Coffee Guide: Standout Shops

16 Places in Portland to Drink Coffee Right Now

From hand-roasted beans to double-decker buses to scene-stealing décor, these destinations are in a class of their own.

By Benjamin Tepler, Karen Brooks, Kelly Clarke, and Rebecca Jacobson February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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A steady-handed pour-over at Coava Coffee.


The state of the bean meets the art of the shop at these five destinations.


Everything to love and parody about Portland swirls in a Coava cup. Never have you seen people more jazzed about the intricacies of soil management. Alice Waters might blush at the company’s farmer hero worship. Owner Matt Higgins grows 30-plus varieties of coffee plants around his office, just to study their agronomy. His goal: to extract every fruity, racy nuance from the single-origin beans. Order a pour-over—hot water theatrically slow-dripped over grounds, twinkling beautifully through a house-made metal cone. Ask for milk if you dare. KB

Spella Caffè

How OG is Andrea Spella? Eleven years ago, the dude helped pioneer the city’s nanobatch coffee and food truck scenes, serving poetic, lever-pulled espresso drinks from his Spella Caffè cart. At their core: hand-roasted beans calculated to make Italian expats weep, like dense, liquid coffee candy. In 2010, the low-key perfectionist opened a chandelier-lit shoebox hidden along downtown’s bus mall. It’s unchanged today. Excellence runs through everything here, from hand-shaken iced coffee to addictive affogatos gurgling with double shots and creamy gelato swoops. —KB


What can you pack into a 200-square-foot space? Espresso flights in single-malt whiskey glasses, candles roaring all day, and, at every jam-packed table, fresh flowers and white linen. If Stumptown is Portland’s wired living room, Sterling is its kitchen, where everyone gathers for friendly coffee craft, endless banter, and luscious cappuccinos. The signature Blendo Stupendo beans are decidedly non-nerdy: chocolaty and nutty. Says co-owner Aric Miller: “We want people to drink a good cup, not revere it.” At Sterling, however, reverence is hard to resist. —KB


Even here in Drip City, owner Wille Yli-Luoma wins the belt for attention to detail. Each batch is compulsively quantified for a very specific character: light, adventurous, and never, ever boring. The body seems like a sleight-of-hand trick, nearly weightless, yet lush and full. Flavors—especially the outstanding African roasts—push beyond what a bean should taste like. Imagine a peach handpie washed back with a complex wine; that’s a Heart coffee. Get a vanilla latte if you like (many do), but at Heart, the wise take the black. —KB

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Kainos Coffee


Northeast’s Roseway hood was a coffee wasteland until BFFs Marten Boyden and Austin Roberts opened this bright, spartan café in 2016. Now neighbors clamor for the chatty pair’s exuberant yet balanced roasts—consumed via drip, via pour-over, or prepped on the café’s Rocket R9 (plus, heady, bittersweet affogato with dark chocolate ice cream). “This tastes like ‘fruity-berry-yum,’” explains Boyden, as he hands over a cup of house blend. “It’s named Freakin’ Yum.” Damned if he doesn’t nail it. Bonus: the café’s committed to good works—21 percent of proceeds benefit impoverished kids in the Philippines. —KC

The Individualists

It’s their world—you just drink coffee in it.


Portland’s most exotic coffee shop lives inside a colorful, crammed double-decker bus parked on SE Hawthorne since 2015. At Tōv, Egypt’s coffee culture (tiny tables for slow-sipping, talking, and playing chess) meets Portland’s playfully wired scene. Mochas with homemade chocolate-wine sauce? Why not? Behind the counter: coffee fanatic and Egyptian immigrant Joseph Nazir. Cardamom-scented Turkish coffee comes correct—thick and full-throttled—and the sahlep is a dreamy steamer, literally chewy with pistachios and coconut. All aboard. —KB

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I didn’t think a latte could blow my mind. Or taste like black licorice floating in a fluffy milk cloud. Midnight Oil, as it’s called, brings the kitchen into the cup, with a blend of licorice root, black Belgian candy sugar, and fennel-anise syrup. From the mind of co-manager Zach Harrison, it’s one of five bold options at Never, which opened last August with a cute (and acute) design sense. You can get good, straight-up coffee drinks here. But why would you? —KB


