Geekfest at Intelligentsia

Talk about your favorite cafes, local barista events, or plan your own get-together.

#1: Post by Anthony »

I just returned from the "Geekfest" held by Intelligentsia this Saturday, and thought I would give a brief report so that those interested in future events of this sort might have an idea of the activities.
There were basically four parts to the program.

1. After Doug Zell and Marc Johnson kicked it off, we had a creative tasting/cupping/chemex event. Without any coffee served beforehand to taint the palate :( , Sarah Kluth had the idea of preparing foods for the kinds of fragrance, flavors, and aromas etc., we might expect to find in the three featured coffees (Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Peru, Brazil). So, after snacking and whiffing things like cucumber, cardamom pods, walnuts, tobacco, apple, chocolate-and noting our reactions on well-designed sheets that featured three main tropes of the flavor wheel-we split into groups cupping and chemexing (if that is a term) the coffees. Each table was lead by someone from Intelli (barista, roaster, quality controller) who fielded questions, gave advice, and so forth.

2. This was followed by a tour downstairs of the roasters with a guided explanation of the roasting process as we roasted 115lbs of beans.

3. Lunch time! Great food, really, with a pasta/pesto salad, assortment of sandwiches, green salad, and more.

4. Then came the real fun of getting to play on and test drive an assortment of machines (a couple GS/3s, which almost everyone oogled), a GS/5, a couple other La Marzoccos, a Clover!, a Nouvo Simonelli, and some other machines-spread out over a couple rooms. We were able to pull shots for a couple hours, toss down some latte art (I use that term "art" lightly-at least in my case), and generally get great barista tips. Everyone seemed pretty wired at the end of the day. :D

The attendees were limited, I understand, to about 60 and covered a wide spectrum of experience-having in common mainly the love of coffee-and Intelli plans to hold such a Geekfest again, and perhaps even more often.


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#2: Post by another_jim »

Intelly has been doing these parties off and on, for the last six years. They get better at it with each go round. It was good to meet old friends and make some new ones.

A big shout out to Sarah Kluth -- I've done a few cupping events for larger audiences, and this one was thought out a lot better than anything I've tried.

While most people were taking the tour, I talked to some of the people about all the new things Intelly is trying out in the stores.
  • The concept for the Venice beach store, escorting each customer to a drink station, is based on the procedure at some slow food events. Apparently it works even with lots of traffic for those, so everyone is very optimistic it will work at the new cafe.
  • The elimination of urn brewed coffee, and offering only more expensive single brewed coffees (Clover in all stores, Presspot, Chemex, Eva Solo as well in some), has worked well; customers apparently appreciate the added quality and are willing to pay for it.
  • The elimination of 20 ounce milk drinks has also worked well. Apparently there is a bias to ordering "medium" drinks, regardless of their size. This means that the most common order is now a 12 ounce latte; still a lot of milk, but a lot less than the average Starbucks. True 5 to 6 ounce cappas along with cortados and macchiatos are also increasing.
  • The drink distribution is now close to 1/3 large milk drinks, 1/3 traditional milk drinks, and 1/3 single order brewed coffee -- so it looks like Intelly is one of the few US cafes out of the hot milk business
The finale was, as usual, playing with cool machines. Great fun.

Finally, I met a few people who read HB regularly, but were reluctant to post. The policy is that members can be critical of what people are saying, but must never indulge in personal attacks. But for some regular readers, this still results in exchanges heated enough to restrain them from joining in. I asked them to post about this, and hope they do. Coming up with the proper decorum for internet discussions is a work in progress, and it would be good if everyone had their say on this -- it's perhaps a lot more important a topic than coffee.
Jim Schulman