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Intelligentsia CEO Named Coffee's Top Power Player

By Kim Bellware in Food on Dec 13, 2011 10:30PM

2011_12_13_zell.jpg Coffee lovers may buzz about Oakland's fancy-schmancy Blue Bottle Coffee or the immovable Stumptown Roasters of Portland, but it turns out the most powerful person in coffee is Intelligentsia's Doug Zell.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Food Republic website has the Chicago-based Intelligentsia CEO atop their "Coffee Power Rankings", beating out both Blue Bottle CEO James Freeman and Stumptown Founder Duane Sorenson.

Zell, who founded the influential coffee company with his wife Emily Mange in 1995, has since grown the local coffee company to include cafes in New York and California. Intelligentsia has also opened additional roasting facilities outside of the Fulton Market location, and produced some of the country's top baristas along they way.

As much as we're fans of the fine shots of espresso Intelligentsia pulls, we give Zell even more props for Intelligentsia's business model. Zell's team pioneered the direct-trade model when they created the first DT relationship in 2003. Ensuring both the quality of the coffee beans and the quality of life conditions for the communities that farm them, the DT model is in place everywhere the company imports beans, from Bolivia to Kenya. As of last year, Zell and his team were developing DT relationships in 19 countries.

We'll raise a cup to Zell for making meaningful choices in corporate responsibility and keeping top-rate coffee flowing through our bloodstream.

For more on Doug Zell, we recommend our 2007 interview with him.