Monday, May 23, 2016

5 Days in Portland - Volumie 1, Coffee Culture - Part 2, The Obsessives

Portland is filled with coffee obsessives and it can seem like every one of them has opened a coffee shop, which is a good thing. The number of coffee shops with just one or two locations is significant and it is even more amazing how many of them are roasting their own beans. Here are just a few of the great shops I visited during my brief visit. All are worth seeking out.


Extracto Coffee Roasters

Extracto Coffee Roasters has two locations, both in the Northeast. They have, hands down, my favorite logo, a clamp & coffee bean.




The shop on NE Prescott is in the same complex as Pok Pok Noi, Muscadine, a bakery and pot dispensary. The shop has a turntable spinning vinyl, a pour over station and antique containers for sugar and other condiments. The second shop and roaster are on NE Killingsworth. They have a full line of beans which are available in their shops. Their cortado is a winner, made from their house roasted Eleven of Spades blend. I picked up a bag and brought it home. It was great as espresso and equally as good used with a Chemex.


Photo taken in my kitchen, because I brought these beans back home.



Extracto cortado.


Extracto Coffee Roasters -   http://www.extractocoffee.com


Saint Simon Coffee Company

Saint Simon Coffee Company consists of a single shop on NE Broadway. I discovered it when I searched for coffee near where I was staying. The reviews were stellar. They use Coava beans and some reviewers felt they brewed Coava beans better than Coava did in their own shops. High praise.

The shop is small and feels a bit like Miike Snow album art come to life.





The cortado is fantastic, living up to the reviews. They have a few pastries in the morning and my two younger reviews gave their hot chocolate high marks. Small and singular, Saint Simon is worth seeking out.


St. Simon cortado. Another hand stamped cup.





Saint Simon Coffee Coffee Company - 2005 NE Broadway


Courier Coffee Roasters & Bar

The number one tourist destination in Portland is probably Powell's Books, and with good reason. The world's largest bookstore, an independent one to boot, is at the heart of this city and a reflection of it as well. It is just as popular with locals. That means when you go to Portland you will go to Powell's. And after hours browsing and wandering the endless aisles you will need coffee.

Powell's has a perfectly nice coffee shop in it (of course) but just down the street sits a small jewel that I would urge you to visit instead, Courier Coffee. This tiny store front, which has an energetic mix of DIY and Punk spirit, belies the ambition behind it. The store feels like a bootstrap operation, a turntable spinning tunes and coffee being made. But they are making great coffee, from their owns line of beans. There is roasting going on somewhere. The cortado is spot on. They also have an enticing bit of pastries and sweets. Not just chocolate chip cookies but one of the better canel├ęs outside of France. These happen to come from their own ovens.

There are a lot of great things coming out of this small space. After coming from Powell's it may seem even smaller, but it is the perfect antidote for Powell's exhaustion and worth the half a block walk.





Courier Coffee Bar & Roasters - 923 SW Oak - http://couriercoffeeroasters.com/


Heart Coffee Roasters

Heart Coffee Roasters is a well know, well regarded roasting company with two coffee shops, one on the East side on Burnside and one on the West side on SW 12th Avenue.  Sharp, clean, minimalist  modern design runs through the shops, merchandise and website. They sell beans, coffee subscriptions,  coffee making equipment and merchandise (yes, they have a beanie) through their website and stores. It is what you would expect from a well run mini coffee empire.

The shop on E Burnside is large and spacious with high ceilings and ample seating. Large garage doors line the wall on Burnside. The cafe offers the usual coffee and espresso drinks as well as V60 and Aeropress.




They sell their full compliment of beans in handsome packaging. White dominates the design throughout Heart with black as the main contrast and splashes of color as accent.


Heart's compliment of beans. The big bag on the left with the black label is their Stereo Blend.

The cortado and all espresso drinks are made with their Stereo Seasonal Blend. It is a lovely, well balanced blend and they pull it well. I did not buy a bag of the Stereo and I am kicking myself. I will be ordering some.


I could say something groan worthy but I wont.


