The Roadtrip – Portland

We arrived into Portland in time to shower, feel human for half an hour and then head into town to meet various peoples for a beer or two.
I have no idea what the bar was but it was a great place. The beer (Ninkasi I think – some wise Portlander should probably correct me) was fantastic and it was good to see a load of people again – like Duane and Kyle as well as to meet David, Stephen Vick, Katie ‘fucking’ Carguilo and others before heading down to the Horsebrass pub (the excuse being I might feel more at home there) where I would meet Ryan Wilbur, Sarah Allen as well as Phuong who was down from Lava Java. It was a great evening and Portland taxis drivers showed themselves (that night and others) to be the most pleasantly mental people you can hope to meet….

(credit to Ryan for the Photo)

The next day it was pretty hard to get into a coffee frame of mind. I blame Alistair and his enthusiasm for beer. We hung out in the Ace in the morning and chatted quite a lot to Shane of Habit who was down for a few days. His place sounds amazing and he had so many great ideas and such great attention to detail.

The Ace is great too. Compared to some of the places we’ve stayed it is ridiculously cheap, I love the individuality of each room and having Stumptown in the lobby is such a good idea. The massive table in the lobby was always occupied by people drinking coffee, usually Clover rather than espresso and it was a nice friendly place that wasn’t stressful should one have accidentally drank too much the night before and feel a little delicate. The machines look so beautiful in there and I love the Stumptown logos in the machine panels:

Eventually we went by the main Stumptown roastery which was great.

They had a group of trainees in with Kyle and we got a chance to chat with Stephen Vick a little more. After a very necessary visit to the massively tasty Taco truck (I did mention the Mexican theme to our food right?) over the road we drove up to the old roastery on Division to see Joel. Joel is great, not only a lovely guy but when he talks about roasting you get a strong sense of his understanding of the process.

They still have an old UG-15 from the late ’50s up there which they still roast on. Whilst there he offered us a coffee and I had my first of the day – just a single to be difficult. It was stellar, a genuinely great shot (I have no idea who pulled it). Everything balanced, everything nice and clear and a real pleasure. I had no more coffee that day.

That evening was the screening of the American Barista School’s new DVD called Training with the Champions. On the DVD were Billy, Phuong, Bronwen, Kyle and Klaus, as well as others and footage of the last NWRBC all introduced by Sarah Allen. It was the first time I’ve met Billy which was very cool, and it was nice to see lots of other people there. I was also surprised and pleased to meet Terry Z who popped over quickly to say hello and give me a tamper and then I didn’t really get a chance to speak to him the rest of the evening which was a bit rude on my part (sorry Terry if you are reading this! And Thank you!). It was also good to meet Zachary and I was quite relieved that later on that evening when we were in the bar eating and drinking his battery ran out half way through me getting taped. It was good to chat to Katie a little more too.


The next morning we went by to see Joel again and to chat to him as he was roasting. After a few roasts we headed to the Annex for the 11am cupping. It was quite busy with staff members so we quietly joined in the line of eager cuppers. There were six coffees on the table and whilst many people went for the Panama Don Pache which was really interesting, I really liked the Honduran Micro Lot they had in whose name I must double check. Really interesting coffee, great acidity that gave superb clarity to the cup and it remained excellent even when it finally reached room temperature.

We met up with Sarah and Ken from Barista Magazine for some pizza then we headed up to North Portland starting at the Fresh Pot. I really liked the place, nice feel to it and Michael, the general manager greated us with espresso and some freebies (how we love the freebies – especially when the t-shirts are as good as Fresh Pot’s!). This cafe really rammed home people’s attention to detail that is so missing in most of the UK. Care goes into the feel of the place, little touches to give character to these places that make them home.

From there we snuck over to Ristretto roasters (we had to see another roaster than Stumptown!) and had a few drinks. The cafe is pretty small and the roaster is in a separate room with a big window into it, looked like a Probat L12. They also had a Strong espresso machine which I hadn’t seen outside of Google Video.

A sneaky espresso in Extracto before heading over to meet Billy in the Albina Press. Billy was supposed to be on vacation but very kindly offered to come for us and pull us a few espressos. It was interesting to taste the Hairbender done a different way to the Stumptown cafes – they give the coffee a couple more days rest and pull slightly shorter shots which shows a different side to the blend. His shots were consistently excellent and he is great to watch work behind a bar.

Having had plenty of good coffee and having picked up a few t-shirts we headed back to the hotel to relax and then that evening we went out for some dinner with Anastasia from Clover and Sarah Allen before hot footing it over town to meet up with Stephen Vick and David George who had been working late. One last drink in Portland and some great stories (credit to Stephen) and then we headed home. I could have spent another week in Portland quite easily. So much to discover and explore, and we had so little time.

I can see why Stumptown makes such a strong impression on people. I’ve worked with a lot of coffee companies in the UK and I’ve seen a fair few in other places and all would be impressed by not just the coffee but by the whole company. I look forward to coming back, especially as they are such great hosts.

Full photoset is here

3 Comments

  1. Great reading Jim ….
    I must admit The Stumptown was possibly the only thing that I ever have thought was that abused & hated American word and does sum it up well – Awesome. Mind you I had to put up with Hurstyboy on that trip!
    Keep reports up … first class … regards to The World Champ & Stevie baby.

  2. Sounds like one hell of a trip. It was great to meet you and I think the beer was Ninkasi, like a ruby red grapefruit. Hope you enjoyed the states. How much do I have to save up to travel to the UK and get schooled in the art of espresso?
    cheers. ivan

  3. You haven’t heard of cafe racing?  Well, it all started with this modest roadside diner, which was established back in 1938 to cater to the growing trucking industry.  The cafe racer was the place to stop off for a tea or coffee and maybe an order of bangers and mash or an egg and chips.

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