A State of Affairs…

I’m anxious for the coming week. I’ll be in Houston Tuesday night and through the weekend. Keeping busy with the USBC, as well as, making coffee for some folks at various spots. My focus is heavily geared towards the competition, however, my gear shipped out today, and with that done, my mind is worrying less on the routine and thinking more about other issues I’ve been neglecting. Not neglecting, as much as haven’t had the head space to process.

I’ve been thinking much about the state of coffee in Portland. The food scene in Portland is pretty fantastic. I’d say that in someways the food has made Portland just as popular as the vibrant Indie culture. Along with food, the city of Portland is given much credit for it’s coffee.

Portland does have an epic coffee scene. I’d even go as far as to say that coffee drinkers in Portland are pretty spoiled. But as people who care about what we do, we can always look to get better and improve things. That said, if coffee in Portland actually wants to be “next level,” here’s my list of things that we need to step up.

First comes price. Coffee in Portland is cheap. The market is saturated, and most of the time, coffee bars are competing on price. Not coffee selection, not quality, but price. It breaks my heart everytime I walk into a place and see espresso on the menu for $2, a cup of coffee for under $2, or an extra espresso for 25 cents.If you are reading this blog, you know that this is, in no way, sustainable.

What I see all the time, is that when a business starts to struggle, the first thing it looks to do is cut it’s coffee costs. This means that whatever bad-ass single origin they were stoked about has to get put on the back-burner for ‘better days’ and get’s replaced by whatever is cheaper on the menu. I wish there were a way to communicate to the general population of Portland that if they paid more for their coffee, their coffee would get better.

When you walk into a coffee bar in Portland, it’s almost always apparent that the focus from behind the bar is espresso. I’ve even heard it said that 75% of the coffee drinkers in Portland are espresso drink consumers. From my observations, however, I would say that people are actually drinking more brewed coffee.

World-wide, I want to see us change our mentalities. We’ve seemed to accept an idea that has been fed to us by bigger coffee corporations… The idea that you should be able to walk up to a bar, order a cup of brewed coffee, and walk away from that bar with the coffee 30 seconds later. We’re programmed to believe that it’s okay to wait four to five minutes for a latte, but brewed coffee should be available instantly.

I passionately believe that the opposite is correct. An intelligently designed coffee bar should make espresso beverages easy to create and feed to a customer. If people were willing to wait 4 to 5 minutes for brewed coffee, then nothing in a coffee bar would need to be pre-made. All coffee would truly be fresh. When coffee isn’t just prepared ahead of time, it allows for you to offer more options, and keep a wider rotation on the menu. When people can see their coffee being made, and realize it’s a coffee they chose, then it becomes even more special to them, and they are willing to pay a higher price per cup.

These are just a couple of the main points I am constantly thinking about in my head. For the record, I’m not trying to tear down coffee in Portland in anyway. I just believe that as an industry of young, passionate people, we can constantly look to improve what we do. We must continually ask ourselves, “what’s next?”


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