Local coffee shop offers message of sustainability within a comfy atmosphere


When you go out for a cup of joe...what matters most to you?  Is it quality or convenience?  While it may seem easy for urban commuters to grab and go at a Starbucks, sometimes you want to go to a place where you can sit down and have a conversation and not feel pressed for time.

It's easy to pass up the occasional "mom and pop" shops because the chain stores are convenient and accessible in a major city like Chicago. While these big chains occupy a great presence in the community, local shops are fighting back with them for customers and business. Generally, local coffee shops provide great tasting, high quality coffee, and are an oasis for commuters and neighborhood dwellers.


Ipsento is one such shop trying to promote this unique image of sustainability, direct trade and a communal atmosphere to coffee lovers of all types and tastes.  Chad Little, the manager at Ipsento conveyed the biggest difference between his shop and Starbucks.  "Starbucks creates a pretentious environment that seems unwelcoming towards the community, while we strive to make high quality coffee and provide a homey atmosphere to enjoy."  He also pointed out that "the original owners wanted to build a "café of the community, one that feels like home."  In fact, this is exactly what it feels like when you walk into Ipsento.


It may be small, but it feels as though you've stepped into someone's home.  Drawings adorn the walls and big, comfy couches sit in one corner of the room.  A large coffee roaster hums while a barista sifts out beans that would degrade the quality and taste of their coffee.  The staff are friendly and helpful and don't seem like baristas, but like friends you haven't seen in a long time.  If you were to walk into a Starbucks, you wouldn't see the attention paid towards the quality of coffee, but instead an assembly line waiting to take your order, making it and then giving it to you, sometimes without a smile.  In the end, it's average service and average coffee controlled by a corporation.


A barista operating the coffee roaster

Direct trading is an important part of the success and appeal of coffee shops like Ipsento.  Organizations like Crop to Cup allow for coffee shops to communicate directly with coffee growers and roasting companies to make sure their crop is picked at the right time for harvest.  This allows for the roasting company, the coffee grower and coffee shops to have more control over their product instead of handing it over to a corporation where it will lose its authenticity and become standardized.  Starbucks' fair trade method works against coffee growers because even though they trade directly with the grower, they also work with an organization that standardizes the prices of coffee trading, making grower's wages unequal to the price coffee is being sold for in America.

Unlike Starbucks, Ipsento does not try to compete with other local shops.  "We don't talk bad about other coffee shops in the city, but network with them for customers and influence in the neighborhood.  In fact, most of our customers come from the greater Chicago area," Little said.  They also have many of their pastries shipped from local Chicago bakeries, adding to the overall essence of community


Chad Little making a latte

Little has seen many types of people walk through his shop that aren't just the "grab and go" type.  From the punkish to the young student, he prides in being able to offer a communal, yet individualistic atmosphere to a wide and diverse customer base.  "Some customers will come in after a long day and sprawl out on the couches."  And since his shop is geared towards everyone he believes they keep coming back because they appreciate the quality of the coffee and the atmosphere.  He also points out that not everyone who walks in needs to enjoy coffee to have a good time.  "We even have smoothies for the non-coffee drinkers."


Ipsento is also offering classes that teach about brewing coffee the right way.  Called Clever Coffee Dripper, these classes teach the theories behind the extraction of coffee.  The class costs $30 and each participant is given a dripper, ½ pound of coffee and a packet of information detailing the process.  The class is held at Ipsento usually in groups of 6 or 8 people.  Interested persons can also sign up by giving their email address when they visit the shop.

In Little's opinion, the word "Ipsento" sounds too individualistic, and in the future the shop's name may change.  But, it is apparent that Ipsento's success lies in its availability to customers who need a place to chill from a stressful day, and also from its reputation to be an honest, family-friendly establishment that is not to be missed.

Ipsento is located at 2035 N. Western Ave. and offers freshly brewed coffee, espresso, smoothies and sandwiches.  Their hours are Mon-Fri. 6:30-9pm, Sat 7:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Sun 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.  Free WiFi service is also available.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Insert images and media with <pp_img> or <pp_media>. See formatting options for syntax.

More information about formatting options