Thursday, July 21, 2011

Intelligentsia

{Good Coffee, and Other Scenes from the Kitchen}




Back when P. and I were living in Joshua Tree we made frequent trips into Los Angeles to see friends, take a break from the desert and -when we could spare the cash- make good on a chance to load up on coffee beans at Intelligentsia. So when our buddies from LA showed up in Maine this week with two telltale orange bags I clapped my hands with glee like a demented addict and cheered P. on as he ground the beans in an antique hand-crank grinder we found in a cupboard (an electric grinder was purchased that afternoon). And man is good coffee good; after drinking mostly mediocre coffee in India (albeit indulged with scalded water buffalo milk and golden Indian cane sugar) I'd almost forgotten how legitimately delicious just-roasted, just-ground, just-brewed coffee can be. Sipping the tangy, mellow brew (the Flecha Roja from Costa Rica was the consensus favorite) was one of the most vivid moments of bliss I've had since we've been back from Rajasthan. Shazam, people.

So all you coffeehounds, hip urbanites and global tastemongers, what's your favorite coffee roaster? Please weigh in. I'm betting on some Intelligentsia vs. Stumptown vs. Blue Bottle debates here.

36 comments:

  1. four barrel outta sf. actually the owner is friends with dwayne from stumptown and sources the same green beans (or used to at least) but roasts himself on valencia st. used to be a co-owner of ritual coffee too. fourbarrel is my fave cos they do a good job of balancing what i want out of a coffee (body, a certain heaviness, smooth) but still manage to get the subtle tastes and characteristics that individual coffees have.

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  2. Living in Venice, we are Groundwork coffee people. But once we move to the East side I suspect Intelligentsia will take its place! I think they're pretty on-par. And being from Seattle, I could talk about this forever, so I will stop now.

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  3. I actually roast my own in a popcorn maker, and I swear it's the best coffee in the world- I live right down the street from Intelligentsia and it doesn't even compare!! And it's super cheap to buy beans in bulk, and you can find used popcorn makers on Ebay for next to nothing! Then the house smells of roasting coffee and you get street cred. I don't know where, but it's street cred somewhere...

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  4. Whoa, Rebecca roasts her own!? Go girl! You've got cred with me.

    For me, it's Verve coffee all the way. They're AMAZING. If I had extra, I'd send it your way just to prove they're amazingness to you :)

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  5. *their amazingness. Sorry for the double comment, I just cant handle leaving a typo out there on the internet ;)

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  6. Blue Bottle! Best coffee I've ever had. My entire trip to SF was worth it just to try their coffee fresh.

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  7. I'm from Seattle but we're living in SF at the moment, and can't escape having some stubborn feelings and ideas about good coffee. I love Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Sightglass and all of the lesser known Seattle coffees from home (Fiore, Cafe Allegro, Bauhaus) but we've recently discovered Bicycle Coffee, roasted here in the city, and for our little percolator, it makes a very good cup of coffee. oh, and it gets delivered by bicycle(!!!)

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  8. I sadly am allergic to caffeine, so no coffee for me, but my boyfriend is a Stumptown freak. He has it shipped to him all the way to Antarctica when we're there half the year.

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  9. My husband and I always like to try and find a local roasting co that is tasty enough to enjoy during our time in that area. Right now we're digging http://www.redroostercoffeeroaster.com/ Not only is their coffee delish but they're excellent graphic designers as well. Nothing like a pretty bag to bring it home in!

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  10. Stumptown!! I live in Beijing & get my friends to bring it over whenever they visit...I've had Intelligentsia numerous times though & it is definitely comparable, as is Ritual coffee...p.s. love your blog...

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  11. Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company. Pffffft Verve.

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  12. Dizzle- thanks for teaching me any Four Barrel- I'll tell my sister in SF to go seek them out!

    Kate, glad you found a good local roaster but woot-woot for the east side life!

    Rebecca, you had me @ popcorn maker. Damn, girl! The thought had never occurred to me, but you make a good case for home roasting. I'm in awe!

    House, I admit I've never heard of Verve. Quite intrigued, ESP if it gets your seal of approval.

    Tu, glad they opened up a location in Brooklyn so I can in on the action when I move to NY.

    Mi, thanks for the awesome list!!! And yes pls to the bicycle delivery.

    Liz- wait, no coffee for you but Stumptown for hubs IN ANTARCTICA?! The world is a crazy place, man. (ps is he doing bird research by any chance? we may have an antarctic connection...)

    Esther, just checked them out and thats the type of place P. and I would go out of our way to hit up on a roadtrip. Where in heavenly VA are you based? LOVE.

    Limonana, you have amazing friends and great taste! (& thx for stopping by bB)

    Rhi, you sassy lady, Ima check it out. xo

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  13. okay. how did you know that i just searched for your iced coffee new orleans style recipe today? i needed a refresher from last summer.

    i'm back on the coffee crack wagon, and i hope to never fall off again.

    huge blue bottle fan here, but i just discovered equator coffee due to the lack of bb in wine country. it's good, but doesn't totally make my veins sing happy tunes like the golden bliss of bb. verve is good, ritual is basically blah. i'm going to find a bag of intelligentsia in hopes it leaves me howling at the caffeine gods.

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  14. Gorgeous photos, the colours are heaven.

    I have coffee envy. Being in the UK I've never heard of any of these coffees but now I NEED them. Also, popcorn roasting? Hell yes.

    My favourite coffee, for what it's worth, is by a local organic company called Tapa. My favourite supermarket ground coffee is Ugandan from Good African Coffee. It's delish.

