Saturday, July 25, 2009

At The Cupping Table: Coffeehouse-Five

Readers of this blog are most likely aware that Portland Coffeehouse Journal does the Twitter thing. I've been really encouraged by the number of followers I've garnered in such a short time.

But sometimes, for whatever reason, people stop following me. And while I try not to take it personally, it makes me reevaluate the message that I'm sending through the Twitter-tubes and try to see if it's worth reading.

So when I woke up one morning I noticed that my followers had diminished slightly in the last couple of days. Maybe there's just not enough exciting Portland coffee news out there, I thought.

But really, I can't blame Portland for not being an interesting Tweeter. Determined to get back on track I started making a game plan to visit a bunch of new shops, write a list of new blog post ideas, start some rumors, update links on the blog, etc. (Just kidding about the rumors)

And then this came across my Twitter feed:

Surprisingly, I have never participated in a cupping before. I feel a little ashamed to admit that since I am such a coffee fan and live in such a coffee-fueled city. But there it is.

I've seen cuppings occur at Extracto Coffeehouse and Ristretto Roasters, but never had the time to really go through one beginning to end.

So I biked over to Coffeehouse-Five to give it a go.

Coffeehouse-Five is a relatively newer coffeehouse on the corner of Killingsworth and Albina, across from Portland Community College.

Originally they served Seattle's Caffe Vita coffee but have switched over to local micro-roaster Coava Coffee.

Sam Purvis of Coffeehouse-Five took us through the cupping process explaining the rules like there is no talking or reacting to the coffees as you sniff and slurp. You don't want to influence the other tasters with your reactions!

Sam ground up five different single origins from Coava but kept their identities hidden from us tasters.

He did let us know that the boldness of each coffee increased from left to right as we sniffed and tasted so that an exceptionally strong coffee did not overpower the next, lighter roast.

First we all did a "dry sniff" which includes agitating the grounds in the cups and then taking a big whiff making sure to keep your mouth open when you breathe it in.

This will help bring the scents to the back of the nasal passages and help your brain identify what you are smelling as food and help pick out subtle notes and aromas.

It seemed weird at first but you really need to get your face close to the coffee and then bam! A whole new world of coffee flavors will come springing out of those cups!

After the dry sniff, hot water is poured over the cups and we begin the next round of sniffing. It is really amazing what a difference there is between the dry grounds and the grounds being brewed.

We waited the appropriate amount of time and then Sam led us in a demonstration of how to break the crust that has formed from the wet grounds on top of the cup.

More sniffing and then finally the grounds are gently skimmed from the top of the cup and we are ready to start slurping! Tasting coffee appropriately requires taking in a lot of air as you take in the liquid. So in order to get the most aeration you need to slurp loudly and quickly.

This takes practice as my slurps were nowhere near as loud as the professionals at the table.

We go through a few rounds of this as coffee will take on more of its personality as it cools.

It was a fun and eye-opening experience and I can't wait to try it again with other roasters. Sam let me know that Coffeehouse-Five hopes to open up their cupping table to any local roaster in Portland. All coffees are welcome to stop by and open up their bags of beans to be experienced by the public.

As of now, Coava will be available for sniffing and slurping every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm in Coffeehouse-Five. Be a coffee agnostic no longer. Make a point to stop by Coffeehouse-Five and practice the ritual of cupping.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The New Kids on Your Block

Oh boy, what a year for new coffeehouses. Halfway through 2009 and already there are enough small businesses out there to revitalize half a dozen neighborhoods.

Below is a quick run-down of the new spots in PDX. Chances are one of these is probably just around the block from you, so be friendly, go meet a new coffeehouse today.

The Red E Cafe - Serving Coava Coffee
1006 N. Killingsworth Street, Portland OR 97217
6AM - 8PM everyday

You know when a really good TV show spins off another TV show? Or when band members of a successful band break off to create their own sound? Well sometimes it happens in coffee too. Introducing Keith Miller and Mindy Farley, onetime employees of the esteemed Albina Press, now running their own shop. Between the two of them they have tons of coffee and coffeehouse experience and it shows. The Red E Cafe is simple, functional and only open a month or so, it already has it's own set of regular customers from the neighborhood.

