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Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters





This year we are proud to launch our first Kenyan mark: Kunga Maitu. In Kikuyu, Kunga means brave and Maitu means mother. Kunga Maitu is the name of a song performed by Kenyan children upon the return of their mother from the farm, mar- ket, or a journey. The song creates a refreshing mood for the tired mother and displays appreciation for her choice of goods and selfless service to the family. After the children sing Kunga Maitu, the mother is then allowed to rest and she is served a small snack.

by Michael Kearby

Our Kunga Maitu offering this year comes from the Gikanda Farmers Cooperative, and more specifically the Kangocho factory (washing station) located in the Nyeri District outside of the town of Karatina at the foot of Mount Kenya. The Gikanda Cooperative is one of the most successful and forward think- ing farmer’s groups in Kenya. They have invested in strong infrastructure and are known for paying some of the best prices to their cooperative members.

The conditions for growing coffee in the Nyeri District are almost perfect: high elevation, abundant rainfall throughout the year, fairly large temperature differences between day and night, as well as the renowned SL-28 and SL-34 cultivars.

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Intelligentsia Coffee’s LA Roasting Works is in nearby Glassell Park, in a great space that offers state-of-the-art facilities for our quality assurance lab, and as well as training for our own baristas and our customers. This is not a retail location.

Roasting Works & Training Lab – Los Angeles, CA ·
113 North 5th Street

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1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
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55 East Colorado Blvd.
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3922 West Sunset Blvd.
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Direct Trade

Intelligentsia Coffee’s buying philosophy is not very complicated. We believe in coffee quality and have made a commitment to our customers to offer only truly dazzling Specialty Coffees that speak for themselves in the cup. We believe that to get such coffees we need to work closely with actual producers, not just importers or exporters, so that we can build great coffees from the very start.

Intelligentsia travels to our coffee’s source each of the 12 months of the year. We visit farms, roll up our sleeves, and get to it. We take 24-hour redeye flights and 10-hour, high-altitude pick-up rides over serpentine roads. You pick up our coffee and we shake the hand of a farmer in Peru. Or Rwanda. Or Guatemala. And when you see the Intelligentsia Direct Trade logo on our bag, you know how much effort is invested in each bean.

In the broadest terms, these coffees should be understood as a true collaboration, with both sides investing a great deal of time, energy and ideas to produce something great. At the end of this process, the coffee farmer who grows an award-winning cup is an artisan, and should be regarded as such. We believe human effort is the most critical factor in quality coffee and that the growers who do the best work should get the best price and individual recognition.


In October of 1995 Doug Zell and Emily Mange left San Francisco to open an in-store coffee roaster-retailer on Broadway Avenue on the north side of Chicago. At that time they were simply hoping to bring great, fresh-roasted coffee to their own coffeebar with the help of a charming, but perhaps too often erratic 12-kilo roaster. Since then Intelligentsia has evolved considerably.

Intelligentsia now has three cities it calls home: Chicago—a city that is brooding, practical and reluctantly beautiful; Los Angeles—a city that views creativity as a birthright, is immensely vast, decidedly impractical and equally messy and marvelous; and New York—a city of paradoxes, hulking but chock full of intimate corners, timeless but achingly current, polished but decaying, worldly yet oddly provincial, all crashing together in perfect cacophony (or is it harmony?).

Honestly, we love all of these places, but for very different reasons. Straight backed-Midwesterness gives us pragmatism and self-discipline, West Coast optimism leads us to believe anything is possible, and the dynamism of East Coast is an unending source of energy. This combination provides the fuel for what we love to do: sourcing, developing, roasting and delivering the best coffee in the world.

Others talk about working with coffee producers and in many cases that’s all it is, talk. Intelligentsia’s buying team cumulatively spends over 365 days each year at source. We do not just buy coffees; we actually develop them while working alongside our growers. Our coffees are unlike any others, and they are exclusive to Intelligentsia. We take insights, practices and expertise in preparation and processing garnered from our work around the globe and apply them to each of our Direct Trade coffees to make them the absolute best they can be.

We also want the growers we work with to prosper so we guarantee a price that is paid directly to them, which is set far above international fair trade standards. By combining focused attention at source with cup-quality price incentives, we continuously expand economic opportunity and culinary possibility.

In our coffee bars you can expect to find this remarkable coffee in all of its forms: whole bean, various approaches to brewed, and carefully prepared as espresso. Our goal is that each of these is presented in an environment steeped in education and humility. We want great coffee to be revered, yet democratic, approachable and accessible. By illuminating what is possible with coffee, we hope to change forever how you think about it. And that would be something.

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