Each spring, we collaborate with a different coffee roaster we love to create a new Espresso Nut Butter blend. Our newest collaboration, available today for the first time, is made with Intelligentsia Coffee’s Organic Black Cat Project Espresso!
I’ve been an admirer of Intelligentsia since 2005, when I moved to NC to work for Counter Culture Coffee. At the time, Chicago-based Intelligentsia, Portland, OR-based Stumptown, and Durham-based Counter Culture were considered leading innovators of coffee’s cutting edge in terms of quality, ground-level work with coffee farmers, sustainability, consumer education, and transparency. The three roasters’ coffee buyers would even travel the world together in search of the best coffee farms, opening American palates to new frontiers of taste and coffee appreciation along the way. The three roasters also joined in support of regional and national barista competitions, and they each made coffee education hallmarks of their wholesale programs. Although the three roasters had many commonalities, each also had its own distinct styles of sourcing, roasting, teaching, and marketing coffee. Not yet realized as national brands, geographic separation allowed them to collaborate and share ideas without the tension of competition. As a result, I was lucky enough to get to know folks at Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and so many other coffee roasters on the best of terms during these years, and still I consider many of them family.
In addition to their cool urban aesthetic and overall exceptional quality, one attribute of Intelligentsia always stood out: the tremendous amount of focus applied to crafting perfect espresso drinks in their cafes. Their barista training program is legendary (five of the 12 U.S. Barista Champions went through Intelligentsia’s training program), and so is their Black Cat Project, an ongoing pursuit of espresso perfection defined by thoughtful cultivation, discerning sourcing, artisanal roasting, methodical research and development, and sharp execution.
The roasted coffee “bean” we grind and brew is actually the seed of a fruit, and like all fruit, it is only available and ripe at different times of year, depending on where it is grown. The Black Cat Project formed in 1995 from Intelligentsia’s belief that only the best coffees produce the greatest espressos, therefore requiring a seasonal, dynamic approach to the entire process of espresso creation, from farm-level collaboration and micro lot sourcing to roasting, blending, and final preparation. It’s working. Black Cat is a syrupy and sweet espresso blend that offers delicious balance, whether enjoyed alone or with milk in classic macchiato or cappuccino. For coffee lovers, no trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to Intelligentsia for a perfect espresso drink. Now with cafes in L.A. and NYC, as well, they are making it easier for folks on the coasts to share in this experience. Side note: all Intelligentsia cafes also carry our handmade nut butter bars, which we designed to pair perfectly with coffee and tea.
This limited edition Espresso Nut Butter collaboration with our friends at Intelligentsia combines fresh-roasted heirloom Mission almonds and Runner peanuts, Muddy Pond sorghum syrup, and sea salt with Black Cat Organic Espresso and its signature flavors of caramel, brown sugar, and dark chocolate. Intensely rich yet balanced, it’s delightful with fresh fruit, stirred into warm oatmeal, on toast, and of course, right out of your spoon.