24 February 2016

Portland Coffee Guide

Portland feels to me like the coffee centre of the universe and it is home to dozens of speciality coffee shops, cafes and roasters. I didn't manage to visit them all during my three-day visit, but I did pretty well, visiting 12 different coffee shops and cafes, including the five I took in on my Third Wave Coffee tour.

I've created a Portland speciality coffee map, which highlights the places I went to, and included brief reviews of them all below. I have grouped them by neighbourhood, but as some have multiple locations around the city, I have geo-categorised the branch I visited; in my map, I have only included locations that are within easy reach of the downtown area. A nice thing to note is that many of these places open as early as 6 am during the week.

Perhaps the most iconic of all of the roasters in Portland (AKA Stumptown), Stumptown Coffee's fame extends well beyond the city limits. I've visited several of their New York cafes, but the first step of my Portland coffee education had to be a visit to Stumptown. Luckily, their downtown cafe on SW 3rd Avenue was only four blocks from my hotel, so I was able to stop by a couple of times.

The downtown location is large and attractive, with red-brick walls, lovely art and plenty of room to sit in and enjoy your drink. I've tried their cold brew and nitro cold brew before, and both are great, but this time, I focused on the Chemex options (they also do French press, but no V60 or Aeropress). I tried both the Peruvian and the Rwandan coffees ($4.25) through the Chemex; the former was probably my favourite, but both were expertly brewed and the staff were very friendly and knowledgeable. They even open at 6 am, which saved me from terrible airport coffee before my early flight.

Stumptown Coffee is located at 128 SW 3rd Ave, nr Pine Street. Their HQ and Tasting Bar, which offers public tastings at 3 pm, is on the East Side at 100 Salmon Street. Website. Twitter.

Case Study
I visited Case Study, one of the first third-wave coffee spots in Portland, as part of my Third Wave Coffee tour. Their downtown location is bright and roomy, with lots of stools around the large, central coffee bar and a few small tables at the sides. They serve espresso-based drinks and hand-brewed filter coffee (Chemex, French press and Kalita Wave dripper); I tried all three of the latter, and each was very well prepared, with careful attention paid to bringing out the best of each coffee. Case Study is also famous for their syrups. I don't usually like syrups in my coffee, but we tried one of the most delicious salted-caramel pastries I've ever had.

Case Study is located at 802 SW 10th Ave, at Yamhill St. They have two other locations, much further north and northeast of downtown. Website. Twitter.

Barista has four cafes in central Portland, each of which is beautifully decorated with a combination of exposed brick and art-deco accents. I walked past the large, bustling Nob Hill location but stopped for coffee at their smaller but just as chic downtown branch, in the historic Hamilton Building. Barista don't roast their own coffee, but showcase a rolling edit of coffee from some of the best US roasters. While I was there, they had coffee from Vancouver-based 49th Parallel and two local roasters, Coava and Roseline.

There was no hand-brewed filter coffee in the downtown branch (although they had cold brew from Seattle-based Kuma), but you could choose from a couple of single-origin espressos. I tried a macchiato with Honduran coffee from Coava, which was prepared wonderfully, with excellent latte art. The downtown branch of Barista is really busy and there isn't a lot of seating, but I picked a quieter, late afternoon time to visit and was able to sit and enjoy my coffee and people-watch.

Barista is located at 529 SW Alder St, near Alder. They also have locations in the Pearl District and Nob Hill. Website. Twitter.

A while ago, BuzzFeed featured some of my photos of Revolver in Vancouver in a list of coffee shops you wished you lived in. Heart's downtown cafe wasn't included (Portland is noticeable in this guide by its absence), but it is seriously beautiful, with its gorgeous monochrome decor and sexy little espresso machine. Nor was it a case of style over substance: my macchiato ($3.50) was very fine indeed and the busy cafe was great for people-watching. Heart roast their own coffee, but I forgot to check which espresso variety they were serving while I was there; I expect it's difficult to go wrong with your coffee choice. If you are lactose-free, the home-made cashew-almond milk is supposed to be excellent.

Heart is located at 537 SW 12th Ave, at Alder St. Their East Side branch is at 2211 East Burnside St (NB: it's pretty far east). Website. Twitter.

The Society Cafe
Even my hotel, The Society Hotel, had a great cafe in its lobby — another concept it shares with the similarly stylish but pricier Ace Hotel (which has its own Stumptown cafe). I had a couple of cortados ($3) at The Society Cafe, and they were both made expertly by the lovely, friendly barista, with latte art among the best in the city. The Society Cafe uses coffee from Ristretto Roasters (see below) and they also serve a mean avo toast ($5) and, once the sun is over the yardarm, cocktails.

The Society Cafe is located at 203 NW Third Ave, at Davis St. Website. Twitter.

Olé Latte
The last stop on my Third Wave Coffee Tour was to one of Olé Latte's three Portland coffee carts. We visited the cart located in the Alder Food Cart pod, where our cheerful barista made us each a Portland Pine latte (with syrup from the Douglas Fir). They also serve more standard espresso-based drinks, pourovers ($4) and cold brew ($3), and sell lovely ceramic mugs, made by one of the baristas. Olé Latte also has a pay-it-forward system, in case you would like to do a good deed and buy someone a coffee. Olé Latte is a great way to combine two key Portland trends: coffee and food carts.

Olé Latte is located at 1003 SW Alder St, near 10th St. They also have carts at Portland State University and in Happy Valley. Website. Twitter.

