place in the Barista Competition by just two and a half points.

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Eden’s routine used our Limited Edition Reko from Ethiopia, and focused on the language we use to communicate what quality means throughout the supply chain. Her narrative focused on how her daily concerns differed from those of her roaster, Sam, and those of her green buyer, Geoff. Her signature drink involved a base of citric and tartaric acid diluted with some water and honey, a shot of Reko and then an aromatic air (foam), made with King Crimson tea.

Sarah’s win brings the Brewers Cup title back to Intelligentsia, and back to our Pasadena coffeebar, this is the second time the store has produced a regional champion. She now qualifies for the Brewers Cup semi-finals, held this February in Long Beach. You can watch her routine and see her brew recipe here. Eden also now qualifies directly to semi-finals of the barista competition, skipping the quarter finals round reserved for 3rd through 6th place competitors. You can watch her routine here.

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Also present at the competition this year were LA wholesale educator Julie Housh and Pasadena educator Casey Soloria. Julie was there in her role as chair of the Barista Guild of America and Casey was there representing Intelligentsia as a sensory judge in the barista competition – both were very helpful in supporting Sarah and Eden. Also there in support were Bailey Manson and Kevin Tabor, retail educators for Venice and Silverlake respectively.

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There were many past regional champions participating in this season’s competition, making it one of the most competitive regionals in the country. Eden and Sarah’s success is a fantastic testament to the quality of our coffees, our training and our staff in general. Thanks so much to everyone who supported them, and to Sarah and Eden for representing us so well.