Coffee News

Northern Migration

Stumptown Coffee Roasters flies the coop for Seattle. Well, sort of.

By Bart Blasengame May 19, 2009 Published in the January 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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FAIR TRADE WITH third world farmers. A crusader’s zeal to rescue us from overroasted beans. With its DIY do-goodery, Stumptown Coffee Roasters has long appealed to Portlanders’ fierce loyalty to local businesses. Indeed, its coffee has become the conscientious sipper’s preferred choice for liquid speed, while at the same time managing to avoid labels like “corporate” or “monolithic.” At least until now.

The eight-year-old microroaster first raised eyebrows in 2005 when it doled out beans to a San Francisco café. But now they’ve really gone and done it: This fall the company dared to hop the mighty Columbia and set up a roastery and two cafés in Seattle. According to Matt Lounsbury, Stumptown’s director of operations, the move represents an effort to grow Stumptown’s wholesale business, as well as uphold its evangelical belief in the superiority of its beans and in coffee farmers’ right to a fair wage. “We can’t buy more coffee unless we sell more coffee,” he says. “If that means opening more cafés, then so be it.”

Naturally, some local espresso-heads reacted as though they just heard their favorite indie act signed to a major label. “So, what? They’re gonna become the next Peet’s now?” one North Portland sipper moaned. (Apparently, there’s a quota on how many cafés you can open before you start losing your cool factor.) That’s not likely to happen any time soon, since Stumptown generally sells its beans within a 45-minute driving distance of where they were roasted. But Lounsbury won’t rule out more growth in the future. “We certainly have our eyes on other things,” he says. Watch out, Issaquah. You could be next.