The Austin coffee scene next year will receive some new competition and flavor in the form of Intelligentsia Coffee, the company founded in Chicago that has long been one of the leaders in American coffee’s “third wave.” The company will open its first coffeebar in Texas in late spring 2019 at 208 Nueces St. on the lobby level of the forthcoming Third + Shoal building.
Intelligentsia has always believed that “coffee should be appreciated the way a fine meal is at a restaurant,” according to Intelligentsia CEO and president James McLaughlin, who says he believes Austin is ready for the brand’s take on coffee.
Intelligentsia, which has coffeebars in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Boston, already has a coffee training lab for education with wholesale partners that is connected to Revival Cycles in East Austin, and the new coffeebar will be located near the Shoal Creek bike path, keeping with the brand’s attraction to the outdoor activity.
While McLaughlin recognizes that every city has a certain amount of pride in their homegrown coffee shops, he says that Intelligentsia takes pride in trying to become “part of the fabric of the community,” sourcing materials locally and using local vendors for things like the food that will be served at the coffeebar.
McLaughlin understands that coffee education and some of the perceived pretense around “third wave” coffee can be intimidating, but says Intelligentsia wants it baristas to “meet customers where they are in their journey,” whether that means pouring a cup of simple black coffee or digging deep into a conversation about varietals and sourcing.
“Coffee doesn’t have to be mysterious. Coffee, to become woven into a community can’t be high-minded, it has to be more democratic,” McLaughlin said, adding that one season the shop may feature coffees from Rwanda, with another season highlighting beans from Costa Rica.
Current Austinite Doug Zell and Emily Mange founded Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago in 1995 and a majority stake in the company was purchased by Peet’s Coffee and Tea in 2015.