Chicago, IL: It’s one of the most exciting cultural cities in America. Not only is the Windy City known for outstanding theater and world-class art museums, it’s also a dining mecca where people from all over the world come to sample world class cuisine. Food’s not the only standout staple served up in Chicago—so is coffee, which is the center of a community and culture all its own in Chicago.
One institution that’s making a significant impact on the coffee scene in Chicago is one of Javaya’s favorite in the entire Chicago metro area: Ipsento Coffee Roasters. Ipsento Coffee is a coffee roastery and small indie chain of coffee shops, which serve as a destination for people looking for an excellent cup of joe and a place to get work done or meet like minded coffee drinkers.
If you live in the Chicago area, or you plan to visit soon, you should add a visit to Ipsento Coffee to your itinerary. Visiting will give you a chance to experience a coffee mecca within this bustling metropolis, and to glean a better understanding of what makes this coffee brand so unique.
Here’s everything you need to know about Ipsento Coffee so you can gear up for your visit.
The History of Ipsento Coffee
Despite how much of a mark Ipsento Coffee has made on the coffee scene in Chicago since its founding, the company is relatively young. In fact, it was started by Jeremy and Rachel Smith in 2006 in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.
Smith named their coffee shops “Ipsento” — a made up word— by combining two Latin roots that summed up their ultimate mission: ipse, which means self, and sentio, which means to discover. Smith hoped that people could use their location and their products as a chance to discover more about the world and other people, and that their business acknowledged that every person was on a path to self-discovery.
The Smiths loved running the coffee shop, but they were never able to gain the momentum they needed to create a thriving business. They wanted to start their own family, so in 2009, ownership of Ipsento changed hands when the Smiths gave the coffee shop over to the church they belonged to, Missio Dei. The church eventually voted to pass Ipsento along again to a couple—Tim and Mandi Taylor—who were already running a small coffee importing and roasting company called Coffee Ambassadors. In 2012, the Taylors decided to merge Coffee Ambassadors and Ipsento Coffee into one business, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As Ipsento Coffee grew, the Taylors have been able to open up multiple locations of their coffee shop. They’ve also turned their roasting business into a wholesale one, and they sell more than 1,000 lbs of coffee per week. Today, Ipsento isn’t only a good place to fuel up and get some work done (although, it is that). It’s also a community space where people come together to socialize, enjoy delicious food and drinks, and build a special community that values travel, self-discovery, and getting to know other like-minded humans.
Ipsento’s Coffee Shops: Two Community Gathering Spaces
While Ipsento Coffee took a few years to get off the ground, the company has become a true coffee powerhouse today. Now, Ipsento has two coffee shops and cafes that visitors can come to to drink the world-class coffee and enjoy the perks that the cafes offer. Here’s what you should know about each of Ipsento Coffee’s cafes.
Ipsento (Original Bucktown Location)
The original location of Ipsento Coffee in Bucktown is where all the magic got started. Located at 2035 N Western Ave, Ipsento is a destination for coffee drinkers throughout the city who like to drink a delicious cup of coffee while sitting in a space with a well thought-out atmosphere.
The Bucktown location of Ipsento is small. When the coffee shop first boomed in popularity, it became such a destination that lines would be out the door every single morning. Today, the original location of Ipsento still gets busy. However, there are several tables, couches, and seating options so that patrons can come to the cafe and enjoy their food, drink, and newspaper without having to take it to go.
In addition to serving up a menu of meticulously crafted coffee and espresso drinks, the shop also has a selection of chais. They also have a menu of breakfast foods, lunch foods, and toasts, so you can get nourished while you also get caffeinated.
The original location of Ipsento is a breakfast and lunch place. You’ll go there while the sun’s up and leave before dinner. However, there’s more to do than just your regular coffee shop stuff. Ipsento Coffee offers a selection of coffee classes each month, and you can spend time learning things like Coffee 101: History, Selection, and Brewing Perfection; Barista Basics: Pulling Espresso and Steaming Milk; or Public Cupping.
Ipsento 606 is the newest outpost of the coffee company, and it’s also located in the Bucktown neighborhood. Ipsento 606 is actually located close to Chicago’s 606 (hence, the name)—which is Chicago’s version of New York City’s highline, located alone an old abandoned elevated train line. Thanks to the foot (and bike, skate, etc.) traffic that the 606 gets, Ipsento 606 has become a destination that crowds of people flock to each day.
Ipsento 606 feels very different than the original location of Ipsento. Instead of being a tiny, bohemian-feeling traditional coffee shop, the 606 location is large and sprawling, and its decor feels very minimalistic and contemporary. The machines and countertops at Ipsento 606 are all stainless steel and white, the space feels clean and chic.
The menu at Ipsento 606 is different from the original location, at least in terms of food. You can expect to find the same delicious coffee drinks. But the shop also serves up its own unique blend of food offerings. One of the specialties of the house is the $1 donut, made of kamut, which is a high-nutrient grain that is mixed with sweet potato and then fried in coconut oil. (Think: a delicious donut, but smaller and healthier). The coffee shop offers these donuts in a range of flavors, including cinnamon and sugar, lemon, blueberry, chocolate ganache and pistachio, chocolate and sprinkles, chocolate glaze, and the Ipsento latte flavor: espresso, honey, coconut, and a dash of cayenne. In addition to donuts, if you go to Ipsento, you can sample breakfast foods like yogurt and granola and bagels.
