The Small World of Intelligentsia

I work for a really amazing Chicago coffee company called Intelligentsia. Intelligentsia puts so much time and resources into sourcing the sweetest and most complex coffee in the world, roasting it to bring out its best natural qualities, and educating their staff to prepare that coffee with the utmost care and precision. I started working for them right after I graduated last December, and have loved every minute of it. I’ve grown exponentially in my skills as a barista, have developed amazing friendships with coworkers, and love being able to serve people through a fantastic cup of coffee.

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Intelligentsia is a name that will be familiar to coffee enthusiasts around the world. Because of this, I’ve gotten to meet a wide array of interesting people, all the way from Italy (the homeland of espresso) or Japan (where “pour-over” coffee has its roots). But although I’ve made coffee for Barista Champions and famous musicians, the best moments are when an old friend walks through your doors.

Most recently, Brad Nickerson moved into an apartment right around the corner from my shop. Brad and I grew up as missionary kids together in Europe, but now it’s quite common for him to be drinking a “Black Cat Shake” in our shop on a Saturday afternoon. (Brad is in the Toronto Maple Leafs cap in this picture from 2005!)

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Two weeks ago I was startled by a perceptive question by a guest: “Are you a Patty??” This guest was Joshua Longbrake, a photographer who did some work for JV a couple years ago. Josh also held a photography workshop for us teenagers at a Josiah Venture conference back in 2007 (Josh is in the white in the picture below). I hadn’t seen him since then! He and his wife had recently moved to the Logan Square neighborhood as well.

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But the craziest story is from this last Sunday. Sundays are generally our busiest days at work, so I was running around getting things done, and was pretty distracted. All the sudden someone leans over the bar and yells at me: “Hey!” I turn to deal with the crisis, and lo and behold, Kha Do is there smiling at me. Only one problem: Kha is from Arizona, and now lives in Louisville. There’s no way that is Kha. I stare dumbfounded at him for a few seconds, only to start freaking out from the absurdity of the situation. Kha has served with Josiah Venture a number of times doing English Camps in Czech, and that’s how I first met him back in 2010. His new bride, Melanie, served with Lara and I in Czech last summer, and a funny story about Kha was told and re-told dozens of times over the course of those months, achieving the status of legend. And here was the legend, standing right here in my coffee shop!

Turns out he was passing through Chicago on his way from a wedding, and only stopped in Intelligentsia to charge his phone. When he saw me, he texted his wife Melanie: “I think I’m looking at Tyler Patty…” to which she responded, “No, that’s not possible. There’s no way.” We were both glad it was!

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The world feels very small – especially at Intelligentsia!

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