Intelligentsia Coffee

photo by Keith Chu

If you ever find yourself wandering around north Broadway Avenue in Chicago you may stop in your tracks as hypnotic fumes fill your lungs. You may also grab the arm of the nearest person around you and ask with urgency what this smell could possible be in all of the earth and how you can acquire more.

This situation, my friends, occurs on a daily basis in front of the world known Intelligentsia Coffee shop and happened to me when I first stumbled upon the coffee house which happened to be less than a block from my studio. In the up and coming neighborhood of Lakeview you can find a cult-following of the coffee and their splendid teas. With partnerships with bands like Chicago-based Wilco and their own roasters, Intelligentsia has become one of the world’s leading independent coffee shops in the United States.

On arriving in the small but airy shop you will be immediately greeted by the sound of espresso machines whistling and the latest independent music. One glance around and you will come to the realization that this coffee shop is different than any other you’ve been in. A balance of earthy wood elements and industrial accents enhance the espresso machines and french presser’s on display. The cleverly designed logo; wings with a cup of coffee in the middle below a red star, will adorn ceramic mugs, tea cups and saucers alike. Before you capture the entire seen a tattooed Barista will greet you warmly and offer the days featured brews and teas. If you aren’t dedicated to a specific drink this is the time to ask for a recommendation as Michael Phillips, a previous Barista took first place in the 2010 World Barista Championships.

Although the shop’s claim to fame remains their delectable bean brews you can find that their tea is just as tantalizing. With over twenty teas (fifteen organic) on the menu, one can choose a blend that fits their taste. Organic Moroccan Mint seizes the drinker with jasmine and basket fired green tea. My all time favorite remains the Organic Earl Grey tea which boasts floral citrus flavors perfect to begin a cold, winter day in Chicago. Organic Jasmine Peach, Summer Satrupa Assam, and Organic Crane Blue Blend also offer the drinker much discovery, enticing the pallet.

Inside Intelligentsia Coffee

photo by m kasahara

According to Intelligentsia’s website, tea drinking is “an ephemeral art form to be relished with all the senses.” By cupping teas that prove exceptional to the tasters, the company offers only the very best and intriguing teas to its customers. In addition to leading in the tea industry, Intelligentsia offers sustainable and direct trade teas making them my favorite tea provider in all of the Windy City.

Drink Up Low Down

Where: Broadway Intelligentsia Coffee Bar (the original) 3123 North Broadway Chicago, Illinois 60657 open Monday through Thursday 6:30am-9pm, Friday 6:30am-10pm, Saturday 7am-10pm, and Sunday 7am-9pm.
What: Order the Organic Earl Grey hot tea on cold winter mornings and enjoy an iced Ginger Plum Ooling for the annual summer Pride Parade.
Price: Most teas will cost you less than $5.
Shop: Purchase mugs, espresso machines, loose leaf teas, and coffee by the pound. (You can also shop online.)