This is a guest review by Axel Roman. If you’re interested in writing guest reviews for A Table in the Corner of the Cafe, feel free to contact me.
For a while I have wanted to try Intelligentsia’s coffee, but never had a chance to get around them since I live in Arizona. Recently, on a Facebook post, I noticed their free shipping offer for the months of November and December and decided that I just had to try their delicious, widely acclaimed coffee.
I had read on Sprudge about their holiday offering, Celebration Blend, and decided to take the plunge and see what it was all about. I ordered the coffee and received it in a matter of a couple of days.
The coffee arrived in a beautifully designed white matte package depicting the letters Celebration Blend on the front. The package is ergonomically designed with a “base” on the bottom of the bag that allows it to stand up while it has a nice opening that can be re-sealed like a Ziploc bag.
The Kangocho Factory (wetmill) is part of the Gikanda Cooperative Society in Nyeri in Central Kenya. Nyeri is known for coffees with intense, complex, and flavor-dense cup profiles. It is made up of mainly smallholder farms, each with some 100 trees. They are organized in Cooperative Societies that acts as umbrella organizations for the Factories (wetmills), where the smallholders deliver their coffee cherries for processing.
There is a lot of competition in Nyeri. Many of the farmers are surrounded by several wetmills. They are free to choose where they want to deliver their cherries as members. Due to the traditional auction system in Kenya, quality is rewarded with higher prices. The better factories will then attract more farmers by producing coffee getting the highest prices, as well as giving high payback rate to the farmers. This can in some cases be about 90% of the sales price after cost of marketing and preparation is deducted.i
There are nine distinct coffee growing regions in Ethiopia: Lekempti, Illubabor, Djimma, Harrar, Teppi/Bebeka, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Limu. Yesterday, we traversed the Ethiopian Highlands and ended up in Rophi (a Sidamo region) to try out the tiny village’s coffee, courtesy of Portland, Oregon’s Coava Coffee Roasters. Today, we’re heading back over the mountains to the West, into a region called Limu Kossa, Jimma.
Intelligentsia got this coffee from the Limu Coffee Farmers Co-op Union. According to Intelligentsia’s coffee buyer, Geoff Watts:
The Shegole coop belongs to the Limu Union and is one of the flagship groups in the [TechnoServe] project. Although it was constituted in 2005 with a total membership of about 400 farmers, the last two years have seen it blossom considerably. Since 2009, in large part due to their consistent success in raising quality and achieving increasing returns to the members, the group has grown to almost 1000.
The project Watts is referring to is one being conducted by TechnoServe—an organization that is dedicated to achieving “business solutions to global poverty.” They’ve been doing a lot of work in Western Ethiopia, which has given reason to coffee companies like Intelligentsia to turn their attention away from more established regions (like Sidama and Yirgacheffe), and instead focus on some of Ethiopia’s oldest and most underrated coffee regions—like Limu.
The coffee that is grown here is done so where the air is thin, at elevations of up to 1600-1950 meters above sea level. Unlike a lot of the Central and Eastern Ethiopian coffees, which have bolder, more full-bodied flavors, this coffee is known for its spicy sweetness, herbal notes, and lighter body.
Costa Rica Flecha Roja
South of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, are the majestic mountains of Terrazu. Sheltered between the Pacific Coast, the Central Valley and the high peaks of the country’s central mountain range, Terrazu is among one of the worlds most famous coffee growing regions. In the mid 19th Century, inhabitants of the Central Valley migrated to the Southwestern region, known today as Los Santos. The districts of Los Santos (The Saints), San Pablo de Leon Cortes, San Marco de Terrazu and Santa Maria de Dota are all named after Saints.
Dota is a small sub region adjacent to the Terrazu valley. Tradionally coffees from this area are small sized dense beans as a result of high altitude growing conditions. This stunning region is protected by the Pacific basin range and is a sanctuary of mystical birds and forests.
The growers of the Dota co-operative understand the gift nature has provided them and have worked hard to create and maintain a reputation of high quality coffees year after year. Their co-op was founded in 1960 by 96 members, they currently have 750 members with an average farm size of 2-5 hectares. Like many well known regions, the combination of altitude, climate and coffee varieties grown play a huge role in the flavor profile we’ve grown to love from this region.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Celebration Blend, from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Nyeri, Kenya // Limu Kossa, Ethiopia // Dota, Tarrazu, Costa Rica
farm: N/A // N/A // N/A
producer(s): smallholder farmers //smallholder farmers // smallholder farmers
assocation: Gikanda Cooperative // Shegole Cooperative // Coope Dota Cooperative
elevation: 1600 – 1900 // 1700 – 1900 // 1400-1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: SL28, SL34 // Ethiopia Heirloom // Caturra, Catuai, Villalobos
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: standard // Organic // standard
The aroma of the coffee permeated through my kitchen, with scents of malted brown sugars, plum and hazelnut.
The first sip was amazing but the second one was even better. Some of the notes I got at first glance were tons of dark cherry, hazelnuts and spices such as cinnamon and mace. Intelligentsia describes on their notes a taste of aged rum that was more prominent as it cools down. This coffee has a wonderful texture and it seems like a very well thought-out blend, not just a couple different coffees thrown together. There is a unison-like complexity through the cup and the sweetness is through the roof; just a delicious cup of coffee.
As coffee cools down the dark red fruit and mulling spices emerge even further in a syrupy cacophony of beautiful flavors.
the bottom line:
The Celebration Blend only appears once a year and is worth every penny. For my first Intelligentsia blend, this was a beauty, and I just finished the whole bag two days ago.
Good thing there is still free shipping for the rest of the month.
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about the author
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.