Explore Chicago

A Look at Intelligentsia Coffee

The Chicago-based coffee houses offer some of the best coffee.

Intelligentsia Coffee is a Chicago-based coffee roaster and retailer with a reputation for sourcing and roasting high-quality coffees worldwide. Intelligentsia Coffee opened its first café in 1995, and the company has since expanded to operate cafés in several major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Boston. 

Intelligentsia Coffee

“We produce the world’s best coffee,” President and CEO of Intelligentsia Coffee James McLaughlin told us. “We work each day to change the way the world understands and experiences coffee. We are not afraid to ask questions, to try new things and to admit that we are constantly learning. We know that extraordinary coffee is not the result of chance but the product of hard work, skill, curiosity and an unyielding commitment to quality.”

The company has built a cult following since its debut nearly 30 years ago. “Our mission is to make extraordinary coffee an agent of change,” McLaughlin explained. “We embrace our role in creating positive change in the world, and we use extraordinary coffee as our tool. We challenge traditional beliefs to create economic opportunity, we are stewards of the earth, and we are advocates for our values of inclusion, equality and diversity.”

Beverages like the Black Cat Espresso have followings of their own. The Black Cat Espresso is made with notes of dark chocolate, raw sugar and marshmallow, and the company’s website sells the coffee in numerous formats, including a freeze-dried instant version. “It has to do with our approach to espresso,” McLaughlin said of the brew’s success. “We believe that only the best coffees can produce the greatest espressos. After all, espresso is just another form of brewing coffee. So, we’ve challenged ourselves to go beyond the common assumptions about espresso and expand what is possible in terms of flavor, aroma and mouthfeel.”

Though you’ll find numerous blends of Intelligentsia Coffee online, some of the beverages can only be found in-store. “Our Avena Latte has been so successful as a seasonal offering in our Coffee bars that we recently made it a permanent fixture of our menu," McLaughlin told us of the popular beverages.” In this Black Cat-based latte, flavors of cinnamon and vanilla beautifully intertwine with notes of ginger, orange and cayenne. We serve it hot and iced.”

In addition to the select offerings on the website, new things are on the horizon. “We’ve recently launched our coffee into k-cups in partnership with Keurig, and we’re excited to be one of the first companies to bring specialty coffee expertise to this format,” McLaughlin told us of the company’s future. “We’re also excited to push our Coffee bar formats forward with the Illumination Bar in Pasadena, California, an innovation lab for coffee preparation and service that brings new and exciting offerings to our LA customers.”