Night Owl
If you're looking for caffeination while at the Portland Farmers' Market, Night Owl is your best bet. They are a local roaster and don't have a bricks-and-mortar cafe but serve pourover ($3) and French press ($2.50) coffee at the market. You can also buy beans at their stall. I had a Colombian pourover, which was pretty decent.

Night Owl is at the Portland Farmers' Market, 1010 SW Park Avenue, near Main St. Website. Twitter.

Pearl District
Christopher David
Part lifestyle boutique, part florist and part cafe, Christopher David is a great destination for combining your shopping and coffee needs in the trendy Pearl District. The cafe is large, bright and tastefully decorated with some of the items you can buy in the shop. The coffee is from Water Avenue and a macchiato will set you back $2.75. On our tour, we tried the signature drink, the Cafe di Nini ($3), named for one of the owners, which is a surprisingly tasty combination of espresso, rice milk and vanilla syrup. The breakfast (various avo toasts) and lunch menus also looked delicious.

Christopher David is located at 901 NW Tenth Ave, at Kearney St. Website. Twitter.

Sterling Coffee Roasters
Petite and purple, Sterling's 21st Avenue cafe is located in Nob Hill, a ten-minute walk northwest of downtown. There is room for about seven or eight people to sit and barely any standing room, but it is a lovely, well-run coffee shop. They weren't serving hand-brewed filter coffee while I was there (there was a batch-brew coffee on offer), so I ordered a macchiato ($3, I think) and perched at one of the tiny, white-tablecloth-laden, pine-cone accented tables. The coffee was good (with very good latte art), the baristas were very friendly and the people-watching was top notch.

Sterling Coffee Roasters is located at 417 NW 21st Ave, between Flanders and Glisan. They have another branch a few blocks south. Website. Twitter.

East Side
Coava Coffee Roasters
I spent most of my time in Portland pronouncing Coava to rhyme with guava, but it actually rhymes with Jehovah. The name refers to unroasted or 'green' coffee. Coava has been roasting since 2008, and they now have two coffee bars, both on Portland's East Side: a brew bar on SE Grand Avenue, and an espresso bar, further east on Hawthorne Boulevard. Being a brewed-coffee kinda gal, I stopped by the brew bar on a sunny Monday afternoon. They had obviously been roasting when I arrived because the air was thick with the dark, sharp notes of freshly roasted coffee.

The Grand Avenue location is huge, occupying a converted warehouse that is kitted out with the aforementioned brew bar, the roaster, lots of communal tables and various pieces of local artwork for sale. You can buy the tables too, but they aren't cheap. They were serving two espresso and two filter-coffee options while I was there: I chose the Honduran Benjamin Miranda variety (which, I later realised, I had just enjoyed in my macchiato at Barista) brewed through the Chemex ($4, I think, although mine was on the house as I also bought a bag of beans and a travel tumbler). The coffee was even better brewed this way, and I enjoyed my drink while basking in the afternoon sunshine and chatting with the charming baristas. I bought a different variety of Honduran beans (Porfirio Castellanos) to take home with me and, brewed with my Aeropress, they have produced some truly excellent cups of coffee.

Coava Coffee Roasters' brew bar is located at 1300 SE Grand Avenue, at Main St. Their espresso bar is at 2631 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, near 27th Ave. Website. Twitter.

Ristretto Roasters
Local roaster Ristretto has three cafes around the city, but their East Side cafe on NE Couch Street is the most central. I stopped by the Couch Street location on my coffee tour; in case you were wondering, Couch rhymes with pooch! We took part in a coffee cupping session, experiencing and trying to describe the aromas and taste notes in three different Ristretto coffees. Our barista made the process educational and fun. The coffees we tried were all Central/South American and I really liked their Colombian Pijao coffee in particular.

Ristretto serves espresso-based drinks, cold brew ($3) and Steampunk filter coffee ($4) — they have the same cool Alpha Dominche Steampunk kit as Macintyre in London; again, I regretted not having the chance to try out coffee brewed with this siphon-like method. Ristretto's Couch Street cafe isn't the hugest, but it was relatively quiet during my Sunday brunchtime visit: there are a dozen or so seats and it's beautifully sunny.

Ristretto Roasters is located at 555 NE Couch Street, at 6th Ave. They have two other branches further north of the city centre. WebsiteTwitter.

Cup & Bar
I came to this cafe, which is a collaboration of Trailhead coffee roasters and Ranger gourmet chocolate, on my Third Wave Coffee tour. We watched a roasting and sampled the cafe's signature drink: a dirty Charlie (a shot of espresso poured over cacao ice cream, served with foam and dark chocolate shavings), which was sinful but delicious. Before Cup & Bar opened, Trailhead used to roast coffee and deliver it by bike and you can see the delivery back out back near the cheerful yellow roaster.

If you aren't in the mood for a dirty Charlie, there are the usual espresso drinks (a macchiato is $3.50), mochas with Ranger chocolate ($4.25), pourovers ($3.50), cold brew ($3) and home-made syrups. The avo toast is supposed to be among the best in town, but there are a few other breakfast/brunch options too: we sampled the jam on sourdough toast, which was delicious.  The cafe itself is large and bright, with high ceilings and large wooden tables.

Cup & Bar is located at 118 NE Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, near Couch St. Website. Twitter.

For more detailed information on the Third Wave Coffee tour I did, head on over to my review.

No comments:

Post a Comment