Since before Starbucks spilled across the map from its headquarters in the Pacific Northwest, Portland’s coffee culture has kept locals caffeinated with a mix of independent roasters and small cafés, each brewing up espressos, Americanos and lattes with beans from around the world. And if you know where to go, you can get a mugful of its rich history for yourself.
Start with a step back in time at Jim & Patty’s Coffee, a friendly neighborhood haunt where the owners man the till and serve up hot drinks like their spicy Habanero Mocha and their Peanut Butter Fudge Mocha. You may hear people refer to this shop as “Coffee People,” which was the name of Jim and Patty’s beloved chain, which kept Portland caffeinated from 1983-1998 (and lived on under different ownership until mid-2016).
Picking up Coffee People’s torch, Stumptown Coffee Roasters kept Portland on the coffee map when owner Duane Sorenson started sourcing, roasting and delivering his own beans from his Southeast Division coffeehouse. With five Portland locations (and many other shops serving up his roasts), their beloved beans have brought living wages to coffee farmers worldwide through a financially transparent supply chain. While that sounds good, the the end product tastes even better — whether it’s a bottled cold brew, espresso, or made with a Chemex, their Costa Rican, Ethiopian, and Indonesian blends each have distinct tastes and can be purchased by the bag to make at home.
Brazilian native Augusto Carneiro, owner and founder of Nossa Familia Coffee, started importing Brazilian coffee from his family’s farms to Portland in 2004, and proudly uses a Loring roaster (the most environmentally-friendly roaster available), to roast farm-direct beans from family-owned farms like his and from others around the world.
Since pouring their first cup in 2005, Ristretto Roasters has also brewed signature smooth espressos and lattes in its Northwest and Mississippi locations, medium-roasting their beans at an eastside facility. Coava Coffee Roasters owner Michael Higgins started making his artisanal brews in his garage in 2008, but now the company’s Southeast Portland brew bar, located adjacent to their roastery, offers coffee flights, so drinkers can taste the difference in their cups. Since 2009, Heart Roasters has been perfecting the ideal coffee one cup at a time, using an aeropress, precise timing and exact measurements, and they’ll show you how seven days a week at their eastside coffee lab.
Though Water Ave. Coffee officially opened in 2009, the father-son team behind this Eastside roaster has a longstanding history with coffee: Bruce Milletto has spent a lifetime shaping the industry as a Specialty Coffee Association of America “Coffee Luminary,” and opened the American Barista and Coffee School in 2003 alongside his son Matt Milletto, who’s currently the president of the Oregon Coffee Board.
Despite their rich, single-origin and blended roasts being dubbed “the best coffee in the neighborhood” from reviewers at Willamette Week, Five Points Coffee has flown largely under the radar, as has Beaverton-based coffee roaster Dapper & Wise, whose trendy corner cafe on Southeast Division offers unique mochas and chais alongside their locally roasted coffee and cold brew.
If you miss out on these roasters, their brews are also available at coffeehouses around town. Barista, with gorgeous shops perfect for people watching in the Pearl District, Alberta Street and downtown, pours masterfully made espressos from a variety of roasters. Case Study Coffee, meanwhile, began as an espresso catering company, but has since evolved into a pair of locations (downtown and on East Burnside) where small-batch roasted beans and house-made syrups make cups worth savoring.