Insert Groundless Starbucks Reference Here

Insert Groundless Starbucks Reference Here

If you could get past its provocative title — Is Stumptown the New Starbucks — or Better? — you might think Time’s Josh Ozersky has penned a decent enough article on the leading edge of specialty coffee today. But… damn, the phrasing here is loaded for bear. Coffee aficionados have been asking the question over and over again: Is Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Ore. — the most conspicuous exponent of coffee’s “third wave” — the new Starbucks? Um, no. Coffee aficionados *haven’t* been asking that question. Coffee aficionados are pretty well versed in the routinely awesome coffee that Stumpies has been cranking out year after year after year. Coffee aficionados don’t have to question Stumptowns’ authenticity, or transparency, either. Coffee aficionados have probably noticed, too, that Stumptown Coffee Roasters hasn’t had to cover up its logo like a scarlet letter when it opens a new storefront like, well… You Know Who. Wait, you haven’t heard of the third wave? Get with the program! In cities across America, a fervid generation of caffeine evangelists are changing the way we drink coffee. They tend to be male, heavily bearded, zealous and meticulous in what they do. Hey, lookit that! It’s another funny stereotype. We’re only just two graphs in and we’re two for two, already. And gosh, it’s pretty much true, too, save for James Hoffman who really should consider sporting a soul-patch at the very least. (He’d banish the Harry Potter look thataway, I’m certain.) And pity the non-hirsute women of coffee who — apparently by way of not being zealous enough to grow a beard — are missing...
Still Crazy About Seattle

Still Crazy About Seattle

Despite the rain, and the blustery breezes. Despite the strep throat, and bronchitis. Despite the fact it would appear the city of my birth might see me catch my death, I love Seattle, still. Seattle remains a guiding star for coffee. From Vivace to Zoka, Trabant to Victrola, Tully’s to Caffe Vita, and — of course — the omnipresent Starbucks and hundreds of happy, independent retailers, coffee houses, espresso carts and hole-in-the-wall walk-ups, the city teems with caffeinated masses, most of ’em tanked up on some damn fine coffees served by folks who know their way round the business end of a portafilter. I’m impressed as I can be with places like Stumptown that hold daily cupping events so folks just walkin’ in off the street can sample a flight of coffees from all over the world, and compare and contrast flavors and aromas, body and balance, while elbow to elbow with the pros. I hope I can stay longer next time… provided the place doesn’t kill me,...

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...

Starbucks’ Extreme Makeover Continues

Continuing its excruciatingly public extreme makeover, Starbucks does a full-court press (release) on… a new coffee blend. Oh, goody. Sure, while most every other coffee roaster in the land releases new roasts seasonally — you know, to align with new coffee crops and all that — Starbucks’ latest blend is different, apparently. Word is, it’s not… you know, burnt. More, Howie would have us believe this is a pivotal event in Starbucks’ history, even suggesting that it’s a peek into a future that isn’t steeped in an espresso + milk monoculture: “We’ve been so focused on espresso … that we haven’t done anything to reinvent brewed coffee,” Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in an interview. Profoundly true. Not only has Starbucks done virtually nothing to reinvent brewed coffee — or even support it — their general disregard for drip coffee, press coffee and the like spilled over into the marketplace, where thousands upon thousands of competing independents likewise ignored the possibilities of unique origin coffees. Unless, of course, they could chuck it in a portafilter with decent results. It’s fair to say that only very recently, I’d say the last five or six years — or a time line roughly consistent with the rise of the Cup of Excellence auction program — that the indie retailers have promoted non-espresso coffee with particular enthusiasm. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And then Howie slips in this dubious bit… Mr. Schultz says he believes Starbucks has underplayed its expertise in selecting and roasting coffees, something its main competitors don’t specialize in. It’s left as an exercise for the reader whether Schultz...

Coffee Notes from All Over

NYTimes: Tasting the Future of Starbucks Tasting Clover-brewed coffee at Starbucks with George Howell. (Mr. Howell is not an easy mark.) Coffee’s Benevolent Mr. Bean Profiles Stumptown’s Duane Sorenson. (No mention that Stumptown is ditching the Clover in the wake of Starbucks’ acquisition of the...

Bikes to Rwanda: Happy Birthday!

Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters has been doing some mighty fine things on the ground in Rwanda for a while now. Stumpies have been key players in the PEARL Project, a public / private partnership with USAID and Michican State University to revitalize agriculture — and life — in post-genocide Rwanda. PEARL has, by any measure, done great things, and among them it’s been instrumental in putting Rwandan coffee on the world stage as an emerging — and now preeminent — coffee origin. (Really! have you tasted Rwandan coffee lately? All kinds of awesome.) Above and beyond PEARL, however, Duane Sorenson — Stumptown’s founder and chief protagonist — found a need that had gone unmet. The people harvesting coffee in Rwanda’s hilly terrain had to carry heavy loads of coffee cherry from remote growing regions to washing stations. And they had to do it quickly. Cheaply. Reliably. No matter the weather. Rwandan coffee farmers needed bikes. Back in Portland, Duane started putting things together. He rounded-up a network of avid sport cyclists and bike messengers (naturally… most all those messengers were fueled by Stumptown coffee already) and started fundraising. He held benefit dinners. Awareness-raising rides. And in a matter of months he had spun off a non-profit organization to focus on the effort, and had 260 custom-built cargo bikes in the ground in Rwanda. Today Bikes to Rwanda is a year old. (Happy Birthday!) And to-date they have delivered 400 cargo bikes to Rwanda, opened a bicycle repair shop, arranged innovative financing for coffee growers and more. (Maybe you should think about giving them a tax-deductible birthday present?) Learn all about it: watch...
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