Iggy Pop in the flesh

If there’s one thing to know about me, it is this: whenever I think about Iggy Pop, I think about David Bowie. Then I think about the rumor Quincy Jones planted in all of our brains last year that James Baldwin once made tender love to Marlon Brando. This is not, mind you, a strict 1:1 situation. David Bowie has never been in A Streetcar Named Desire, and even Baldwin’s most inflammatory polemics are several notches subtler than “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Still, in each situation, we look at a pair of public figures who produced zeitgeist-defining art and ask a single question: Did those guys ever bone? 

This doesn’t have a ton to do with Iggy Pop’s new Stumptown collaboration, but context is everything (after timing, location, and everything). The Portland roaster released a new single-origin coffee on June 13, sourced from Sumatra and assembled by the women-led fair-trade Ketiara Cooperative, with a spare and striking bag designed by the Iguana himself. Stumptown Head-of-Brand Mallory Pilcher says that this is a one-off collaboration, calling Pop “arguably the greatest living punk legend” and citing Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger as evidence. A chunk of the proceeds from the steeply-priced joe (12 oz. for $19) will go to Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an international org that links music education with gender equity. 

I scored two bags of the fragrant, espresso-y stuff last week, and touted them around in my backpack all afternoon, accidentally making the new Hat Yai on Belmont smell like hot brown sugar. If I expected to feel like the kind of leather-clad daredevil who would release a late-career Ke$ha duet, those stirrings were put to bed when I knocked a bag open trying to retrieve my Burt’s Bees. 

On my long transit ride home, I considered how I might expect the coffee to taste. The press release promises “notes of dates, nutmeg, and a long, chocolatey finish.” I figured “fraught relationship with one of the 20th century’s most formidable icons” or “released the less commercially successful version of ‘China Girl’” would be difficult to pack into every cup, but I somehow yearned for flavor dimensions slightly beyond the observable.

When morning came and I ran the stuff through my French press, I got something in the middle. The roast is bright, loud, a little unstable—not unlike Raw Power-era Stooges. The dates were there, as was the chocolate, plus that hay-adjacent top note in a lot of Stumptown’s stuff. As I sipped, I turned one of the bags over in my hand, tracing the metallic contours of Iggy’s design. It’s a hand-drawn ax (with strong hints of toothbrush) driven into a narrowing stump. Like any good journalist, I tried to work it into a hamfisted metaphor, wading through the lyrics of “Lust for Life” and “The Passenger” for help.

Then I was like, “this is just a bag of coffee.” And it is! Iggy Pop would not want me to look much further than that. If you’re looking for salvation, try hearing The Idiot at 17 for the first time. If you’re looking for coffee, this will do just fine.

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