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Intelligentsia Coffee based in Chicago opens its first store in South Korea

Intelligentsia Coffee based in Chicago opens its first store in South Korea

February 21 - 2024

Coffee Geography Magazine


US coffee chain Intelligentsia Coffee is to make its international debut this week, opening its first location in South Korea. 

The store, scheduled to open on February 23, is in collaboration with local distributor MH Partners, which has promoted the brand’s bagged coffee and RTD drink sales for 10 years. The store will open in a renovated historic building in Seoul’s Seochon, joining the brand’s existing store portfolio in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Austin. It has a big glass canopy that hovers above the bar to highlight the baristas’ coffee and craft, as well as natural wood and stone accents that bring nature inside.

Intelligentsia Coffee is an American coffee roasting company and retailer based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1995 by Doug Zell and Emily Mange, Intelligentsia is considered a major representative of third wave coffee. In 2015, Peet's Coffee & Tea (itself part of JAB Holding Company) acquired a majority stake in the company.

New Intelligentsia House K-Cup pods

Aside from its headquarters at 1850 W. Fulton Street, Intelligentsia has several cafe retail locations throughout the Chicago area. They supply coffee to various Chicago-area cafes and restaurants, as well as other locations in the US and Canada. They generally buy their beans directly from growers in Central America, South America and East Africa mainly Ethiopia. They currently operate four gas-powered Ideal Rapid Gothot Roasters at the Chicago Roasting Works.

Two 90-kilo roasters and a 23-kilo reside in Chicago and a 40 kilo in Los Angeles. The machines date from the 1950s and were handcrafted from cast-iron and steel in Stuttgart, Germany. 

A 2008 decision to stop serving 20-ounce coffee and espresso beverages in stores was met with controversy. Zell stated that the proportions are altered at such large quantities and certain drinks become watered-down, arguing that 20-ounce drinks end up masking and adulterating the pure, intense flavors they work hard to source, roast and produce. They didn’t want this to just be a caffeine delivery device.