Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar, River North Point

A lovely Verve espresso in a classic white cup, pulled at Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar in River North Point, Chicago.Good coffee in offices is something of a rarity, the odd exception such as Store Street Espresso in Sheldon Square notwithstanding. Therefore imagine my surprise on turning up at my office for the week and discovering, in the lobby, not a run-off-the-mill coffee bar, but a genuine multi-roaster in the shape of the Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar. Best of all? The building’s open to the public, so anyone can walk in for some great coffee.

Infuse has a blend and decaf on espresso, plus two options on bulk-brew, using different roasters from all over the country. Cold brew and iced tea are on tap, plus there’s normal tea, matcha and chai lattes and a range of food from local suppliers. Even better, if you are planning on staying for a bit, Infuse will serve your coffee in a proper cup, while the lobby has seating plus free Wifi.

January 2019: Infuse now uses Passion House Coffee Roasters on both espresso and batch-brew.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Off to the left of the vast expanse that is the lobby of Chicago's River North Point...
  • ... you'll find this neat-looking coffee bar, by Infuse, which only opened in August.
  • The layout is fairly simple. There's cold brew and filter on tap...
  • ... as well as a range of breakfast & lunch time goodies, plus cakes, in the chiller cabinet.
  • Infuse makes a big deal (as it should) of using local suppliers.
  • Neat logo.
  • Off to the left of the till is the coffee menu, plus choice of beans. And some snacks.
  • Finally, at the left-hand end of the counter is the La Marzocco espresso machine...
  • ... while behind it is the Fetco bulk-brewer for the filter coffee.
  • The coffee menu in detail. There's an espresso blend, plus two single-origins on filter.
  • Right, let's get to work. This is Pete, my barista.
  • This is the view from the side. I love watching espresso extract, especially into glass.
  • It's particularly great for seeing how the crema develops.
  • Almost done.
  • I started off in the morning with a cappuccino in my SoL Cup.
  • The latte art is worth a second look. It has a neat shading effect around the edge.
  • It's always a good sign when the milk holds the pattern...
  • ... all the way to the bottom of the cup.
  • I popped back in the afternoon to try the espresso (The Sermon blend from Verve).
  • Pete actually pulled me two shots, one extracted slightly 'long' at 30 seconds...
  • ... which had a really even crema...
  • ... and the other extracted slightly shorter at around 25 seconds.
  • This had a more complex crema, although I had a slight preference for the first, tastewise.
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I’d been looking forward to my return to Chicago for some time, not least because the city has some outstanding coffee. I’d already chosen my hotel, the Freehand, because it meant I’d have the excellent Café Integral waiting for me in the lobby each morning. I’d even scouted possible stops along my route to the office, but what I wasn’t expecting, when I sauntered in on Monday, was to find excellent coffee on the premises.

The Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar had only been open three weeks when I arrived. It’s located in River North Point, on the north bank of the Chicago River, right next to the Merchandise Mart. If you use the main (riverside) entrance, you can’t really miss Infuse, which is at the back of the lobby on the left-hand side, before the escalators.

It’s a simple affair, an open counter running along the left-hand wall. The till’s in the middle, with a chiller cabinet to the right holding cakes, breakfast goodies, sandwiches and salads, all of which are pre-prepared, so you can just grab them and go. Alternatively, the sandwiches can be heated in the oven behind the counter.

Similarly, if you are in a hurry when it comes to coffee, there are two options on bulk-brew, both from different roasters, which are planned to change every month. During my visit, they were the Spice Island blend from Metropolis Coffee Company and a Guatemalan single-origin from Passion House Coffee Roasters, both from Chicago. Alternatively, linger and have something from the espresso machine, a bright-red La Marzocco FB80, which, I was told, was the 10,000th ever made!

There’s a fairly standard menu, which includes a cortado option, with The Sermon espresso blend from Santa Cruz’s Verve doing the honours. Alternatively, there’s decaf from Milwaukee’s Colectivo. I started with a cappuccino in my SoL Cup, since I had to run back to the office. However, I popped back in the afternoon to try The Sermon espresso on its own.

In milk, it was awesome, really rich and well-balanced. On its own, Pete, my barista, decided to pull me two shots, one slightly “long” at 30 seconds and the other at 25 seconds, which is closer to the recommended recipe. This made quite a difference to the taste: both were excellent, but the longer shot was a little more rounded in my opinion, while the shorter one was sharper, with a touch more acidity.

While the Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar is a one-of-a-kind, it is part of the Infuse Group which offers managed coffee bars, etc, in hotels, offices and similar spaces. There’s also a sibling coffee shop, Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea, which has recently opened two Chicago locations, on Milwaukee Avenue and in The Loop.

September 13th: popped back the following day and went through the filter options. Both were excellent, but the Passion House Guatemalan was particularly fine, a very subtle, delicate coffee. I also had an awesome morning bun. In the afternoon. I am such a rebel.

August 2018: I was back in the office for another week-long meeting before my Midwest road trip. This time I stayed in the hotel above the office, making Infuse my go-to coffee stop on a daily basis.

January 2019: September’s visit was such a success that when I returned in January for another meeting, I stayed in the hotel above the office again, making daily visits to Infuse. That and it was – 20°C outside (daytime high!) and I didn’t want to have to leave the building!

Monday 07:30 – 15:30 Roaster Passion House (espresso + batch-brew filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 15:30 Seating Tables, Sofas
Wednesday 07:30 – 15:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 15:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 15:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday CLOSED Wifi Free
Sunday CLOSED Power N/A
Chain National Visits 12th, 13th September 2017
27th – 31st August 2018
28th – 31st January 2019
6th – 10th May 2019

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8 thoughts on “Infuse Coffee & Tea Bar, River North Point

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