Insider: Where those in the know go for their coffee

Intelligentsia recently opened in Watertown.
Intelligentsia recently opened in Watertown.

The whooshing sound of steaming milk fills the air as baristas craft perfectly calculated cappuccinos and lattes for a steady stream of customers at Intelligentsia in Watertown. The Chicago-based roaster, respected as one of the best, opened its first Boston-area coffee bar in July in a deep blue-striped painted brick building that’s hard to miss. With locations in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and a wholesale business, Peet’s Coffee & Tea bought a majority share in the company two years ago. The word “intelligentsia” denotes people in the know or having a progressive influence, and the roaster was in fact a crusader in the third wave of coffee movement, or a trend toward considering coffee an artisanal and culinary product, like wine and craft beer. For more than a decade, the company has been sourcing quality beans directly from family farms and small co-ops around the world. “Our green coffee buyers spend months traveling the globe in search of the best coffee,” says Intelligentsia president James McLaughlin. “We use vintage Gothot roasters to bring out the sweetness and flavors that are in the green coffee.” To deliver a serious cup of java, baristas go through extensive training, learning to taste the difference between sweetness, sourness, and flavor attributes. “When you consider all the work that went into getting a bag of roasted coffee to our coffee bar, it is crucial that our baristas have the training to extract all the flavors that the farmer and the roaster envisioned,” says McLaughlin. There’s a plan to soon roll out coffee tasting courses for the public at the training center next door. Picture windows bring natural light into the 32-seat, minimalist-chic looking cafe, with concert floors, wood banquette seating, and black square tabletops. Shelves are lined with coffee accessories and beans to take home ($17 to $25 for 12 ounces). There are flaky pastries, muffins, and cookies from Somerville’s Forge Bakery Company to nibble on. 810 Mt. Auburn St., 617-607-7193, www.intelligentsiacoffee.com.