World Grinds, Bro

Sip City

Portland's coffee culture percolates nationwide.

By Mike Thelin May 19, 2009 Published in the January 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Justin Myers

WHEN IT COMES to coffee, Portlanders have long had a more discerning palate than people in other parts of the country. We were sipping single-origin coffees from the likes of Stumptown Coffee Roasters back in 1999, when most Americans were sucking down Starbucks. Now that the rest of the nation is waking up to the idea of specialty coffee as an everyday essential, the Rose City’s roasterati are pioneering ?projects nationwide. To wit, when Manhattan’s new Ace Hotel (another Northwest export) opens in February, the scent of Stumptown beans will fill the first floor; and across the ?East River, Stumptown is building a roasting facility in Brooklyn. Here’s where else our bean brains are brewing big ideas.


After Starbucks swallowed the beloved Northwest coffee mini-chain Torrefazione Italia in 2003, Jeremy Tooker, a Torrefazione barista in Portland, headed to San Francisco. There, in 2005, he and Seattle Torrefazione alum Eileen Hassi debuted Ritual Coffee Roasters in the heart of the Mission District. Ritual now has three locations, and Tooker recently went solo to launch his own enterprise, Four Barrel Coffee, several blocks away.?


?Before leaving Portland in 2003, R.C. Gartrell manned the tiny Coffee Cellar on SE 60th Avenue and Stark Street and roasted beans for Stumptown. He landed in Telluride and founded Tomboy Coffee Roasters, a celebrated roastery that sells single-origin beans along the Continental Divide in Colorado to places like the upscale Chop House at the historic New Sheridan Hotel. A cup of Costa Rica Tarrazu at 8,745 feet—now that’s what we call a Rocky Mountain high. ?


At any given time, 25 percent of the staff at New York City coffee mecca Ninth Street Espresso hail from either Seattle or Portland, says owner Ken Nye, who started buying beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters last March. Even if the folks creating latte art aren’t from Oregon, they might well be trained by someone who is: Ninth Street’s head trainer, Kim Leijon, once filled cups at Blend Coffeehouse and Café on E Burnside Street. And former Albina Press barista Dan Griffin’s new venture, Tamp Tamp, is a coffee consulting and staffing agency that lands able baristas in Gotham’s finest cafés.

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