What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

Our single-origin coffees are the very best we have to offer — clearly articulated flavors that deliver on the promise of traditional cultivars, embody the terroir of their source, and reflect the meticulous harvesting, sorting and processing we have come to expect from our Direct Trade partners.  Some of these coffees are named in conventional ways: after the farms on which they are grown, like Finca Takesi in Bolivia or Gesha Village in Ethiopia, or after the farmers who grew them, like Corona Zambrano in Colombia or Gaspard in Rwanda.  But as Intelli regulars know, most of our single-origin offerings fly under banners altogether less prosaic and more evocative.  They are named for gods (Itzamná), angels (Anjilanaka) and saints (Tres Santos).  They conjure Africa’s sprawling animal kingdom (Tikur Anbessa) and its resonant percussive traditions (Karyenda).    They come from children’s literature (La Tortuga), a conversation with growers (Kurimi), a stroll through Buenos Aires (Los Inmortales), botany (Flor Azul), reflections about specialty coffee (Zirikana) and other arcana.

We call these names Intelligentsia marks, or I-marks.  In the latest episode of our buyer’s notebook podcast, I discuss our I-marks with the guy who came up with most of them, our VP of Coffee Geoff Watts.  In our conversation, Geoff tells me what many of the names mean.  He describes the varied and iterative processes through which many of them came to be.  Most importantly, he explains why we started using I-marks to begin with, and how we reconcile our commitment to total supply chain transparency with a system that subordinates the names of the growers behind our coffees to I-marks of our own invention.  Somewhere along the way, I spring a pop quiz on Geoff about Intelligentsia’s I-mark history, and he acquits himself well, naming almost all our I-marks in less than 60 seconds or less.

Listen to the podcast.  Take notes.  Do some internet research.  Correctly pair the 21 I-marks below with the 17 countries of origin for which they were used.  Between now and the end of the month, put your answers on paper, take a legible picture or video of them, and post it to your Instagram account with the hashtag #IntelligentsiaImarks and @IntelliSourcing tag.  If you are one of the first 25 to post a correct entry, I will send you a 12-oz bag of whole bean coffee from our current single-origin lineup.  (While making them pretty, creative and colorful won’t compensate for wrong answers, they will win you style points and get you more likes.)

For full contest rules, click here.

Listen to the I-marks episode here.

Add the podcast to your feed on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Good luck!

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  • Abong Abong
  • Agua Preta
  • Anjilanaka
  • Bosque Nublado
  • Cruz del Sur
  • El Cuervo
  • El Machete
  • Flecha Roja
  • Flor Azul
  • Ikirezi
  • Itzamná
  • Karyenda
  • Kunga Maitu
  • Kurimi
  • La Perla
  • La Tortuga
  • Los Inmortales
  • Ljulu Lipati
  • Tikur Anbessa
  • Tres Santos
  • Zirikana


  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Indonesia
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Rwanda
  • Zambia