Blocks away from Index, Compound, and Pensole (the country’s only design school exclusively for shoes), former Nike shoe developer Ian Williams’s teeny Old Town café doubles as a sneakerhead art gallery and shoe industry networking spot. A jumble of vintage Jordan posters share wall space with a rotating installation of rare sneakers, NBA coffee mugs, and Blazers pint glasses. Paraphernalia aside, the laid-back crew of this “snob-free coffee” spot is game to debate nearly any subject—even the Star Wars prequels. —KC

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Either/Or's Tanglewood chai latte


Ro Tam’s Sellwood hideaway feels like a coffee artist’s studio. Muses include philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and moody Portland musician Elliott Smith. But clearly, Martha Stewart is in the house, too. Tam seems to make it all. Lively coffee sodas. Extracts for groundbreaking coffee mocktails. Dainty house chai muffins (one of our favorite pastries in town). Espresso flights, with little-known roasters, include a weekly “taste-pairing”—perhaps a crusted pear compote. The “hot buttered yam” is infused with black tea, caramelized bourbon, and maple. Naturally, Tam also bottles it. —KB


Japanese cool kids come to Portland in search of a vague “authenticity”: something scrappy, self-made, and absolute in its commitments. Courier is their touchstone. Baristas don aprons for daily baking experiments; turntable selections command attention; and hand-whipped mochas sing with highbrow chocolate in a lo-fi space. Everything filters through the curiosities of microroaster Joel Domreis, who defied the gods of reason to create a safe place for weirdness, with wonderful coffee to boot. —KB

Room with a Brew

Where the décor steals the scene.
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Good Coffee

Good Coffee

Think of Good’s twin Southeast locations as Kinfolk magazine live, with perfect lattes wafting a bit of hazelnut and rose water and a case of Bakeshop treats. Your own house probably doesn’t boast gorgeous, built-in walnut shelving and cowhide rugs, or flaunt Cocanú chocolate and Tanglewood chai in its larder. But dammit, for an hour you can enjoy coffee from a rotating cast of indie roasters in a textured, artisan-crafted mug, read your library book, and pretend you’re at home. —KC

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See See Motor Coffee Co

See See Motor Coffee Co.

Stepping into NE Sandy’s See See is like taking an Evel Knievel stunt jump into the world of throttle jockeys. Custom-designed helmets with fangs, wings, and tiger stripes pop off the back wall; Iron & Air and 15 volumes of The World of Motorcycles litter the bookshelves. In the next room, a curated shop sells beautiful leather jackets and engine oil. For civilians, it’s a great place to sip Stumptown and nibble on compact breakfast burritos. —BT

Barista Nob Hill

Portland coffee shops usually come in two modes: spare and modern or sticky and thread-worn. Then there’s elegant local chainlet Barista’s NW 23rd Avenue outpost, which transplants Portland’s serious coffee culture (and a highbrow list of rotating national roasters) to an Old World Parisian bistro, complete with elegant mirrors, botanical wallpaper, and horseshoe-shaped booths. Yes, there’s also a row of minuscule rounds where you can set up your laptop—but really, how gauche. —KC

Ristretto Roasters

Snugged into the soaring foyer of Schoolhouse Electric’s midcentury lighting and furniture showroom, Ristretto’s Northwest Industrial location is a light-soaked cocoon of old brick and ironwork. There’s eye candy everywhere, from the curved, steel-weave coffee bar to rows of vintage vinyl bench chairs—all soundtracked by the rumble of trains only yards away. —KC

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Cathedral Coffee

Cathedral Coffee

If it didn’t sound like a diss, I’d say this delightfully oddball Cathedral Park café reminds me of the coffee shop from Friends—a velvet-armchair and library-shelved throwback to 1990s coffeehouse culture paired with timber counters and graffiti-art walls, perfect for long conversations. Locally roasted Tanager coffee is a standout, but the real draw is the bakery case, packed with the homey and the house-made. A craggy almond-and-anise scone, with white chocolate and sticky fig, is everything. —KC

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With its stained glass windows and soaring wood-beam ceiling, Taborspace occupies the chapel commons of the century-old Mt Tabor Presbyterian Church. While a nonstop roster of community events drums on elsewhere in the building—laughter yoga, baby ballet, art classes, Spanish lessons, a preschool in the basement—nab a mug of Nossa Familia coffee and a Bakeshop scone, boot the kiddos to the quiet play corner, and burrow into a burgundy armchair. Preach. —RJ

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