I recently made from my annual trek to the Beaver State, spending time as always in Portland and Eugene.
I’m convinced that Portland is America’s best coffee city, Cofflandia if you will. Why, you ask?
- large number of quality cafés
- home to some of the country’s best roasters
- the city has a large geographic footprint, but the high quality cafes are spread all over
- Portland is a magnet for coffee talent
Let’s dig into the details. Click to keep reading.
Large number of quality cafés
I thought I had done a good job in previous visits sussing out the best cafés in town, then I discovered this guide and realized the 6-7 great coffee shops I knew didn’t begin to scratch the surface – the article has 28 indie coffee shops, some with multiple outlets. It would take a month or more of dedicated sleuthing to visit all the best spots (a job I would readily volunteer to do were it not for, you know, life and stuff). A lot of them have really good food, too. My first morning in town I had a delicious breakfast sandwich at Prince Coffee‘s Beaumont location.
Home to some of the country’s best roasters
Big boys like Stumptown. Top notch shops that serve their own cafés and distribute to other shops nationally, like Heart and Coava. First US outlet of Australia’s Proud Mary. Smaller high-quality operations like Good Coffee. I’m likely missing a lot, but you get the idea. There are opportunities to visit the roasters’ cafés to have your drink made with some of the freshest beans possible, and after you go home you can order by e-commerce or find them at your local coffee shop.
Portland has a large geographic footprint, but high quality cafés are all over
It’s a bit of an overstatement, but the good stuff is almost everywhere. Downtown? What looks to be a shelter for a streetcar stop is Less and More Coffee, which has started popping up in most every list of best coffee in Portland.
There is a concentration of shops in the center of town on both banks of the Willamette River, but the café guide linked above can bring you to a spot in or near most neighborhoods – and there’s a lot of neighborhoods. Some areas like Buckman, Richmond, and the Northwest District are particularly spoiled with choices. The red dots on this map are the locations of the cafés in the coffee guide article linked above, and it doesn’t include the likes of Proud Mary, Coava and Stumptown. Nothing east of the airport, in the far Northwest quadrant, or in the Southwest, but quality options are a short drive from anywhere.
One shop I tried to visit this time but found they were taking the week off is J Vein Caffè, in the Rose City Food Park, one of Portland’s many food cart pods. Loved the look of their gleaming Airstream trailer. Hopefully I’ll get there on another visit.
Portland is a magnet for coffee talent
On one of my visits to Keeper Coffee, a homey café in SE Portland’s Woodstock neighborhood, Morgan Eckroth took my order. They weren’t on the machine making drinks, but greeting guests and running the register.
I’m sure that name doesn’t register with many of you, but they are the 2022 US Barista Champion, the 2022 World Barista Championship runner-up, the 2023 US Barista Championship runner-up, and have 6.3 million TikTok followers and 1.17 million subscribers to their YouTube channel. They work a few times a week at Keeper and film their videos in the café after hours, in addition to their work as a Content Managing Specialist with Onyx Coffee Lab, one of America’s premiere roasters.
I’m not saying you’ll find a coffee pro of that magnitude across the counter every time. Portland’s status as a hotbed of coffee talent means you are likely to find well-run, coffee-centric cafés, uniquely flavored special coffee drinks, and skilled baristas who care about the drinks they are producing.
In Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee season 5 episode 5, Jerry Seinfeld and his guest, Fred Armisen, visited Coava Coffee’s SE Grand Street location. It began a running bit throughout the episode of them suffering from long-delayed ‘Portland Hipster Service’, repeated at food carts and an offbeat store selling nature-inspired curiosities and…. well, read the store’s own description of itself and see if you can figure it out.
I get the stereotype, but I have yet to be served by a disinterested time waster at any coffee shop in Portland. Including the Coava SE Grand Street location. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but most baristas, wait staff and retail staff I’ve encountered has been friendly and just darn nice, while the rest seemed shy but were still focused on doing their job well.
In the past I haven’t always had the best of luck in Eugene, but I was pleased to find Community Cup Coffee, which is a beautiful, welcoming space downtown which uses beans from Wandering Goat. Their food is terrific, too. On a sunny day the combination of high ceilings and oversized windows makes the place feel joyful.
Speaking of Wandering Goat, I was pleased to find they have expanded operating hours to every day of the week. Unfortunately Equiano Coffee still limits retail trading to Fridays through Sundays, but I visited this time on a weekend with incredible weather and enjoyed a macchiato in their garden.
At my son’s suggestion I took another crack at Tailored Coffee, where I hadn’t had much luck before, and this time around it was great. Better coffee, better service. Glad to change my view, and for an option close to the University of Oregon campus (sco Ducks!).
I’m already looking forward to my next visit to the Beaver State, it feels like there’s so much great coffee yet to discover.