Chicago SMAK: Heritage General Store

Heritage General Store  

How is it that my brother doesn't even live in Chicago and he is offering up the best suggestions of places to check out? Touché Erik, touché!

Since moving to Chicago I have been able to resist the urge to purchase coffee at Starbucks or local coffee shops. Half because I have zero money to spend and half because I am up so early that I don't have time to go out of my way to get to an open store. I've gotten really good at setting my coffee maker to automatic brew and waking up of a fresh pot of coffee all ready. I have to admit, I don't miss coffee shops as much as I thought I would. Until I went to this place...

cold brew

Heritage General Store combines two worlds and lifestyles all in one location. Bicycles. Coffee. Check out this kick-ass video made by Philip Giancola, a writer/director in Chicago, that takes a deeper look at the local bike & coffee shop:

[vimeo 69361867 w=500 h=281]

Heritage brews Stumptown Coffee, a brand out of Portland, Oregon that I first fell in love with in NYC when I stumbled upon it at the Ace Hotel. There is so much depth and flavor to their coffees. I am thrilled to have found a store within walking distance of my apartment that sells Stumptown Coffee! The further away I get from my time at Starbucks, the more passionate I have become about supporting local coffee shops. I have found that the coffee is significantly better and I enjoy the experience that much more. When it comes to the money aspect of it all, I would much rather be giving that to local businesses to eat, breath and sleep their companies.


I am excited to have this coffee shop in my own backyard - I can definitely say that I will be going here often.


Eggs: Why Do We Need to Refrigerate Them?


If you're like everyone else in the United States, the idea of refrigerating your eggs seems completely normal. Why would we do it any other way? The crazy thing is, America is one of the few countries in the world where eggs are kept refrigerated. So why is our method of storing eggs different?

There are a number of factors that make it vital that we refrigerate eggs once we've purchased them...

  1. During the 1990s there was a mass outbreak of salmonella and farmers began vaccinating their hens to prevent spreading the disease through eggs or poultry. There has been a significant decrease in the number of documented salmonella cases: 15,000 in 1993 to only 459 in 2010.  In the United States, this hen vaccination is not mandatory. Instead, the FDA forces egg processors to adhere to certain sanitation practices, testing, and refrigeration.
  2. In large concentrated animal feeding operations, hens are put in close quarters with one another, thus increasing the possibility of salmonella contamination. As a result, USDA-graded eggs are washed during processing. During this washing process, the protective cuticle on the eggs outer shell is more often than not compromised. This is the layer of the egg that helps protect it from any bacteria. This industrial washing is banned throughout most of Europe.

The suggestion I give when looking to purchase eggs would be to buy local eggs, if at all possible. I realize that this may not always be possible so here are a few pointers when buying eggs at the grocery store:

  • Buy Grade A or AA eggs.
  • Be sure that the shells are clean and are not cracked.
  • Only purchase eggs that have been refrigerated in the store.
  • Do not run other errands before going home. Changing the eggs' temperature can lead to condensation which promotes the growth of bacteria.

Libertyville SMAK: Hansa Coffee Roasters

Let's face it, life without coffee is like a margarita without tequila. Plain. Boring. And absolutely unbearable.

I have devoted eight years of my life to the furthering of coffee throughout the world. Specifically Starbucks coffee. I was a brand loyalist for three years before becoming a barista at my local Starbucks. Fast forward to Spring 2014, I am finishing up three years of work with Starbucks and it is time for my first real-life, big-boy job. Hello Grainger. But what was I going to do about my addiction? It's foolish for me to try convincing you that after three years of working for Starbucks I didn't develop a dependency. I did. A very bad one. But at the end of the day, I didn't have the money. So, slowly but surely I began cutting coffee out of my life. Oh, the tragedy.

I vowed to myself that I would give up on coffee.

Enter: Hansa Coffee Roasters.

Hansa Coffee Roasters

Libertyville has been home to two different coffee shops for as long as I can remember - Starbucks and Caribou. Two large coffee chains have held a monopoly on suburbanite's caffeine intake. Until April 2013 when Hansa first opened its doors at 755 North Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville, IL. This coffee shop could not have come at a better time. With a rise is more specialty coffee roasters, Hansa has followed in the footsteps of Intelligentsia and Stumptown. People who live in the suburbs no longer have to go down into the city to experience "city coffee."


The feel of the shop is very much West Coast - small, independent, focused on the product. That is what I found to be so refreshing about Hansa - they are a coffee shop and they don't try to do something else. They aren't playing with frozen blended beverages and endless amounts of pastries. They offer coffee and espresso beverages. When I look for a coffee shop, I want to be able to find a place where the people are passionate about what they do and the product that they serve to their customers. The times that I have been to Hansa (not enough in my opinion), I have no doubt that the owners and employees enjoy providing people with an amazing cup of coffee.

Hansa Interior

I cannot stress how amazing it is that I now live in the city for one reason and one reason only - Hansa would be taking all of my money out of my bank account. I am sorry Starbucks, but it's very difficult for me to say that your coffee is better than Hansa's, because it isn't. If I were still living in Libertyville, I can assure you that I would be a regular at Hansa.

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In writing this blog I have come up with a Hansa wish-list:

  1. Get a tour of their roasting facilities, learn a little more about the equipment and what goes into roasting a batch of coffee. Perhaps a follow-up blog post to follow?
  2. Learn how to make latte art (Starbucks - please step up your game and teach your baristas this trick).
  3. Their pour-overs have only furthered my want for a Chemex and a Buono Water Kettle.

Hansa Coffee Roasters = 9/10 SMAK Approval Points