If you love coffee, and you live in/ are visiting Chicago, then you must go to this place. Let’s face it, Starbucks is the Mcdonalds of coffee. They give you a limited choice of roast types and those said roast types are batch roasted, who knows where, however long ago. You just aren’t getting the freshest stuff, and you definitely aren’t getting a great variety to choose from. So when you find a place like Coffee & Tea Exchange, remember it and spread the word as I am doing, because this is what coffee is supposed to be.
This company was established in 1975 and is still running smoothly, thanks to its great selection and a well educated staff. When you walk in, you are immediately greeted by multiple barrels of coffee. BARRELS OF IT (although I’m sure they are only made to look full)! They have coffee from all over the world, a large portion of which is Fair Trade. They provide their own flavors and blends of coffee as well. Their most popular being their hazelnut blend, which actually has real hazelnuts roasted and mixed into the coffee. I don’t know if all, but definitely most of their coffee is roasted locally at their own warehouse in Chicago, so you know you are getting the fresh stuff.
Another plus to this place is it actually sells green, unroasted beans. They only sell Ethiopian beans, to cater to the Ethiopian community, however it is a great bean to start with when you are just a beginner roaster (which is what I am and have had decent results). Unfortunately, for some reason they don’t have unroasted beans for sale by mail. I guess there isn’t enough of a demand for them? Well, there is always Sweet Maria’s.
My only gripe with this place is actually the mail order side of it. I bought 2.5 pounds of coffee from their warehouse (located in Chicago), and it cost 10 dollars to ship! I checked on USPS’s web page to see approximately how much it would cost by using them, and it was $5.10. Ok, so maybe there is more of a charge because the beans are perishable, I don’t know. I am willing to let that slide since they are a smaller establishment, however the speed at which my order was processed was just ridiculous. I made this order Thursday night. It is now, four days later and the beans have yet to be shipped. I was issued a UPS tracking code on Sunday, which didn’t work. So I called the warehouse today to find out what gives. Turns out they give out tracking codes even when the package hasn’t been shipped. I was told that it would most likely be shipped today and get to me by tomorrow. Now, I don’t know if this stuff is roasted to order or what, but it seems ridiculous to me that they couldn’t have processed my order and had it shipped out by Friday. Maybe its because they are small that they are not efficient, but I feel like if you are going to pay 10 dollars to ship a package like 25 miles, it ought to get to you in a timely manner.
EDIT: I got an email explaining that the shipping is so expensive because UPS charges 9 dollars for the first pound and $.25 for every pound after that, so if you don’t buy in bulk it isn’t worth it. They also said that the order was finished Friday and could not be sent until Monday so I am getting it shipped as fast as possible. I guess my beef is more with UPS than anything. I’d also like to say that C&TE answered my email in a very timely manner which impressed me.
Although, I just ranted, I would still greatly endorse The Coffee & Tea Exchange. It is a great local Chicago store, and if you are in the area you should definitely check it out. Especially if your only experience with coffee is Starbucks. The Coffee & Tea Exchange is located at: 3311 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657