Taste Radio Ep. 71: Intelligentsia’s Doug Zell Thinks ‘Quality Will Always Find an Audience’

Ray Latif

Doug Zell believes in “chasing perfection with the hope of never catching it.” That concept guides the core mission of Intelligentsia, a super-premium coffee retailer and roaster that Zell co-founded 22 years ago.

In a conversation included as part of this week’s Taste Radio episode, Zell expounded on how Intelligentsia’s relentless pursuit for improvement permeates its retail and packaged coffee business. He also discussed why he thinks the “totality of the impression” carries so much significance for the company and why he believes in the notion that “quality will always find an audience.”

Tyler Gage, who co-founded guayusa beverage brand Runa and is the author of a new book called “Fully Alive,” is also included in this episode. He talks about the importance of spirituality and connectedness, and the impact it had on him when growing his company. That topic is also what he explores deeply in his book, which chronicles his immersion in Amazonian indigenous spirituality and its life-changing impact.

Miriam Novalle, the owner of CBD beverage company High Tea Today, also appears in the latest edition of Elevator Talk.

Show notes:

1:17: So, Shall We Chat About Instagram? — Instagram continues to emerge as an influential social media platform for food and beverage brands. The hosts share their take on key elements of an effective Instagram strategy. Mike Schneider suggested that companies start simple, engage in conversation and “be on brand.” Jon Landis noted that Instagram has become a powerful platform for indie photographers and creative partnerships. John Craven said he thinks product images should be visually appealing, but not take away from the photo itself. Ray noted he likes photos of food and beverages that whet the palate.

5:44: Interview: Doug Zell, Co-Founder, Intelligentsia Coffee — Doug Zell is the co-founder of Intelligentsia, a specialty coffee roaster and retailer with cafes, and production facilities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. The company most recently added a cafe and training lab in Watertown, Mass., right down the road from BevNET headquarters. We discussed his background in the coffee business, how Intelligentsia distinguished itself as a super-premium coffee brand, and what lessons he learned from the company’s 22 years in business.

42:19: Interview: Tyler Gage, Co-Founder, Runa — Tyler discussed his new book, “Fully Alive,” which tells the story about a “successful young entrepreneur’s immersion in Amazonian indigenous spirituality.” Gage explained how the infusion of shamanistic principles in life and work helped him to build a successful, socially responsible company and live a purposeful life, and why he believes in vulnerability as an important aspect of business.

1:05:03: Elevator Talk — Miriam Novalle is the owner of High Tea Today, a maker of cold brew tea infused with organic CBD.

Brands in this episode: Intelligentsia, Runa, Tio Gazpacho, High Tea Today

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