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Space: A brewmaster's bar

Intelligentsia's Charlie Habegger refashions a kitchen nook as a shrine to the art of coffee making


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Charlie Habegger is not your casual coffee drinker. An Oakland, California, native who moved to Chicago by way of France, Habegger was "raised by disciples of Peet's" and from an early age has held a firm belief that coffee is a necessary comfort. That conviction was further cemented when Habegger hopped across the pond, discovered espresso culture, and heard his calling like a whispered siren's song.

These days Habegger is answering that calling at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, where he's progressed from working with wholesale accounts to his current position as an educator. Intelligentsia aficionados take their Sumatra seriously and treat coffee with the same reverence that sommeliers approach wine. "I had a specific French press of coffee from Tanzania in 2008," Habegger recalls. "That coffee, in a single sip, convinced me that this was a subject worth pursuit."

When someone is this passionate about what they do, it's not uncommon for them to bring their work home. In Habegger's case, he created a well-appointed nook (dare I call it a shrine?) devoted to his love of the bean. He moved into his Logan Square two-bedroom apartment less than a year ago, and this awkward corner of the kitchen was in need of some special attention. The countertop was due for an upgrade and Home Depot's marble aisle provided a budget-friendly solution. Armed with six $3 boxes of marble tile and a $4 pack of contact paper, Habegger installed a tight tile pattern directly on top of the existing surface. It's watertight and easy to remove when the time comes.

The nook also features a menagerie of roast-related accoutrements, most of them found at Chicago-area thrift shops. The inexpensive shelves are from an art-supply store, and on them sits secondhand Japanese porcelain pieces that cost a buck each. The funny little lamp was pieced together at Brown Elephant for $11, and the tower pour-over was handmade in Germany—a gift from his girlfriend, who (surprise!) is a barista.

I applaud anyone who's so dedicated to their craft that they carve out part of their environment in order to do things properly. This simple, thoughtful space is a great reflection of someone who takes time to curate items that have purpose and meaning. As we stand at the beginning of what's sure to be another busy year, it's a nice reminder to think about what's important to us—and make some space for it.

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