Friday, July 30, 2010

Coava Come Home

1300 SE Grand Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
7am-5pm everyday

Coava Coffee are Matt Higgins and Keith Gehrke, two coffee roasters who had the audacity to take a look at the Portland coffee scene and believe they had something more to offer.
Roasting for a little over a couple years now, Coava has made an impression with all coffee geeks in Portland. You can find their beans at the Red E on Killingsworth, Crema Coffee + Bakery, and occasionally Billy has them on rotation at BARISTA and BARISTA II. (I don't know if BARISTA's second location at 1725 NE Alberta is officially called "BARISTA II" but that's what I call it.)

But now Coava has a place to call home. Well, they have a kiosk to call home.

Located inside Bamboo Revolution's materials showroom at 1300 SE Grand, Coava has an incredibly beautiful space where they are now serving incredibly crafted coffee.

Coava will serve you a coffee ($2), espresso ($2), macchiato ($2.50), cappuccino ($3) or a latte ($3.5). As of now, there is no flavoring at Coava and the choice of sizes is not your own. The coffees, americanos and lattes come in 10 oz cups, while the other drinks come in their traditional sizes.

In a city where "coffeehouses" have slowly evolved into "coffeelabs," Coava is just another example.

Taking the time to learn as much as possible about the environment, the people and the process behind growing the beans is the first step. They also have a temperature-controlled green room for storing green beans on site before roasting.

But the beans are only half the story. Coava makes sure that each piece of equipment put in play is well-tuned and efficient. Producing coffee only via pour over, Coava knew they would be going through many paper coffee filters. So instead they opted to design a durable and reusable filter with wider holes that allow for more oil molecules to sneak through and add to the flavor complexity of the coffee.

Right now the seating options at Coava are limited to the reuse of Bamboo Revolutions' makeshift tables with stools, but soon more seating will be available.

Coava is also featuring Crema baked goods including scones, muffins, croissants and their new nut, seed and fruit granola bar.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Veni Vidi Vici, Vita?

It has been rumored for a long time that Seattle roasting powerhouse Caffe Vita has been searching for a place to set up their own shop here in Portland. Currently they service coffee to many small coffeehouses such as Goldrush Coffee Bar and Caffe Destino, as well as some restaurants such as Violetta.

At one point Caffe Vita was close to sealing the deal at a location on the corner of SW Ankeny and SW 3rd Ave (smack between Voodoo Doughnuts and Stumptown). The plan was scrapped last fall but it seems it has been resurrected.

Turns out Caffe Vita's owner Mike Mcconnell is also the owner of a successful Neaopolitan pizzaria, Via Tribunali. It seems that both Caffe Vita and Via Trib will be shacking up together in that SW 3rd Ave location.

While I'm sure this isn't exactly the coffee splash Vita had hoped to make in Portland, it is certainly more financially viable and gets Vita that much closer to having an assertive coffee presence in Portland.

Curious about what this pizza/coffee mash-up will look like? Luckily Vita and Via Trib just recently opened their first joint location in Seattle's Pioneer Square and there are photos!

There is no open date as of now, but feel free to swing by the site currently under construction and peep the wood-fired oven from the window.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coffeehouse Christmas List

Many coffeehouses are closed on Christmas check below or call ahead. Peace and Good Cheer!

Open for Christmas!
Anna Bananna's Coffee, 1214 NW 21st and 8716 N. Lombard: 7:30am-Midnight
Caffe Brioso, 3907 NE Martin Luther King Blvd., 7am-7pm
Coffeehouse-Five, 740 N. Killingsworth: 8am-1pm
Red and Black Cafe, 400 SE 12th Ave.: 10am-7pm
The Red E Cafe, 1006 N. Killingsworth: 8am-3pm
Speedboat Coffee, 5115 SE Foster Rd.: 9am-1pm
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, all locations, 7am-4pm

Closed on Christmas and Beyond
Baker and Spice, 6330 SW Capitol Hwy: Closed through the weekend
Cellar Door Coffee, 2001 SE 11th: Closed through Saturday
Ladybug Organic Coffee, 8438 N. Lombard: Closed through Jan. 1st

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Coffeehouse Hours in the PDX 2009

Just because it's Thanksgiving, doesn't mean you don't need your coffee. Your first choice if you are staying in town is to swing by Coffeehouse Northwest between the hours of 8am and noon. Coffeehouse Northwest will be serving all espresso drinks plus homemade eggnog for free! All your generous tips will go to Sisters of the Road.

