If you can’t find a place where everybody knows your name, at least find one where they know your coffee order. Mine’s a macchiato—but everyone at my local knows that. They also know what I do for a living, where I live and where I grew up, and have met my parents (I’ve met some of theirs, too). Some might find their “Cheers” in an actual bar, but I, like many Portlanders, spend far more time in a coffee shop. For the past 2½ years, it has been my neighborhood watering hole, the one place I can always find a community of like-minded folk, shitty Wi-Fi and a friendly ear for $3 plus tip. I’ve watched people build small businesses, create art, celebrate birthdays, write novels, study for college, flunk out of college, cry, sing and sleep. At the same time, those people have given me more than my fair share of story ideas, taken part in my impromptu focus groups, lent me hundreds of power cables, shared food, fixed my bike and listened to me talk hours and hours of total bullshit. They’re all my friends—even though I don’t know all of their names.
We’re living in the best coffee city in the country. It’s easy to become complacent about that, when swinging by the cafe down the street for a single-origin cold-brew sweetened with agave nectar and served in a biodegradable cup alongside a laundry list of tasting notes is everyday. But if any one of the 11 new cafes we’ve reviewed in this year’s coffee issue opened in just about any other city in the country, it would instantly be the best coffee shop in town. In Portland, we barely raise an eyebrow: “Oh, another small-batch third-wave roaster in a bike shop/refurbished warehouse/NRHP-listed storefront? Whatevs.” In fact, when faced with a cup of one of the finest coffees on the planet, we dunked a Grape Ape doughnut in it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t—in fact, I recommend trying all of our doughnut-and-coffee pairings. Just spare a thought for those less fortunate in, say, Pittsburgh or Phoenix. If you do want something to gripe about, marvel at our dearth of coffee beers here (the humanity!) or the lax environmental rules that allow our beloved artisan roasters to pump filthy fumes into the air here.
Next time you drop in to that local coffeehouse for a quick Gibraltar and an organic vegan scone, take off those Rose City-tinted glasses for a minute. We’re not just lucky to be drinking some of the country’s best coffee made by some of the country’s best roasters and prepared by some of the country’s best baristas. We’re lucky to be doing it in these little communities all over the city, where anonymous new friends lend us power cords and listen to our bullshit.
And they’re always glad you came.