Energy drinks are pretty much the only beverage sponsor in BMX, so when Kevin Porter landed a sponsorship with one of the most progressive coffee roasting companies in the world, Intelligentsia, it was an eye opener. Kevin’s involvement with the Delicious coffee shop in Chicago got his foot in the door with Intelligentsia and then from there his talents as a BMX rider were noticed, appreciated, and his sponsorship was born. Are coffee sponsorships the next thing in BMX? Who knows for sure, but here’s the rest of the story from Kevin.

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Photos: Jeff Zielinski

So how does one go about getting sponsored by a coffee roasting company in the first place?
You have to have a talent that you are truly passionate about to the point that others take interest in what you are doing and you also have to share a separate, but equal passion for coffee. Anyways, I really love Intelligentsia and while hanging out at friend’s potluck I met Intelligentsia’s lead roaster, a guy named Mike, who goes by the nickname “Curtis.” Curtis and I talked about how much we love Intelligentsia and we got on the subject of my riding. He said, “Man you know what would be cool is if you rode for intelligentsia.” I thought that would rule, too. He said he would talk with marketing and see what they think. A few weeks went by and Curtis contacted me to say marketing wants to set up a meeting. I met with a guy from marketing, the meeting wasn’t what I expected and I really didn’t have a plan as to why it would be cool to ride for them or how I would be able to help push their brand. He basically told me there are so many different subcultures that it would be like Intelligentsia investing it’s time focusing one piece of rice in a huge bowl of rice. I walked out with some free coffee and said, “You know what, it was worth a shot.” After all, there has never been a BMX rider who is sponsored by a coffee company. I pretty much put it to rest after that.

A few months went by and I started [the coffee shop] Delicious-and of course I choose to sell Intelligentsia at my coffee shop. So an Intelligentsia representative named Jay Cunningham came into the shop a few days before we opened to sell us our coffee and set us up with an account. After talking for a few days he found out that I was a professional BMX rider and he was so stoked on it. He skates and just has that same passionate interest that I have with riding. He went home that night and did all kinds of research on me. He couldn’t believe that I was known all over the world, had a signature frame, and a signature shoe. I told him the story of when I almost rode for Intelligentsia and although he wasn’t surprised marketing passed on the opportunity, since he came from the skate world he understood how I could help the company reach a new audience and since we were working together already it made sense to sponsor me. So Jay kind of bypassed the marketing guy and we worked it as a sponsorship with me and Delicious instead. Which brings me to today…I have been riding for Intelligentsia for a year now and it’s the best thing ever.

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Wallride-to-180 with a super tight runway.

Do they sponsor any other riders, or anyone else at all for that matter?
They have a really good skater who works for them named John Methvin. He is a pretty sweet dude; he used to deliver my coffee to Delicious. They also hook up a couple different artists. But as far as I know, I’m the only one who has a sponsorship from them.

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Beans waiting to be roasted.

I know it’s not a huge operation over there, but does anyone follow BMX, or possibly even ride at all?
They’re super into bikes, but I’m not sure if anyone rides BMX. They are small, but have a pretty big reach with the shops in Los Angeles, a training center in NYC, and they acquired a small roaster in Northern California last year called Ecco-so I’m still getting to know everybody, but there might be a few riders outside of the Chicago operation that I’m not aware of. I do know that the owner, Doug Zell, rode for the US Junior National Cycling Team when he was younger.

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Ever wonder what a coffee roaster looks like?

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Roaster close up.

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Beans cooling off after roasting.

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Guess how many beans are in this photo and win nothing!

Your appreciation of coffee goes beyond just the simple enjoyment of drinking it, hasn’t your involvement with Intelligentsia opened your eyes to the entire industry and refined your coffee palate, as well?
Coffee beans are seeds from the fruit of the coffee tree and just like any plant product; there are huge differences on every level between different coffees. A lot more goes into a cup of coffee than most people understand. Intelligentsia is the most progressive company out there and they’re digging into coffee in ways most people can’t even imagine. I’m always learning from them and I have tasted a ton of coffees with them to better train my palate.

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The artwork on the sacks of coffeebeans is pretty sweet.

So what does your Intelligentsia sponsorship entail, besides free coffee of course?
Besides what a normal sponsorship gives, they promise to help train me. In the future I hope to work for them or have a full shop that runs the same way Intelligentsia does it. There is so much to learn to be in the specialty coffee world and I’m now fortunate to learn step by step. With this sponsorship I can just dabble at building an education with the most progressive coffee company.

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Cupping... for a refined coffee taster's pallet only.

Anything you’d like to add?
I would like to thank Jay, Curtis, Doug Zell, and everyone at Intelligentsia for all their support. Also, if anyone is interested in buying Intelligentsia coffee they can buy it from intelligentsiacoffee.com or stop by their shops in LA or Chicago.

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Kevin hops over the center post and nosebonks the third.