Friday 6 May 2016

A Tour of Portland's Coffee Culture

Last month I had a food tour article on Fairfax Media's Good Food site about Portland, USA; where I was hosted by, the Hotel Eastlund and Travel Portland.

What was missing, for space reasons, was an account of an equally good Portland coffee tour I took the following day. Now the story continues...

On my last day in the city I join another tour, this one focusing on coffee.

It’s easy for an Australian to be dismissive of American coffee, but in Portland there is a genuine quality coffee scene, less overshadowed by Starbucks than further north in Seattle.

The Streetcar Named Delicious tour (US$40,, run by Third Wave Coffee Tours, takes advantage of Portland’s great tram system to move tour members to six inner-city outlets.

At our first café, Case Study, guide Lora warns against over-caffeination in the three hours ahead.

After an introduction to the history of coffee and its development in the USA, a hipster barista who could feature in Portlandia talks us through coffee “from body to clarity” (see above photo).

He serves us Ethiopian coffee prepared via French press, Chemex, and Kalita Wave filter, as a practical demonstration of each method.

At each succeeding café we try something different. Christopher David presents us with its café di nini, with layers of vanilla syrup, cold rice milk and espresso (see photo at left).

Sisters Coffee Co serves a Kenyan pour-over coffee prepared via the Hario V60 filter.

At Nossa Familia we have an espresso con panna with with chocolate espresso whipped cream, then step into the roastery to see green beans imported from the owners’ family farm in Brazil. 

The next stop is at the Downtown’s central food cart pod, our group huddling in light drizzle beneath the canopy of Ole Latte for a pumpkin poached orange latte (this was just before Halloween).

As there’s only one small window, cart owner Todd says he gets to know all his regulars as he serves one at a time (see photo below).

The tour concludes at Public Domain, a warm Downtown café with a timber bar and lots of natural light. Five years old, this third-wave café is now owned by roaster Coffee Bean International, itself founded locally in 1972.

The coffee we drink here, prepared by barista Amanda using a V60 filter, is decaffeinated. Thank god for that. I love coffee, but after this Portland experience there’s a risk I won’t sleep for days.

Four more Portland food highlights:

Craft Beer. Portland is a huge craft beer city, and a good way to sample the scene is via a Brewvana tour.

Portland Farmers Market. Open almost every day across the city in the warmer months, including Downtown on Mondays at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

McMenamins. Operates breweries, bars, restaurants and cinemas in an eclectic range of historic buildings.

Voodoo Doughnut. Popular creator of bizarre doughnuts, including its signature zombie version with a pretzel stake through its heart.

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