If Peet’s Coffee & Tea has been a slow-growth contrast to Starbucks‘ cancerous proliferation in recent years, Intelligentsia‘s expansion has been deliberately glacial. And why not? You get big, you get less selective about your coffee growers and suppliers. You start accepting employees with fewer skills and less passion about truly good coffee. And how’s a budding barista champion supposed to develop in that environment?
Intelligentsia’s Millennium Park location in Chicago is just their fourth installment; they now have three in Chicago and one in Los Angeles. Inside, there’s a bit of space — it’s a modern space compared with their other locations. But little of the floorspace is dedicated to seating: it’s mostly a wall display of colorful bags of roasted coffee, a few tables along one edge of the floor plan, and a relatively generous-sized serving area for those preparing coffee.
Using dueling orange, three-group La Marzocco FB70s, they pull short espresso shots with a richly textured, medium-to-dark brown crema of modest thickness. It has an intensely robust aroma, with a sweet flavor of molasses and almost syrup-like qualities. Definitely lives up to the Intelligentsia standard. And yes, they also have a Clover and feature the roasted single origin varietals for it.
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