Saturday’s Chicago Tribune published a pretty good piece on Intelligentsia CEO, Doug Zell:
Intelligentsia Coffee’s CEO talks beans –

Intelligentsia's Doug Zell doing some heavy La Marzocco promotionWhile Doug gets a little loopy (our opinion) in abusing the ever-popular wine analogy for coffee — e.g., espousing such shoehorned ideas as coffee pairings — he’s been a pioneer and leader in areas such as:

  • responding to the many flaws in Fair Trade by developing Direct Trade,
  • taking a stand for coffee quality (or coffee Nazis, if you prefer) by abandoning 20-ounce, monster-sized drink options,
  • pushing the envelope of coffee service at his cafés,
  • and advocating the seasonality of green coffee beans. (While home roasters know you can keep green coffee for up to a couple of years, it always brews best as as a fresh lot of greens.)

The article also notes the roots of his coffee experience at the Bay Area’s Peet’s and Spinelli chains (the latter since bought out by Tully’s), Intelligentsia’s successes at barista competitions, and working with area restaurateurs.

However, on that last note, the article also quotes Rick Bayless — the “Frontera Grill/Topolobampo chef/cookbook author/TV personality.” While he is a genuinely talented perfectionist himself, and we love his food, his restaurants pull some of the weakest shots of Intelligentsia we’ve ever had.