What is most exciting about Red E is the new coffee being slung here.

Another Albina Press ex-pat Matt Higgins, has been roasting his own beans under the name Coava Coffee. And aside from the occasional BARISTA rotation, Red E is the only place you'll be able to get this great coffee.

Higgins puts a lot of thought, elbow grease and love into his roasts and each cup is full of personality without being overbearing in flavor.

Cartola Coffee - Serving Stumptown Roasters
2723 NE 7th Avenue, Portland, OR. 97212
Mon-Fri. 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Sat-Sun. 7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Downright Parisian, Cartola is a sweet little spot in Irvington. Like Red E, this place is brightening up the 7th and Knott neighborhood. It certainly matches the sleek little condo that went up down the block last year, but don't write it off as gentrification. This place has heart.

It was opened up by the hardworking team of Simone de Souza and Kit Ciorba.The shots pulled here are very solid. They manage to tease out the subtle notes of Stumptown's Hairbender more than most places.

You will find a great cup of coffee and originally, you could find goods from Pearl Bakery, the only place on the east side carrying Pearl Bakery items. However they have recently switched to that master of the coffeehouse pastry, Nuvrie.

Posies Cafe - Serving Ristretto Roasters
8208 N. Denver Ave., Portland OR 97217
Mon – Thur: 7am – 9pm
Fri: 7am – 10pm
Sat: 8am – 10pm
Sun: 8am – 6pm

Posies Cafe opened earlier this spring in the Kenton neighborhood. This cafe is the best example so far of micro-local. Jessie Burke envisioned using only the most local vendors, suppliers and employees to create this destination spot for cafe-lovers of all sizes.

Serving Florio pastries, located in the North Portland area, and Ristretto Roasters, also in the North Portland area, Posies sets the bar high for other businesses wanting to be thought of as "local." For instance, all the chairs in the place were sourced from about 4 or 5 doors down the block at the antique shop. That's local.

Acme Coffee - Serving Ristretto Roasters
1431 SE 40th Ave Portland, OR 97214
Monday-Friday 7am-7pm.
Saturday 8am-7pm and Sunday 10am-4pm

Sometimes don't you want to just chuck your desk job and do something that really excites you? Ken Sellen and Jason Gooder did just that, and the result is Acme Coffee. Located off Hawthorne, this place is hard to put into words.

It's a little cluttered on the outside, with antiques and signs decorating the porch of this old house. But step inside and you'll find a finely decorated and warm living room. There is a cherry tree located out back where the neighbors stop by with their ladder to have their fill of free fruit. Friendly is kind of an understatement when describing Acme Coffee.

Like Posies, Acme Coffee is serving Ristretto Roasters, extending Ristretto's reach into the SE Portland area. You can enjoy the always classy Nuvrie baked goods, but for now, you'll have to have cash, as Acme has yet to hook up their card swiping service.

Happy Sparrow Cafe - Serving Batdorf and Bronson
3001 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214
M-F 7am - 2pm, Sa 9am-3pm

Ever get tired of the same ol' doughnut or scone business you see around Portland? Me too. Welcome to the Happy Sparrow Cafe, where you can get a selection of warm, freshly baked buns with a variety of fillings.

They are called Kolaches and when I stopped by they had a chicken and jalapeno bun, vegan bun, and sausage with Tillamook cheddar bun.

I actually can't wait for the cold, damp mornings of winter to come so I can warm up with a cup of coffee and some of these moist stuffed buns. Also available are flavored sparkling sodas, Vietnamese iced coffee and smoothies.

Elevated Coffee - Serving Stumptown Roasters
5261 NE MLK Blvd Portland OR 97211
6am-7pm everyday

Perking up the Vanport Square development on MLK, Elevated Coffee brings you Stumptown and local jazz. With its white baby grand piano in the corner and lots of local art decorating the main wall, Elevated is certainly trying to be a hub of community activity for the MLK area.