Coffee with Katherine: Sparrow Coffee Roastery

“Coffee is the most complex beverage. You should be able to taste the difference between coffees,” Chris Chacko, Sparrow Coffee Roastery

Chris Chacko is changing the face of coffee. Everything (and anything) you ever knew about coffee will never be the same, thanks to the Chicago-based coffee connoisseur. His expertise and coffee discoveries can be enjoyed via Sparrow Coffee Roastery. This roaster is not a part of the mass production coffee scene, which can be found on the shelves of your local grocer — Sparrow Roastery is in a league of their own.

With Chacko’s flavor-focused palette and precision, a cup of Sparrow Coffee can deliver aromas and flavors of blueberries, chocolate or even (dare we say it) alcohol. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself! “Coffee is the most complex beverage. You should be able to taste the difference between coffees,” Chacko said. The coffee expert explained that, like wine and beer, coffee deserves patience and attention while tasting.

Studying the craft of coffee, Chacko focuses on the variations of taste among coffee beans. Sparrow Coffee provides people with unique flavors that you cannot find in any grocery store.

Those of you who put up your nose to the thought of adding an ounce of cream or a spoon of sugar to your coffee may consider reevaluating your beverage ritual. Chacko encourages people to taste coffee with sugar, with cream and also black. The added cream and sugars accentuate different flavors of the coffee and create an entirely new taste. For instance, adding cream and sugar to a coffee (typically) creates more of a dessert-like flavor. Who doesn’t love dessert, am I right?

Chacko spends his days ensconced in his West Lake Street establishment perfecting his craft while maintaining relations with culinary teams around the country to customize a coffee for their restaurant. His precision and extraordinary attention to detail has earned the roaster a place at over half the Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago. Due to the level of demand, the Sparrow team must turn clients away. Since the roaster’s opening four years ago, they have had an impressive and diverse impact on Chicago’s culinary scene — working with chefs at 16, Fat Rice, Grace and 42 Grams — to name a few.

The selection process is conducted by Chacko and his team who, when approached by a prospective chef, go to the restaurant and sample the food. However, Chacko promises that his focus is not necessarily on the status of the restaurant but more so on the quality of the ingredients and the promotion of their information.

Sparrow Roastery works for restaurants, not coffee shops. They are not interested in producing for grocery stores or mass distributors because that would take time away from their creation process.

Their goal is to create coffees that pair well with menu listings rather than interfere with the (often complex and intricate) flavors, found at the restaurants. A recent project of the roaster can be enjoyed at Glazed & Infused Doughnuts — a 100% Kenyan roast.

Of course, creating these complimentary tastes is not a simple process. Chacko understands that when roasting coffee, “everything matters,” including, the temperature of the room, the varietals, the origins and the process of the roast.

“I want to see Chicago as the next Portland,” Chacko said. With Chacko’s guidance, we know that Chicago’s coffee gurus are in good hands!

To share your favorite coffee spots, use the hashtag #CoffeeWithKatherine & #BingeOnCoffee

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