Below are a few special Thanksgiving hours listings from your favorite neighborhood coffeehouses:

Albina Press, NE Albina and SE Hawthorne, 7am - 2pm
BARISTA, 539 NW 13th in the Pearl: 8am - 2pm
Crema Bakery and Cafe, 2728 SE Ankeny St., 7am - 6pm
Little Red Bike Cafe, 4823 N. Lombard : 8am - 2pm w/ Thanksgiving food specials!
Lyrik Cafe, 2035 NE 39th: 8am - Noon
Posies Cafe, 8208 N. Denver Ave., 6:30am - 2pm
Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery, 1800 NE Alberta, 6:30am - 1pm
Red E Coffee, 1006 NE Killingsworth: 6am - 3pm
Ristretto Roasters, 3808 N. Williams Ave., 6:30am - Noon
Speedboat Coffee, 5115 SE Foster Rd., 8am - Noon
Stumptown, Belmont and Division, 7am - 4pm
Sweetpea Baking, 1205 SE Stark St., 9am - Noon w/fresh pumpkin pies for purchase!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

At The Cupping Table: Ristretto Roasters

Back in the heat of August, I think it was, Ristretto Roasters set out the blue dishes and little white bowls at their N. Williams location for a cupping of three of their roasts.

(I took many photos of the event and then promptly lost my data cable so I was unable to upload the photos for this blog post until now.)

Ristretto Roasters is led by Din Johnson who has put together a great team of baristas some of who were on hand to take me and many other devoted Ristretto fans through the steps of a professional cupping.

And I say "professional" because also on hand were some of the farmers and coffee experts from South America who joined us in the sniffing and slurping. These guys are the ones growing the beans Ristretto uses and they were a lot of fun to hang out with. They handed out shirts to lucky cuppers and showed us all up when it came to the slurp.

When we arrived we were all given a sheet of paper to write down our aroma and tasting notes on the three roasts on the table. There was a Guatamalen, Brazilian and Ethiopian roast if I remember correctly.

All three were very different from each other from the first dry sniff (grounds only), to the last slurp.

What has always amazed me is how a single coffee can travel over many different aromas and flavors by going through a hot water pour, agitation and finally a cooling off period. Each step brings out different pieces of the coffee's personality that some people would comment that while they thought they knew which coffee they would enjoy most based on the dry sniff, but once they slurped the cooling coffee, their opinion totally changed.

In the end it was the Guatamalen roast that was the crowd favorite. Nobody much cared for the Ethiopian, but that may have had something to do with our biased South American guests.

Ristretto puts on quite an impressive cupping with great care given to the coffee and they really let the participants feel out the coffees for themselves and share what they liked and didn't like.

While it could be easy for coffee professionals to simply dictate to the cupping newbie what they should taste and smell, I think it's important to listen to all the participants' opinons. We are the ones buying the coffee, and we may not be coffee experts, but we know what we like.

I've heard some people in the coffee business dismiss the public cupping because for some roasters the subtle differences in a coffee just don't come across an untrained palate. Or that there is just too much information to distill in such a short time with a coffee that there really is no point.

But even if we bumble our way through a cupping or two, I think a lot can be learned and appreciated in a public cupping.

Ristretto will be holding more cuppings in the future so look out for those. Kudos to Din and the staff at Ristretto for putting on a great show.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I ♥ PDX Coffee

Heart Coffee and Roasting

2211 E. Burnside
7AM-7PM Everyday

Heart Coffee and Roasting has just opened up shop on E. Burnside and they are ready to show you that the fun has only just begun here in Coffee City, USA.

First off, Heart Coffee seems to have no fear of letting the world in on their passion. Most of the time the roasting is a private affair where the victories and defeats of man vs. machine are hidden from view of the consumer.

Taking center stage is the largest and most expensive-looking roasters I've ever seen. More like a Damian Hurst work-of-art-in-progress than coffee-producing machine, having the roaster out in the middle of the cafe is a bold move.

