Chicago, Intelligentsia


Feeling tired and hungover from being out with Janice the night before I gather my clothes up and get the subway to the central bus station, then onwards to the airport destined for Chicago!

I am really looking forward to this part of the trip as I get to see my good friend Maria, who too, I used to work with at Bewley´s. Though she used to work in the Italian restaurant out the back called Cafe Bar Deli. Also I get to spend some time with the kids from Intelligentsia to do some cupping.

My Flight is delayed by an hour and I have no means to get in touch with maria, who is going to pick me up from the airport. I am flying with Continental and the plane is tiny so I am on edge as it jumps and bumps its way through the sky. Finally the plane lands and I go to the baggage claim to pick up my guitar and bags. I am looking around for Maria and I can´t see her anywhere, I am really not sure where the waiting aria is so I kinda just start walking around without purpose.

After about ten mins I decide I better call her and I head to a phone thats down stairs. I put all my bags down so I can get some change out of my pocket to call, but for some reason her mobile is not on. Great! I decide I should head upstairs to the pickup/ drop off area outside, but soon relise that I have left my Gorilla coffee back at the phone. So I turn around too walk back and low and behold who do I find?

 This is actuall a bigger chance then first thought, as Maria had been driving around the four terminals to see if I would just wait out side for her. After an hour of doing so she thought she would just chance it and pulled into any car park to just see if she could find me… So fate would have it that we saw each other straight away! Finally, after only a half hour car ride I get to see her pad that she has been telling me all about.

Makes you all warm and fuzzy don´t it!

I had a quick meeting with Doug Zell the CEO of Intelligentsia the next day for reasons that I am not a liberty to disclose, sounds bigger then it actually is. I got the chance to meet EJ who looks after quality control for Doug and he invited me to do a cupping the next day. Though he says that he has to get through a mountainous pile of Flor Azul sample bags to categorise.

Intelligentsia Fulton Street 30/3/07 10.30am

After thinking that I would be smart and catch a bus to Intelligentsia instead of the L. I was soon to realise that the massive bus driver did not understand when I asked if he went to Fulton street. As he, after only  ten minuets told me this was my stop, when yesterday by the train it took an hour. I look at the street sign and it says Fullerton st instead. I´m starting to wonder if Maria is right when she told me that I mumble, though I am sure its just my Aussie accent, surely!

So after spending $12 US on a taxi I arrived to spend a magical day in the cupping room with EJ Dawson and Jeff who does the buying for the company. To me this is “kind of a big deal” to quote Ron Bergondy and I have to say I was quite nervous. This could have been a little premature, because as soon as I walk in I see the Flor Azul sample bags still piled up on the cupping table. I see EJ frantically testing the beans for moister and putting the samples next to his computer so he can log them. With out even looking up he says sorry man we are going to have to do the cupping in the afternoon around 3ish, can you come back? I don´t really have anything that I want to do today so I offer to help with the coding and with a huge sigh of relief he gladly accepts and puts me to work.

The Job

To weigh 175 grams put them into the moister reader get a reading, label it, then reseal the bag so EJ could log the farmers name, farm size and other details into his computer. 130 times! I must love coffee to be doing this when I´m on holidays!

Flor Azul

Is one of Intelligentsia´s relationship buying programs they have running in Nicaragua. Doug tells me that normally these coffees would be milled together already and they had to pay a sum of money up front so they could get them to hold off on this process, so Intelli could cup and score them. Then the coffees could be bought at a higher price then the average C price.

At around 3.30pm EJ and I finally get through the pile of green coffees and Jeff peruses the final print out. To which he was pleasantly surprised with how consistent the moisture readings were. He was nervous that the readings would be hugely varied as Intelli had bought new solar drying equipment and moisture readers for the farmers, but was unable to get back to Nicaragua to make sure that the farmers were using the equipment correctly. Jeff mused at how resourceful the farmers are and they most likely used the age old bite test to see how moisture would be in the beans.

Panama Cupping 3.30pm

EJ had enlisted the help from Greg a keen barista that came 4th in the regional´s to set up the cupping for us. With 6 coffees all coded we got on the way. EJ gave me a cupping sheet so I could score the coffees but maybe out of intimidation, I opted not too,  I wanted to just enjoy my first Panama cupping experience. These coffees were unlike any coffees that I have had before. So lively and acidic they were setting my taste buds alight to the point were I had to stop myself from contorting my face like I had just sucked on a lemon with each spoon full!

For me it was like biting into a green apple for the first time, everytime, I was getting whipped! Now, thats not to say that I did not like the coffees I was actually really enjoying this new experience. Even though I was not scoring I was happy that the coffee I enjoyed the most was the one that scored the highest.

So good, so good!


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