Intrigue Chocolate & Coffeehouse opens on East Madison

Owners fine-tuning Capitol Hill space, adjusting to community feedback

Intrigue Chocolate & Coffeehouse opens on East Madison

Intrigue Chocolate & Coffeehouse opens on East Madison

Karl Mueller says he's still working out how to make Intrigue Chocolate's new Capitol Hill coffeehouse and chocolate shop a community hub. Two weeks since the soft opening at the corner of 15th Avenue and East Madison Street, there's still room left to grow.

“We brought these couches in temporarily, but then I think people love feeling like they're in a living room,” Mueller said of the current seating being offered inside the Intrigue Chocolate & Coffeehouse.

Mueller joined his partner, Aaron Barthel, in the Intrigue Chocolate business in 2007, a year after the company's founding. They split retail from the kitchen two years ago, opening up a chocolate shop and tasting room in Pioneer Square.

The couple is putting everything into making the Capitol Hill space a success, with weekdays being slow so far, and weekends very busy. Mueller said he's still working out how to get that workday crowd to choose Intrigue as their workspace away from home.

“A lot of this phase is figuring out what the customers want,” he said, adding he's been happy with the feedback so far. “Everybody's coming up here for the mocha, and then we bombard them with choices.”

There are a number of chocolate options in drinkable form, including hot cocoa, hot chocolate and sipping chocolate, which is where 70-percent chocolate is melted down and combined with hot water, much like an espresso but without the kick of caffeine. Intrigue Chocolate is also brewing and sharing a tea made from cacao hulls.

The hot seller that got Intrigue started is truffles, and Barthel often takes the leftover ingredients that go into the many varieties and creates syrups. Some are for sale, and the syrups are also used for Italian sodas inside the shop.

Most customers are coming in for coffee, which Mueller said he expected, and the goal is to eventually be able to host chocolate tastings and classes that better educate people about what Intrigue has to offer and help them find out what type of chocolate they prefer. That doesn't mean Barthel is taking it easy in the kitchen.

“He's making truffles as fast as he can, because with this location we're selling pretty fast,” Mueller said.

Intrigue Chocolate & Coffeehouse also partnered up with Little Kitchen for its baked goods, many of which are then treated with Intrigue chocolate, such as a cacao shortbread and cardamom cocoa sugar cookies.

There is still a bit of interior work left to be done, such as creating a chalkboard on the north wall that will  provide customers with menu options and recipes that complement Intrigue's products, Mueller said. There is also a back area of the former Healeo juice bar that could be used for gaming, community gatherings or just a quiet room for people to get some work done.

“This is a funky little corner, and maybe it's meant to be a quiet room,” Mueller said.

Intrigue Chocolate's lease on its Pioneer Square kitchen is up in January, but Mueller said it's likely they'll be able to stay there longer – the building is slated for redevelopment. If need be, there's still kitchen space in the Capitol Hill shop that could work until they find a larger commercial production space.

Mueller said he's been going nonstop for the past five months to make the Capitol Hill coffeehouse and chocolate shop a success, and it's been the hardest project of his life. However, he's still very happy.

“I feel like Aaron and I have realized the dream we've always wanted.”

Intrigue Chocolate's Capitol Hill shop is located at 1530 15th Ave., in the Pearl Apartments building. Find out more at