Six People Changing Portland Coffee in 2020
Erica Escalante, the founder of Café Reina (formerly the Arrow Coffeehouse), has not had an easy time of it: she received national media attention after four consecutive break-ins hammered her Northeast shop in December 2018. But she hasn’t let the drama hold her back. This year Escalante and partner Lyla Wolfenstein launched a production bakery, Kitchenhood Commissary, in the back of her shop, now home to a dozen small businesses. Escalante, a self-taught baker who learned on the job making blueberry muffins for her busy café, now mentors a diverse crew of entrepreneurs. “These days I spend so much time meeting with other entrepreneurs and giving small-business advice,” says Escalante. “For me, that’s the best part of my day.”
Gio Fillari’s Instagram account, @CoffeeFeedPDX, gives his nearly 6,000 followers a street-level view of the city’s most interesting drinks and coffee bars. A full-time marketing man for Nike, Fillari has visited well over a hundred cafés in the account’s three-year history and is regularly approached by tourists looking for recommendations. “But I hear all the time from locals, too,” says Fillari. “People always want to know how cool the new spot is.”
Katie Prinsen opened Prince Coffee in 2016. Now she has two locations on either side of the Willamette, dedicated to the spirit of working together and forming partnerships: she works with multiple local roasters, from Coava to Heart, and serves some of the city’s best tea, chocolate, and baked goods from places like Tanglewood Chai and Bakeshop. This year has seen two of her biggest collaborations yet, opening a full-service café inside Schoolhouse Electric’s headquarters in Industrial Northwest and producing 10,000 stroopwafels for a seasonal Burgerville milkshake. About those wafels: Prinsen and her team still work them by hand in-store each day, using stroopwafel presses from Holland.
Portland is home to what might be the most important coffee quality laboratory in America: the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, an international organization connecting coffee farmers with buyers willing to pay a premium for extraordinary small-production beans. “ACE,” as it’s known, also operates an education wing, overseen by Alex Pond. The 33-year-old “cups”—the term used for flavor evaluation in coffee—dozens, sometimes hundreds of coffee samples each week, traveling the world to lead education sessions overseas, Guatemala to Germany. From small roasters across the United States to the next generation of coffee professionals in China, Pond has helped establish Portland’s ongoing rep as a global coffee hub along the way.
Brothers Sam and Nick Purvis started Good Coffee out of a little sidewalk cart in the Richmond neighborhood in 2014. In six years, they’ve expanded into four always-packed coffee bars in each corner of the city, developed a high-end, in-house coffee roasting program, and rolled out their own line of ready-to-drink cold coffee beverages. And that’s just the beginning. This year, the brothers will open a massive new headquarters in downtown Troutdale, home to a full-service café, intensive tasting bar, and expansive roasting facility. Come 2021 they’ll take a coveted spot at PDX Airport’s newly-expanded Concourse B. You heard it here first: Good Coffee is the next great Portland