The dangers of micro-roasting are many. I've heard that the difference of even a few seconds in the roaster can make a huge difference to a batch of beans. Sometimes that difference is only perceptible to the most refined palates. But even still, we'll see if roasting to a crowd will make a difference in the cup over time.

Heart Coffee is one of the more fascinatingly decorated coffeehouses looking like a biology classroom with sleek updates.

There are diagrams of animal innards along with the detailed drawing of a human heart. Everything is cut open and ready for examination at Heart Coffee.

Equipped with a custom espresso machine and a vac-pot station, Heart Coffee currently has five roasts up for your tasting. Kenya Muthewathi, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe grade 2, and El Borbollo’n for single origin espresso; Ethiopia Mordecofe for drip; and Ethiopia Mordecofe and Guatemala Finca Villaure for siphon brewing (aka, vac-pot).

But, that is what they have today. Tomorrow it could change. A fantastic continuation of what Portland is quickly becoming known for, Heart is roasting, brewing and selling coffee with quick turnover. This gives them great control over their product and visitors to their shop will get the freshest brew available.

The Guatemalan is a big stand-out for me. It dances around your mouth giving off tones of cocoa and citrus in the front and cooling to black and blueberry flavors. For a coffee lover these coffees are amazing to taste.

Paired up with this sparkling new coffee is one of the best, and hardly seen baked goods in town. Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery is supplying Heart Coffee with their top-notch muffins and pies, filled with mostly local fruits. Hopefully this signals a movement toward seeing more Random Order goods in coffeehouses all across town.

So, needless to say Heart Coffee is a must-see for any Portland coffee drinker. Taste the local goodness today, and, well, probably read about it in the New York Times later.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Coffee for the Greater Good...of Business

I've often wondered what it is that people say to loan officers when they want to start a coffee business in Portland but don't have enough capital to go it alone.

"Yes I know there is a lot of coffee in Portland, but my business will be different..."

"What Portland really needs and wants is just good quality coffee..."

"What!? How many other coffee businesses are there in Portland?"

But regardless, another coffeehouse, roaster, retail brand, or coffee service company keeps popping up.

Hence, Citizen Coffee. Citizen Coffee currently only services the Ecotrust building in the Pearl District, but I imagine their ambitions are greater.

Citizen Coffee's website purports to be "the only Portland coffee venue that features Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers direct-relationship coffee beans."

Sustainable Harvest tries to close the middleman gap between coffee farmers and roasters. It's a noble endeavor with the assumed benefit of better financial structures for the farmer and roaster. But Sustainable Harvest is themselves a for-profit company that itself would benefit from large brokered transactions from an increasing list of farms and roaster-businesses.

Back in Portland though, the same folks that bring you all those lovely Laughing Planet restaurants are the ones who now bring you Citizen Coffee. All of Citizen Coffee's pastries are baked at the Laughing Planet in the Ecotrust building or at the Laughing Planet's commissary.

Oddly enough though you can't find Citizen Coffee at any Laughing Planet location. They are still serving Portland Roasting coffee. I've been told that is only temporary and soon all Laughing Planets will serve their Citizen Coffee brand.

I also assume that eventually the roasting will be done in Portland, possibly by Laughing Planet themselves. Right now all the Citizen Coffee beans are roasted by Dillanos Coffee Roasters up in Sumner, WA.

Laughing Planet has created a fantastic brand for themselves which is the best asset a business can have. The brand is recognizable, respected and trusted among Portlanders. From the Citizen Coffee website, it seems they are continuing their reach with a great brand of coffee that is trying to stand apart from the rest of the coffee pack.

If I was an investor, Laughing Planet would seem like a good place to park my money for the time being. They have a good sense of what it takes to be a successful food company in Portland and I imagine Citizen Coffee is only one item on their long list of possible ventures for the future.

I can't say much for the actual coffee in the cup. I've only tried it once and it was served at an extremely hot temperature. As it cooled though, it seemed full-bodied and pleasant, nothing too outstanding to mention. But I will say that the Cosmic muffin I tried was pretty incredible.

The Cosmic muffin is a vegan, fruit-juice sweetened bran muffin with what looked like apricot pieces scattered throughout. All the baked goods look pretty good actually and I will probably be back soon.