Caffe Umbria is ready to make a big splash in Chicago. The Seattle-based coffee maker already has a small cafe in River North, but as of this week, they’re doubling down: A 9,000-square-foot roastery, café, and coffee lab hybrid has soft-opened in a vintage streetcar warehouse in Logan Square (2545 W. Armitage Ave.).
Caffe Umbria has become a nationwide name since it started turning out beans in 2002, but master roaster (and third-generation coffee man) Emanuele Bizzarri wanted to take it back to his roots. “When I started at my father’s company back in the mid-'80s, we used to roast in the coffee shop,” Bizzari says. “I always wanted to go back to that.”
Guests at the Armitage Avenue location will enter the warehouse through a repurposed shipping container (a nod to Chicago being a huge distribution hub for Caffe Umbria) and past a giant window facing the gleaming roasting equipment. Visitors can sit inside a windowed cube looking at the roasting floor and sip on all the standard beverages, plus nitro cold brew on draft. Freshly roasted beans will be on sale, too.
What’s special about Caffe Umbria’s coffee? Bizzari explains that Italian-style coffee is focused on blends, rather than the single-origin coffees that are super trendy at the moment. “The blending is a tradition that comes from Italy that I learned, which I like because it’s something I can create,” says Bizzari. “A blend is a creation of a roaster. A single-origin is more a of a creation of a farmer.”
Once the Chicago roasting facility is at full capacity, it'll be tapped to produce coffee sold all over the country, and it'll also serve as a training lab for wholesale customers. “Just having good coffee isn’t enough; you have to have good training and know how to prepare it,” Bizzari says.