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Image: Karen Brooks

A TALE OF TWO CUPS

How do you like your coffee—as a jolt of handmade heaven sipped on a rickety stool, or a solid latte in a room that feels like a Metropolis dream home? That Portland harbors both—grungy, self-made Courier Coffee Roasters and design-savvy Good Coffee—is one of the city’s true pleasures ... especially during these oppressive gray months.

At first glance, Courier (923 SW Oak St, couriercoffeeroasters.com) looks like a janitor’s closet. Leaves blown in from the door scatter across the cement floor; tables look straight from City Liquidators. Only an optimist (or a parent) would call the changing wall shows “art.” But you are not here to look. Drinking a cup of coffee here is about staff engagement and human touch. Conversation is king, as workers only a handshake away pull special treats out of an oven and carefully pour hot water over your choice of fresh grinds. Everything speaks directly to the philosophy of its owner: scrappy, eco-minded, hyperfocused roaster and baker Joel Domreis. He seemingly communes with coffee growers and roasts beans like a Luddite, as he puts it, “watching the coffee’s behavior, just humans looking for the right color and density.” Somehow, staring at those little nubs, Domreis extracts their essence: round and smooth, each sip releasing oils and earth, chocolate sonar and floral signals, with just enough juicy acid to grab you like that first bite of a perfect apple.

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Courier Coffee house cannelés.

Image: Karen Brooks

Domreis commutes (and delivers) by bike only, and stalks the farmers market for ingredients to fuel his golden-crusted muffin experiments. He sources eggs from an overall-clad farmer who, according to in-house barista lore, utters only three words upon each delivery: “Here’s your eggs,” feathers flying from pockets. Eclectic music is essential. The counter staff draws from a vast vinyl collection, hip-hop to Bach, accessed by the giant orange ladder permanently parked in view. What it all adds up to? A delightful way to kill an hour, a few seriously good baked treats, and, five years in, the best coffee in a competitive city.

I’m drawn to Good Coffee (4725 SE Division St, goodcoffeepdx.com) for the opposite reason: to engage with the space, beaming in massive window light, custom wood, and covetable furniture (photos 3 & 4). I can’t recall a more considered room for coffee, with five discrete places to sit, stand, read, and drink. The coffee, as advertised, is good—exactly what you’d expect from a reputable PDX shop—showcasing independent roasters. Creativity comes from seasonal drinks that sate, with grace, our hideous desire for pumpkin spice lattes.

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Image: Karen Brooks

The big decision is where to sit. One den-like corner groups two low-slung Norwegian leather chairs, a cowhide rug, and a leather-strapped modern couch that probably costs as much as three months’ rent at Courier. A tall counter offers different heights for perching, and around the bend there are handsome tables, a hidden booth, and a semicircle of chairs that look like military jackets. The conversation continues outdoors, with a sleek Scandinavian bench, two standing bars, and vintage tractor seats.

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Good Coffee’s spacious new Southeast Division location.

Image: Karen Brooks

Barista brothers Nick and Sam Purvis opened the shop in late 2014 with friend Dustin Evans. The trio designed the space with an architect friend, with two questions in mind: what’s a coffee shop, and how would we enjoy it? There’s a second, smaller location on SE 12th Avenue, and a vision to expand in Portland and beyond. Good Coffee, with its approachable cool, is “scalable,” as they say in the business. As for Courier, it’s that rare Portland place unlikely to grow beyond its own wonderful petri dish.

ONE TO WATCH

After months (OK, years) of delays, farmers market hero Tastebud has taken its wood-oven talents and stripped-down seasonality to the heart of Multnomah Village. How excited are neighbors? Early weeks had hour-plus waits for a pizza-intensive menu backed by roasted chickens, flame-fired veggies, and a tight beer and wine list. The room is intimate, with a rustic open kitchen and soft lighting. Happily, the panic is now over, and you can waltz in. Pizzas are still finding their groove. The real surprises: anchovy-punched kale salad crowned in Tastebud bagel croutons and, hot from the fire, a divine apple galette. (7783 SW Capitol Hwy, tastebudpdx.com)

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Editor’s Pick

Courier Coffee Roasters

$ Bakery, Coffee 923 SW Oak

Simple but powerful pour-over coffee from some of the best beans in the city are the main feature at this no-frills coffee shop on SW Oak St.