If you have any lingering doubts about Heart Coffee this will put them to rest. As befits a coffee company who's signature espresso blend is called Stereo, this 1970's beauty is the beating heart of the Burnside location, The Marantz 2270 Steriophonic Receiver. Some things were better in the 70s.



Am I jealous? Yeah.


Heart Coffee has a well deserved reputation and a loyal following. Fans of good design as well as good coffee would do well to seek them out. Plus you get to stare longingly at that source of the steriophonic sound.



Heart Coffee Roaster - 2211 E Burnside & 537 SW 12th Avenue - http://www.heartroasters.com/



This is just a small small sampling of the diverse and dedicated coffee scene in Portland. It is a small city with an outsize influence on the coffee culture in this country and Nirvana for the caffeine addict.  


Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Days in Portland - Volume 1, Coffee Culture - Part 1, Deadstock Coffee

It has been twenty years or so since I was last in Portland (Oregon, not Maine). Based on all I have read about the food and drinks scene in Portland, the fact that it has been central to the Third Wave of coffee in the US and, of course, Portlandia, I was expecting big changes to the city. What I found was a city with the great coffee you would expect, really good food, good drinks and a lot more room to grow. I'm sure if I was a native I would be decrying how overrun the place is. From a New Yorker's perspective, they are just getting started. The running joke as we drove all around Portland and its environs was "Damn, this traffic is killing me." In five days we spent a total of twenty minutes crawling in traffic. Oh the horror.

There are moments when you feel you are in a Portlandia skit. There are moments when you could be in Williamsburg or San Francisco. Over all you are in a small, livable city with nice people, lush green surroundings and a lot of good things to eat and drink. And oh, the coffee. That is where we start.

You would have to spend a month in Portland to try all the great little coffee spots. I only scratched the surface. My list is neither complete nor a claim to the best coffee in Portland. It is simply the places I visited and what I enjoyed, and I enjoyed all the places I visited. You would have to try really hard to have a bad cup of coffee in Portland. I didn't. Up first, Deadstock.


Deadstock Coffee

Deadstock Coffee was the first place I discovered. Of all the great coffee spots I found it was probably my favorite. The main reason is the specific theme of the shop and how thoroughly it reflects the personality and taste of its owner.


Deadstock was started by a former Nike employee who wanted a place to hang with fellow sneaker enthusiasts. Thus Deadstock was born. Located in a small storefront on NW Couch Street in the Old Town/Chinatown district of Portland, Deadstock crams a lot of personality into its small space. It is a shrine for sneaker heads and hoop fans. Classic kicks are on display as well as shoe boxes, basketball themed art and other great touches. It is fun and welcoming, without a wiff of coffee culture elitism that can pervade some shops.


Can you name them all?


 My favorite touch. Sorry Zo fans.





 What Nike fan shrine is complete without a tribute to the man who made the company.


Properly encased Air Jordans

If you recognize some, or all, of these, this is the spot for you.


Deadstock has my favorite sound system, bar none. Custom made by a friend of the owner who turns old suitcases into speakers. Sounds great and the chalkboard works.






Just about every shop in Portland hand stamps their cups.

Now there is no point in a coffee shop unless the coffee is good. Deadstock's is. Their beans are roasted for them by Dapper & Wise in Hillsboro, OR. No surprise, the packaging is dope.




My personal coffee shop test is the cortado. They make a great cortado. They do cold brew and are proud of their tea. The owner has also created his own mix of lemonade and cold brew which he calls a LeBron Palmer. Yeah.


Cortado!


Coffee, LeBron, sneakers and hoops. This is as far away from your coffee shop tropes as you can get. But wait, there's more. They offer  sneaker cleaning services. They have a sneaker themed blog on their website. To be clear, I am not a sneaker fanatic, and I am a lukewarm basketball fan. That did not stop me from loving this shop and its infectious personality. Hopefully it will inspire a new wave of personal, and personality driven shops. And the coffee is really good.









Deadstock Coffee - 412 NW Couch Street, Portland, OR - http://www.deadstockcoffee.com/