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 the scene’s rich history for yourself.
Origins and Trendsetters
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 spicy habanero mochas and hazelnut praline lattes. You may hear people refer to this shop as “Coffee People,” which was the name of Jim and Patty’s beloved chain that kept Portland caffeinated from 1983–1998 (and lived on under different ownership until mid-2016).
Portland’s bean scene is as accessible as it is diverse. In fact, you don’t have to leave downtown to sample some of the best cups.
Meet Loretta Guzman, owner of Bison Coffeehouse in Northeast Portland, the city’s only Native-owned coffee shop.
From Mexico to Nicaragua take a coffee tour of South America through the different roasts, styles, and flavors of Portland’s Latinx coffee scene.
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 Street coffeehouse. With a variety of Portland locations (and many other shops serving up his roasts), additional locations in other cities and their beans available across the country, Stumptown has brought living wages to coffee farmers worldwide through a financially transparent supply chain. While that sounds good, the end product tastes even better — whether it’s a bottled cold brew or a shot of espresso, their Costa Rican, Ethiopian and Indonesian blends each have distinct tastes and can be purchased by the bag to make at home.
Roasters, Coffee Shops & Cafés
Coava Coffee Roasters owner Matt Higgins started making his artisanal brews in his garage in 2008. Today you can visit one of their multiple locations throughout the city — grab a bag of beans, sip an espresso drink or try a coffee flight to experience everything they have to offer. Since 2009, Heart Coffee has been perfecting the ideal coffee one cup at a time, using an AeroPress, precise timing and exact measurements. Taste for yourself — seven days a week — at one of their bright, spacious coffee shops.
Though Water Avenue 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.” He opened the American Barista and Coffee School in 2003 alongside his son Matt Milletto, who has also served as president of the Oregon Coffee Board.
Barista — with its gorgeous shops in the Pearl District, the Alberta Arts District 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 range of locations where small-batch roasted beans and house-made syrups make cups worth savoring.
Portland is also home to a variety of spots where roasters and owners merge their love of coffee with other unique interests. Deadstock Coffee & Gallery pays tribute to sneakerhead culture and basketball history — sip a cup of “snob-free” coffee while perusing their collection of rare Air Jordans and vintage NBA memorabilia. Jet Black Coffee Company will feel like home to lovers of houseplants and punk rock (the names of their shop and their “Dear You” custom blend are drawn from songs and albums by the beloved band Jawbreaker). Enjoy an espresso and a vegan pastry in their cozy, arboretum-esque dining room.
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