As a coffee aficionado, I follow about a dozen blogs about all things coffee, from local shops and ambassadors such as Caffenation and Bar Choq; over important roasting works such as Intelligentsia (USA), Has Bean (UK) and the Coffee Collective (Denmark) to world barista champions (eg. James Hoffman and Tim Wendleboe) and infamous trainers (eg. Daniel Humphries and Anne Nylander). (This reminds me that I still need to work on my links list, as they really do reserve a place there)
Recently quite a lot of the (international) talk has evolved around one event in specific… and to be honest, it really is too ‘hot’ of a topic not to talk about it… Following the buzz of the latest weeks, partly created by the promise of some pretty impressive equipment, partly by a ‘be there or be square’ opening party and partly by the unfortunate postponing, past Monday at noon, the moment was finally there: THE state of the art-slash-wet dream of every barista-shop opened its doors in Venice, California…owned by Intelligentsia!
Unfortunately California is too far away for a quick visit, but telling from the pictures, Intellivenice, as it is commonly called, is a coffee lovers heaven. The whole place is designed to give each customer a personal delightful coffee experience and to “bring down the barrier between barista and costumer” as Doug Zell, owner of Intelligentsia, puts it. And when Intelli says ‘personal’, it’s not some hollow marketing term, they’re for real: once you enter, you are lead to your spot at one of the four (4!) coffee stations… there your personal dedicated barista awaits you to serve you some (oh yes, im sure you’ll have more than one) stellar coffee drinks, whether that is espresso-based or from the ‘slow bar’ meaning vacpot, siphon, press, or maybe a coffee from one of the two Clover machines? You can enjoy your cup at the barista station, chatting to people that really know coffee without having to worry about the line behind you; or chill at the relaxing benches in the back… There’s no counter or register (payment is via a Iphone-like tool that every barista carries, oh cool!)… Its just you, your coffee and your barista…
Intellivenice is every barista’s wet dream: 4 Synesso (amongst the worlds best espresso machines) two-group machines, a 1972 customized La Marzocco, 2 Clovers (machines mostly used in the States that make very clean but fully flavored individual cups of drip coffee… the company is now (sadly?) owned by Starbucks), and a ‘slow bar’ with several brewing options including vacpots, chemex, Eva solo and French press.
The barista’s that work the bar are not everybody: Kyle Glanville, US barista champion 2008 and Director of Innovation at Intelli hired newlyweds Chris and M’lissa Owens to work at the bar, both extremely knowledgeable and experienced baristas. Tim Styles, coffee professional from Australia but working for Square Mile in London recently, crossed the Atlantic to help manage the place. Other potential baristas were trained during an extensive ‘Barista Boot Camp’ with several tests to pass and certifications to acquire.
And last but not least: the beans. Intelligentsia is one of USA’s and the worlds most important roasting companies. They’ve been advocating for a growing awareness of good coffee, not only among customers but (more importantly) among coffee farmers. They travel to origin to create personal relationships with small farmers in remote villages. They explain to them how to distinguish good from bad coffee, what price their coffee is worth and how to make it (even) better. They try to create a better coffee world, a ‘fairer’ coffee world. Their Black Cat espresso blend is honestly amazing and they have some ‘in season’ (yes, even coffee has seasons, more on that next time) single origin coffees of exceptional quality. (For those who doubt: yes, I have really tried some of them myself when I was in NY)
Exceptional beans prepared on exceptional equipment by exceptional baristas in an exceptional environment… would “Intellivenice introduces the 4th wave” be too bald of a statement?