When Mikky Wright moved from java-drenched Seattle to Chicago in the late 1990s, he felt a bit like he’d slipped into coffee purgatory.
Shannon Steele with Head Roaster Joshua Millman and Creative and Operations Manager John Mook at Passion House HQ.
From stalwarts like Intelligentsia (multiple locations) to newcomers like La Colombe (955 W. Randolph St., 1552 N. Damen Ave.), it seems like all the roasters in Chicago are crowing about their direct-trade coffee. Direct trade means that the roasters purchase raw beans straight from the farmers, without going through middleman brokers or certification organizations such as Fair Trade USA. (It also means they get to post envy-inducing travel photos to their Instagram accounts.) Proponents say that direct trade means more profits for farmers as well as more carefully calibrated flavors in the final cup.But not everyone’s on board. Shannon Steele of Passion House Coffee (2021 W. Fulton Ave.), for one. “Direct trade when you are a small roaster, like us, [is] hard,” the roaster, green buyer, and trainer told us over email.
I am a tea fiend. I guzzle a mug practically every hour of the day. So it’s safe to say I’m qualified to recommend holiday gifts for the average (or whatever I am) tea drinker. Of course, I don’t know everything, so I asked Jill Lawrence, who heads up Argo Tea’s café business, to weigh in, too. Read on for our advice.