One thing that makes the newest location of Ipsento Coffee so exciting is that it stays open at night, making it more than a place to fuel up during the day, but also a gathering spot to build community at night. Ipsento 606 shuts down the espresso machines and fires up the beer taps, which means that you can enjoy a cold one and a warm buzz while you socialize. In terms of adult drinks, Ipsento doesn’t only serve beer, but also wine and craft cocktails.
At night, check out the new, expanded food menu of Ipsento 606. You can enjoy your beverage while chowing down on dishes like floriole baguette and butter, a cheese board with pairings, charcuterie plate, sweet potato fries, pickled vegetables, a nut mix, kohlrabi and green apple salad, and more. Expect the menu to shift as the seasons shift.
Ipsento Coffee: World Class Roasters
Ipsento Coffee’s two coffee shops are the things that make the brand a destination when you visit Chicago. But what put Ipsento on the map is its coffee roasting, which was started as Coffee Ambassadors by owner Tim Taylor before he was given ownership of the Ipsento Coffee Shop.
Taylor started Coffee Ambassadors as its own importing and roasting company. The business started with a simple coffee roaster on wheels, and the Taylors would take that roaster out to local farmers markets, selling individual cups of coffee and bags of beans. When farmers markets were shut down, the Taylors would share space with other coffee roasters and coffee shops, selling beans in order to keep business alive.
A few years into owning Ipsento Coffee, Taylor was still simply using the Ipsento space to roast his coffee. (He was selling coffee drinks and food separately at Ipsento, as a different business entity). Then, he decided it made sense to merge the two businesses.
During his time at Ipsento, Taylor has become widely recognized as a world-class coffee roaster. In fact, he became the youngest ever board member of an organization called the Cup of Excellence, which is the standard bearer today for what makes an excellent cup of coffee.
Taylor has translated this passion for roasting into an exciting, dynamic part of the Ipsento Coffee business. Today, Ipsento partners with world class coffee farmers across the globe to source and roast beans, and then sell them to the public. Some of the most popular Ipsento offerings currently available include Guatemala Guayabales and Decaf Colombia. The coffee is roasted in a way that doesn’t only highlight their country of origin and their terroir of the soil they were grown in, but also the work that the farmer put into growing them, and the cultivars and processes that were used to make the beans turn out the way that they did.
Ipsento now roasts micro-lot coffees. This means that they only do small batches of each kind, which they change out seasonally. This is an exciting choice for consumers who love sampling new coffees and flavors and look forward to the new roasts that Ipsento introduces regularly.
Taylor is picky about this roasting process and the coffee that he sells. First, he only defines coffee as “fresh” if it has been roasted in the last 3-12 days. Beyond that, they won’t sell the beans. They offer 4-5 varietals of coffee at one time, and they sell “green” (unroasted) beans, in addition to the beans that they’ve roasted.
Ipsento Coffee doesn’t just sell their beans to customers who are able to come into their stores in Chicago. They also offer to ship their coffee anywhere in the U.S.—either in whole bean form or ground, so coffee lovers all across the country can enjoy their work. You can also purchase Ipsento coffee from Javaya, and you can check the Ipsento collection regularly to see which exciting roasts the Taylors are serving up.
Ipsento Coffee: A Look into the Future
The past has been exciting and full of growth for the Taylors and the Ipsento Coffee family. However, the future is looking even more exciting for the brand, as private equity firm Harter Investment Strategies recently partnered with the brand. The investment firm announced their new majority ownership in March of 2018, and they also said that they were planning to open more cafe locations, expand the menu, and distribute products further.
As of now, Harter’s plans include adding three more Chicago locations. The company is also considering opening its first suburban location, in Naperville, IL. An investment by a large private equity firm means something significant: not only is NOW the time to be focused on the art of drinking and making coffee, but that Ipsento has gotten something very right with their brand. Something so right, in fact, that investors are hoping to take what they’ve done and spread its success and influence further, to other coffee loving communities and citizens in the region.
Conclusion: Coffee Lovers Inspired by Ipsento Coffee
There’s no doubt about it. There is a limitless number of things to do when you visit Chicago, from shopping to sightseeing to eating world class food. But, if you love a good cup of coffee and you appreciate the culture surrounding it, then it can pay to check out the coffee shops started by Ipsento Coffee. Not only will you get to taste the world class coffee that they important and roast themselves, you’ll also get to enjoy a community gathering spot, which will give you a taste of local flavor and a glimpse into Bucktown.
Finally, if you’re lucky, you might be in town for one of Ipsento Coffee’s legendary coffee classes. Sign up for one to learn more about the basics of coffee (from roasting to brewing to serving to drinking), or, if you’re more advanced, sharpen up on your barista skills.
Once you get home from your trip, you might be sad your in-person Javaya journey is over. However, luckily can continue to enjoy your Ipsento experience from home, since Ipsento has perfected the art of roasting small batch coffee and making it available online through world-class coffee retailers and curators like Javaya. Make ordering Ipsento Coffee a part of your regular routine, and you can feel like you’re right back in Bucktown every time you have that first delicious, steaming cup in the morning.