    (oh Meg sent me by the way, she said it was criminal that I didn't know you. She may have been right. )

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  15. Intellegentsia coffee makes my tummy hurt. Meh Blue Bottle. Stumptown's pretty marvelous, but pretty much Imma girl just wants a shitty cup of coffee with some milk in it. Your local street vendor'll do.

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  16. Try as I did, I never really got on the SF coffee bandwagon when I lived there. Not even Blue Bottle. I remain a sucker for the Italian roasts, usually Illy.

    We use those Bonne Maman jars as drinking glasses and food storage in our house.

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  17. that coffee blend looks incredible!!!

    although i am partial to blue bottle! i love having the fresh beans shipped to me in michigan.

    love that field guide, as well :)

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  18. i love the photographs, i have been looking for good espresso beans i wonder if you have ever had there espresso

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  19. I feel pretty "meh" about the big roasters that get a lot of attention (Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Stumptown, etc.) The best coffee I've had are from small roasters in Seattle. But since I live in SF, I buy Bicycle Coffee.

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  20. We loved Coffee Roasters of FL while living in Jacksonville ( only coffee shop we found in Jax that roasted their own beans & the owners are always there & super knowledgable ). Now that we're in WA, our landlord roasts coffee in the garage!! So every 3 weeks or so we're treated to the smell of coffee roasting & a fresh batch. We will sooo miss living here when summer is over.

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  21. Not to be snotty here...but Stumptown's from Portland, people. NOT Seattle. Gotta set the record straight. :)
    That being said, fine coffee is like fine wine to me: once I hit a certain point (seems to be about $10-11/pd coffee, $20-30/bottle wine), I can't tell what's better, just that it's GOOD and in front of me!

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  22. Oh, how I love this post. My favorites are Cafe Vita (Seattle), Stumptown, and now that I"m in LA, Intelligentsia.

    Also... Rebecca- a popcorn maker??! Tutorial please.

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  23. my favorite coffee is a blend from nicaragua that is sold in italy through a fair trade company. It's so strong I have to be careful with it, I'm pretty sure after the second cup i have superpowers and could jump on building swalls like spiderman. Once I had a cup of this coffee at five in the afternoon and that night I was awake until three.

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  24. Haha yes Antarctica... but nothing glamorous like bird research. We have the title of "science support" which just means we scrub toilets at the bottom of the world. But it enables us to travel and this year we're headed to India! Travel research is actually what led me to your blog and your exquisite photographs and hilarious writing helped seal the deal.

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  25. Whatever Contraband on Larkin St. in SF is using to make my beautiful little cortado each time I visit gets my vote. I did drink Intelligentsia when I lived in Chicago. They were less cool back then, but their coffee was great and I loved their little cafe on Broadway St.

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  26. my fave is the bicycle-delivered Just Coffee Co-op based here in Madison. But I would take that buffalo milk any day...

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  27. there is a place in NYC called joe... i'm addicted to their coffee from different regions. i'm also kind of addicted to your blog as well. you, your husband, and your dogs remind me of my own little furball family.

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  28. ha- late to the party. we never can decide between stumptown and intelligentsia. mostly, lately, we think stumptown. and we always love ethiopian beans!

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  29. fantastic input, everyone! i can barely keep up with all these amazing recommendations!

    there's a local roaster in princeton, nj, not far from where i grew up (aka "the farm" for those of you who have been reading bigBANG for some time) called small world coffee, and they easily rival some of the "hip" brands like intelligentsia and blue bottle. i agree with some of you that small, local roasters often take the proverbial (coffee) cake simply because of freshness.

    keep the recs coming, and hello to all you new commenters!

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  30. I'm a little late to this, but I love love Intelligentsia. They opened one near my house and it's my special little treat. It's a little pricey, but it's a treat! ... once-in-a-while type of thing. and it's truly magic, way better than i could make at home or get at starbucks or the corner cafe... they are simply good at what they do!

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  31. Late to the party, but still here nonetheless. When we moved to Evanston, we were hooked on Peet's & Intelligensia, but then came to love little local Casteel Coffee on Central Street - great artisan roasters and within walking distance of our house. Then teeny tiny Alchemy Coffee House opened in nearby Wilmette and suddenly we had not one, but two small batch roasters within walking distance! It reduced me to tears when we moved away. Now we live on the west coast and it kills me that 1. I can no longer walk to a coffee shop, and 2. folks here say there isn't anything good to eat or drink in the midwest. It's high time I learn to roast at home. Love visiting your lovely blog.

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  32. for reasons beyond me, my husband doesn't drink coffee (i know, INSANE) so i rule the roost when it comes to selecting my brew. whilst on our honeymoon in mexico, i had the most amazing coffee EVER. smooth but rich, perfectly brewed, with notes of honey and chocolate. i almost died. they told me it was from costa rica, so the first thing i did back in nyc was scour the city for the perfect costa rican blend. i found it at whole foods. i can't live without it.

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  33. My husband and I started a company based off of Bycicle Coffee (we are related to the roaster and love their coffee). There is nothing like roasting your own coffee and drinking it fresh in the morning. Now when I get coffee (even in Seattle where we live) it is not the same at all. Organic also wins the taste test in my book and trumps nutrience wise.

    Popcorn roasters are great check out youtube for tutorials.

    alicia@brollycoffee.com

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  34. How is there not more love for Ritual Roasters in these comments? Humph, says the San Francisco lady. Blue Bottle, meh, indeed.

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  35. In SF a lot of people rave about Philz Coffee. I'm a huge fan of Blue Bottle, and I just discovered Coffee Bar also. I'm just so glad there are other options than Starbucks!

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