Slapping it fast in Portland

IT’s always a fun time when we get the chance to head north over the pass and enter a little place called Portland, or as we know it, coffee nirvana. There is a reason this city is known as Coffeetown, USA, and it’s definately not all hype. In addition to being home to a little known roaster called Stumptown, Portland is home to some of the best Baristas in the country. There are a number of coffee shops within walking (or biking) distance of the city center where you can get a world class capp, or shot of espresso. It’s a little unfair.

We left Bend at 7am with our bellies full of vac-potted Kenya (it definately doesn’t taste like tomato soup) and hit the road on a delightfully frosty morning. We arrived by ten and met our good friend and ex-backporch slinger Calvin at a breakfast joint called Juniors. After some creative potatoes and eggs, and a discussion about which movie star our waitress looked like, we moved onto our first stop: the venerable Albina Press. The Press has been a BP favorite ever since its humble beginnings on Albina and Alberta, but today we visited its snazzy incarnation on 50th and Hawthorne. It felt good to be recognized, kudos to Anthony for smiling so nice, and making us feel good. The espressos were delicious. I’ve never known what it’s like to pull five consecutive doubles for such discerning customers, but he pulled it off quite well. Best espressos of the day, extremely balanced, with chocolate, a cherry finish, and extremely ristretto, an albina trademark.

After leaving the Press we travelled west to the most hip and happening area on Hawthorne for a glance at some vintage clothing, and a trip to the Fresh Pot. Connected to the Southeast branch of Powell’s books, the Fresh Pot was not what I was expecting in such a well respected coffee shop, but the espresso didn’t disappoint: definately the heaviest bodied shot of the day, and a great Colombia on the press. Didn’t catch the name of the farm because there was some confusion on whether it was Sumatra or Colombia when Dave got his cup. After one sip, it was clear that it was Colombia, and Dave was happy.

Onto Downtown Powell’s for some good reading material, and up a few blocks to my new favorite coffee shop in Portland: Coffeehouse Northwest. With the best capps in town, a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and a pretty synesso, this shop has become the one that I spend the most time at when I’m in Portland lately. Thanks to Daniel for the stellar work and being nice to us. The shot he pulled me was extremely heavy upfront, receding into a Yirgacheffe-like finish.We left them with some of the Backporch Blend to play with, and hopefully enjoy.

We then eagerly walked down to try and peak at the spot that Billy Wilson’s (Northwest Barista Champion 2007, 2008;Second Place North American Barista Championship 2007, all around rock star, and nice guy) new shop BARISTA! was rumored to be opening at in February. We walked around the Pearl District a while before giving up, and deciding that such a magical place couldn’t really exist (Three different espresso blends pulled on three Mazzer Roburs, a three-group synesso, a refurbished GS-2 with glass paneled sides, and a full syphon bar. Talk about living the dream). I will be paying this place a visit as quickly as possible when it opens.

It’s very inspiring as a barista to go to Portland. To see so many dedicated, and passionate baristas makes me want to be a better barista in Bend. I’m expecting the old Backporch Blend will be receiving a little extra love tomorrow morning after watching these guys.

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