May 25, 2012
Last weekend, I traveled out to the Pacific Northwest to work on a project with Clive Coffee in Portland. I’d never been to Portland, but I’ve obviously heard tons about it thanks to social media, conversations with friends, and yes, through Portlandia.*
Last month especially, Portland was in the spotlight thanks to SCAA. As I sat back and painfully watched the event unfold via twitter from Ohio, I was able to gather some pretty good coffee suggestions that got me excited to visit.
It was an extremely short trip that put me in Portland for a total of 40 hours, but while I was there, I got to visit some great spots I’d wanted to get to for some time.
Clive Coffee Showroom
I met Mark Hellweg a few months back at Coffee Con in Chicago. We had chatted before the event about collaborating on a project, so it was nice to reconnect in Portland and actually see the project come to fruition.
I had some time on Friday to browse the showroom with Jenn, a worker at Clive. Jenn is talented on a letterpress and has found a niche at Clive working in the office and designing labels, bags, advertisements, etc. She talked about about her love of coffee and how working at Clive has really taught her a lot about espresso.
The Showroom itself is beautiful, and is very much set up like an Apple store in that you can browse, look, and use the equipment before you purchase. The right wall is lined with shiny home espresso machines that any coffee lover would like to have, and other displays show porcelain pourovers, espresso tampers, kettles, and other equipment.
Water Ave. Coffee
After a short visit to the showroom, Mark and I went next door to Water Ave. to grab a sandwich. The actual shop portion of Water Ave. is a bit of an experiment and an extension of their Coffee Education classroom and roasting facility.
While we were there, we took part in a cupping with some new coffees from some of the farms that head roaster Brandon Smyth visited. It was a great experience, and I learned that I am subpar at cupping. Everyone else seemed to have a very audible and pronounced technique that left me in the dust and coughing a lot. Regardless, it was fun to compare coffees with the roaster, and to get different perspectives from the others involved.
I left Mark back at Clive and walked up a few blocks to find Coava, one of my must-sees while in Portland. I had a nice chat with the barista while she made me some Reinelio Lopez from Huila, Columbia in a Kone. The shop itself has a really cool, workshop feel, partly because it shares its space with Bamboo Revolution, a manufacturer whose design and products utilize bamboo.
Besides the beautiful brew bar area, and their exclusive use of the Able Kone for drip brew, one thing that sets Coava apart is their open space which features a an exposed roaster, as well as old bench tools used for tables. A beautiful space with beautiful coffee. One of the best I’ve been to.
I met up with Keith Gehrke of Able Brewing and we headed over to Heart Roasters for a chat and some coffee. I ended up not taking any pictures, but really enjoyed my time here as Keith talked through his philosophy on brewing, why he designed the Kone, and what’s next for Able Brewing. Keith has a real passion for the products he makes, and I was blown away while he explained the many steps that a Kone goes through before it ends up in your Chemex. I’m really excited about his latest project, the Kone Brewing System, which is currently featured on Kickstarter and is accompanied by a fantastic video.
We finished our drinks and headed across town to Barista, where Tyler Stevens prepared our drinks. Coincidentally, Barista was featuring Kuma Coffee in their espresso while I was there. I’m a big fan of Kuma, so it was nice to have their coffee pulled by such a talented barista.
Tyler shared his love for peanut butter pretzels and poured a perfect macchiato. Really enjoyed the shop overall — it has a bar-like atmosphere to it, and the baristas are extremely professional and approachable. I wish I could have visited their other location as well, but time was short.
My final coffee stop in Portland was to Sterling Coffee, a small stand outside of a local Trader Joes. I’d heard great things about them from some baristas, as well as my hosts, Ryan and Liz.
What Sterling lacks in size, it makes up for in personality and appearance. The baristas were dapper in vests and ties, and served up drinks on a one-group Synesso in what felt like a living room from an old estate. We enjoyed a flight of espresso – which was basically a pairing of two espressos. Our visit was short, but I really appreciated the conversation with the guys and was excited to hear about an upcoming roaster partnership they’re taking part in. Should be some good stuff down the road for Sterling.
Portland was as unique and weird as I expected it to be, but I loved it. Everywhere I went, it seemed that people took pride in what they were doing. Thanks to everyone who took the time to talk with me and take me around – it’s much appreciated. Hopefully, I’ll be back out to the Pacific Northwest soon.*I assumed people in Portland would be annoyed that I watched and enjoyed Portlandia, but was surprised to find that most people I talked to also enjoyed the show.