Stumptown’s Guatemala El Injerto Reserva

You should know something about coffee people… we’re *constantly* tasting coffee: our own, the stuff from the guy across the street, and across the country. Oh sure, part of it’s about keeping tabs on what other folks are doing — but that’s a small part, really. The larger share is just ’cause we like coffee, and love the origins and flavors of coffee the world over, even if it’s not us that’s selling it. Consequently, things like family vacations are sometimes interrupted with a brief dash into an unfamiliar coffee shop to sample the brew of the day, or — in the case of a recent trip Don Holly made to Portland — a quick jog in to Stumpies to grab a bunch of beans for the gang back home ’cause you just *know* they’re gonna be good. “The thing about El Injerto,” says Holly, “is they have the most amazing worm farm.” I ponder this for a moment. “So…” I ask, “how do you judge a worm farm, anyway?” Don shrugs. “It’s like art. I know it when I see it.” There *is* something artful about this cup — Guatemala Finca El Injerto Reserva, by Stumptown Coffee — that’s just about as challenging to pin down. It’s something experiential: the rich, spiced cocoa and savory herbal note as it brews, the tremendous expression of jasmine and coffee flower aromas in the cup; the lush, saturated flavors of dark fruit — raisin and plum and ripe mango — matched with ample body and just enough of a bright, crisp, acid snap to counterbalance the richness of it all. The...
There’s More to Life (and Portland) than Coffee

There’s More to Life (and Portland) than Coffee

While planning my trip to Portland and casting about for places to go and people to see, a wise man — and, incidentally, a specialty coffee luminary — steered me in a direction I wouldn’t have expected, saying, “You know, there’s more to life than coffee.” After I picked myself up from the floor — the earth doesn’t often shake in Vermont, after all, and the experience threw me a bit — I turned the idea over in my mind. Is it possible I’ve crossed an invisible line? Have I become obsessed with the bean? Maybe. Smitten, certainly. But obsessed? The idea gave me pause… enough to think a little more broadly about where I’d like to go while in P-town. And, really, I didn’t have to think about it at all. My feet already were already taking me to Powell’s Books. Books are my first love, and for years Powell’s Books has been the center of my book lovin’ universe. Oh sure, I flirt with Amazon, too — who doesn’t? — but when it comes to trying to get my mitts on a hard-to-find or out-of-print title, Powell’s has always been there for me. My prized shelf of Pratchett 1st Editions? All of ’em from Powell’s. Fifty-year-old coffee reference works? Powell’s again. Most any book I might care to buy at “gently used” prices? Powell’s. More, Powell’s has always helped me discover new authors I might never have heard of otherwise; their “hosted bookshelves” and staff picks consistently beat out Amazon’s recommendation engine, which seems to me too trendy, and too much based on publishers’ lists and not...

Portland in My Rearview Mirror

Do jets have rear-view mirrors? (And if they do, what’d be in them?) Such is the strange start to the notes I penned on the red-eye out of Portland, which I have still only begun to transcribe. Not the least of which because when I say, “penned” I mean literally — there was far too little space on my tray table what with the seat-back in front of me being in the non-upright and unlocked position — and I haven’t actually handwritten anything longer than a post-it sized message for so long I barely remember how. My penmanship was never good; it is now something of a curiosity, even to me. And so, if you’ll pardon me, the full report will be a day or two. Meanwhile… I note a sad passing. Back when gas was near free and the earth wasn’t warming — just bear with me, okay? — there were few things I enjoyed more than a spirited drive with the sunroof open — better still, the top down — and Boston’s Don’t Look Back blasting just as loud as the stereo would go. I mean, c’mon — a Hammond organ, a perfectly fuzzed rock n’ roll guitar and the open road… what’s not to love? And so I’m saddened today to learn of the passing of Brad Delp, Boston’s long-time front-man, and arguably the nicest guy in rock and roll. Rock on, Brad. I finally see the dawn arrivin’ I see beyond the road I’m drivin’ Far away and left...
Stumptown, Downtown

Stumptown, Downtown

I just happened to be in the neighborhood… Okay, that’s not the entire truth. I was in the neighborhood after a meandering stroll (some might call it a walkabout) that ranged some two dozen blocks of downtown Portland, with a couple stops for coffee along the way (Peet’s, where I found their brewed Mocha Java blend a little lifeless, but picked up a half pound of Colombian Caracol for later, and Portland Coffee House where the knit-capped barista offered a lil’ Rorschach rosette on my espresso macchiato. He scores for effort.) In the end, I found myself at Stumptown’s downtown spot. The place itself is austere, much the way a purveyor of serious jewels might might refrain from tarting up the place with unneeded bits of luxury. And there are jewels here, for those with eyes to see them… two — count ’em, two! — of Kees van der Westen’s 3-groups grace the bar. More, there are people behind the counter who use them to great advantage. Here my customary espresso macchiato offered rich notes of dark chocolate and a complex, fruited nose that proved astonishingly good with the artfully textured milk in the cup. My two words on Stumptown, Downtown: Awesome,...
Where in the World…

Where in the World…

Welcome to Portland, Oregon… home of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Rose Festival, and more fine coffee establishments than you can shake a stick at (presuming you’re the stick-shaking sort.) Sadly, at 9:30 of an evening it seems that the only one that’s open is — wait for it — Starbucks! I’m desperately hoping that someone will correct me on that, and assure me that there’s a little bit of coffee nirvana just around the corner. It’s not that the folks there aren’t friendly (they are) or cheerful (they’re that, too… very much so) but doggone it, when I ask for a medium house blend I don’t want to be corrected into Fauxtalian (it’s a grande!) and I don’t want an Italian-roast blend slyly substituted when the house blend carafe proves to be empty. (sigh) With practice maybe I can be as optimistic as this guy, who’s been trying to hail a cab in the very same spot since last I was here… and that was five four years ago to the month. Meanwhile, I’ll be here all week. So if there’s a Portland coffee place that I simply mustn’t miss, do let me know. On the agenda so far: a meeting with Duane Sorenson and the fine folks at Stumptown, a trip to coffee college with Matt Milletto, and some of the finer aspects of espresso with Billy Wilson at The Albina Press. Should be...

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