Across the continent with a coffee Roaster – Portland

January 21, 2009
Kaelin McCowan

…Next stop on my our road trip: Portland.  

First off, let me just say, when you are driving solo in unfamiliar territory, what a blessing GPS is.  I’m usually a map only, always know which way is North type of guy.  But the GPS made my travels easy and stress free.  Having said that, I wasn’t aware that in the "avoidance’s” setting in the GPS, “Ferries” wasn’t selected.  So the day before on my way to Bremerton, it had me drive down into a small town to catch the ferry across Puget Sound.  Lesson learned.

I arrived into Portland at the “Thriftlodge” on Burnside.  Maybe my GPS should have an avoidance for bad motels.  Oh well, it was central, had parking for my cube truck, and was across the road from a pretty cool Restaurant/Hotel/Club: Doug Fir Lounge.  

The next morning I started with an awesome omelet at Screen Door down the street on Burnside.  I kinda hate dining alone, but at least they had a bar to sit at.  Next I was off across the river into downtown to check out the Portland Saturday Market.  To be honest, I couldn’t really get into it, but I wasn’t in the mood for shopping either.  I think the only thing I even considered cool was the guy with the duct tape wallets.

Next I was off to Stumptown’s downtown location.   I had an amazing shot of hairbender pulled for me.  I was struck by the dark crema and the huge chocolate and caramel and citrus notes.   Really loved the location as well.  Gotta love them spinning vinyl!



I then walked over to the Portland Farmers Market at the entrance of the State University.  I knew my wife would have gone crazy at the sight of the beautiful chanterelles that were on offer.  I visited the guys from Cafe Velo who have a pourover station as well as airpots that they french press (or as we call them in Canada “Bodum”) coffees into. I had what was soon to be some of the last of the El Injerto Bourbon left for the season.

The rest of the weekend was spent visiting more coffee shops.  I had some really nice coffee and conversations at Albina Press with Kevin and Extracto with Chris.  I was struck by the care and attention that baristas everywhere took preparing my coffee, without even knowing that I was into coffee,  sometimes pouring a shot 2 or 3 times before they would serve me a drink.


I also visited Stumptowns Annex location for the public cuppings they do twice daily.  I cupped some of the same coffees I had tried in Seattle.  The Kenyan Gaturiri Reserve really shone.  It is unusual for Kenyan coffees to bypass the auction system.  This is Stumptowns first offering from Kenya via their “Direct Trade” program.  

What I found amazing at the Annex was watching and listening to the customers coming in.  It has become part of the culture for people to come in and buy their freshly roasted coffee every week.  They also seem to understand that coffee is seasonal and were ready and willing to try something different even though their latest favourite was no longer available.


My weekend in Portland was coming to an end.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Portland, sure I loved the coffee, but I wasn’t sure it was the city for me.  Maybe I was just itching to get moving homeward and grumpy from all the noisy people whsmall-kgwo stayed at my motel following a Vic Chesnutt concert across the road at the Doug Fir.  

I do remember passing by a shop somewhere on the East side with a big sign above saying “Keep Portland Wierd“.  I think maybe that kinda summed something up for me…. Coming next the road trip home….