Friday, June 10, 2011

All About Beans

I'm talking about coffee beans. We had some news this week about one of Portland's most popular coffee brands: Stumptown. The company has found an investor and there seemed to quite a bit of buzz about what this means. It's probably the vagueness of the statement from Duane Sorenson, the man who started the company back in 1999. I find this interesting because it sounds like business will go on as usual, which is a good thing. What stood out to me is that the news on the site is called "A Note from Duane." This speaks volumes to what Portland is all about. It's not about titles and climbing to the top of a corporate ladder. It's about creating a solid product the way you want to do it and people either liking it and wanting more or not. Just a side note: Good service is also imperative.

The issue is probably more about the fact that people don't want Stumptown to become commercial or another Starbucks-type place with a store on every corner. There are actually very few traditional chain coffee places around town. A definite plus. In the short time I've been here one thing has been clear: it's all about the local business and to me that's amazing. Something you don't see in a lot of places. 

Back to the coffee. Stumptown coffee is delicious. It was actually the first cup of coffee I had when I moved here. Coming from New York I took a flight that got me into Portland some time after 11. It was a cold night in January and there was some snow on the ground. The next morning I woke up craving a good cup of coffee. At the time, for me that meant going down to the bodega on the corner and asking for coffee light and sweet. I put on my Uggs, warm coat, snow hat, and asked Matt where I should go. He pointed in me the direction of Stumptown. It was just a few blocks away and the closest. 

I found my way to Stumptown (turns out it was the original location). It was in a non-descript brick building, there wasn't much in the way of decoration in the main room except a gigantic piece of machinery that must have something to do with the beans and some local flyers pinned to the wall. I noticed something else, too. The staff seemed to know a lot of the people by name. There's that local business feel. Once in line, I decided to get a cafe au lait - some steamed milk sounded like a good idea. 

Here's the cool thing about that au lait: They brought over a cup of coffee and began pouring the piping hot milk into it. Normal enough, right? Then they finished it off with a design of a leaf. By the time I got back to the house the coffee was the right temperature for me to drink. I took a sip and knew instantly I had no idea what constituted good coffee. This stuff was delicious. If all you New Yorkers reading this haven't seen a Stumptown sign where you get coffee, I'm betting you will soon. When you do see that sign try that coffee. It is the goods.

People can think what they may about the Stumptown news. I for one am glad in this economy they have the capital to keep doing what they do best and that's make and serve great coffee.

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