According to Annie Brones’ recent EcoSalon.com article, “coffee is the world’s second most valuable traded commodity.” The first is oil. That fits: my car needs products derived from oil to operate, and I require coffee derived from coffee beans to navigate my daily life.
It’s no longer sufficient to order an Americano or a double espresso. For the exclusive coffee clique members, one is now expected to specify the type of bean, in some cases the degree of roast and in other shops, the method of preparation. “Pour overs” are now the hot fad with aficionados swearing that it provides the imbiber with a greater degree of flavor from volatile oils.
As with everything Chicago, my choices of places to grab a cuppa Joe are huge. Even the requirement of a superior version of a cup of coffee leaves me with a list too long for this limited article. The cream of the crop—so to speak—would be those places validly proclaimed as both coffee and Chicago attractions and compiled with the help of David Tamarkin and Julia Kramer’s Yahoo blog. Make time to check out these offerings of steamy beverage the next time you’re in town.
Five Recommended Chicago Coffee Cafes
• Bridgeport Coffee House, 3101 S. Morgan Street, 773-247-9950
According to Tamarkin and Kramer’s blog, this coffee house both carefully roasts and serves—via a pour-over—in a “comfortable” atmosphere with “expert staff.” The business is said to be the pride of the neighborhood and a point of envy for every other Chicago district that lacks it.
• Ch’ava, Ravenswood, 4656 N. Clark Street, 773-942-6763
Evaluated as a shop of “serious distinction”—a term of evaluation usually reserved for Nobel Prize winners—Ch’ava is outstanding for its service and its excellent use of a now-antiquarian coffee technology, the Clover machine. The characteristics of coffee prepared by a Clover Machine are beyond my coffee IQ, but the excellent staff at Ch’ava will be more than willing to educate you.
• Intelligentsia Broadway Coffeebar, Lakeview; 3123 N. Broadway, 773-348-8058
This coffeebar is one of three, the original location, in a Chicago mini-chain. According to Tamarkin and Kramer, it remains the only one of the three inviting enough to order a cup in house. Besides carrying the burden of a slightly pompous name, the Intelligentsia is said to use only single-origin beans, ground and placed gently into filters, whereupon water warmed only in Japanese kettles is gradually saturated, drop-by-drop. Aside from the dramatics of the preparation, the resulting cup of coffee is said to be pretty darn good.
• Star Lounge Coffee Bar, Humboldt Park; 2521 W. Chicago Avenue, 773-384-7827
To individuals who remember older family members using aluminum, then harvest orange, percolators with little glass bulbs atop the “coffeepot” where one could watch the clear water turn brown as the coffee literally boiled upon the stove, this might be the only establishment on the list who might allow you entrance if you relate such a memory. Star Lounge’s owner, Jesse Diaz, appears to enjoy both his coffee and life beyond coffee. They use both single-origin beans and blends, name their blends with humor and avoid faddish coffee preparation procedures that haven’t yet proven to Diaz that they improve the flavor of the result.
• Asado Coffee Company, Lakeview; 1432 W. Irving Park, 773-661-6530
Owner Kevin Ashtari’s coffee house was the first establishment to offer the pour-over style “from Japanese ceramic drippers.” He continues the tradition as well as roasting his own beans daily. The emphasis here is on the coffee quality, not the decor or food. Recommendations include grabbing a cup to go and a bag of beans.
Quality Coffee, Quality Town
A multitude of other coffee shops remain for you to explore wherever your adventures might lead you in the city. Keep looking and make a list of your own.
About the author: Kristine is a fan of Chicago. She enjoys a good cup of coffee and spending time at the best coffee shops.