Without coffee, would any of us love the city so much? Coffee is a ritual in which Portlanders engage in so many ways, from knowing the origins of coffee around the world along with their classic flavor profiles (you can’t say “Ethiopia” in the city without evoking the taste and smell of blueberries), to the slow careful craft roasting of the beans throughout the city’s inner SE and outer NW industrial districts, to the ritual of the coffee shop pour-over or espresso pull, to the usual meet-and-greet, first date, or friendly chat evoked by “let’s have a coffee.”
Portland’s craft coffee roasting scene is one of the best in the world. Stumptown Coffee (now owned by Peet’s) and its founder, Duane Sorenson, are credited with beginning the wave of craft roasting that spread through the country in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Snow Bunny Coffee, NW Portland — Pearl District
Few neighborhood coffee shops stayed open early every day during the pandemic, and we don’t know what we would have done without the constant sweet energy and consistently perfect Coava Coffee from Snow Bunny Coffee (1415 NW 11th Ave, near what we call the frontier of the Pearl District). The few outdoor seats overlooking The Fields Park are great for meeting friends, people- and dog-watching; the treats are from the luscious St. Honore Bakery and the non-caffeinated drink possibilities include an amazing milk tea.
Upper Left Coffee Roasters, SE Portland — Ladd’s Addition
On many a bike tour, we stop at Upper Left Coffee Roasters (1204 SE Clay St, on the “upper left” corner of Ladd’s Addition) for its delicious coffee, outrageously good breakfast sandwiches, and the proximity of its outdoor seating area to the roasting operation. Order a cappuccino or just a classic drip coffee, sit on one of the outside tables, and watch the bicyclists commute by. The current seasonal beverages include some outrageously good iced teas and our favorite and most-recommended Cafe de Olla; orange-peel infused cold brew, sweetened with piloncillo and topped with dairy, oat or hazelnut-cashew milk. For chocolatey treats, try the cacao-infused cold brew made with Ranger Chocolate’s cacao. The breakfast options are rich and full of carefully-cooked eggs (no one poaches like Upper Left), delicate greens, perfect vegetables, and our favorite breads from little t baker. Plenty of vegan options.
Barista NW, NW Portland — Pearl District
Who is open in downtown Portland for great coffee early in the morning? As of this writing (May 2021), Barista NW (539 NW 13th Ave, in the inner Pearl District very near central downtown) was the only option, and such a good one we couldn’t help but recommend. Barista is a classic choice in the past decade in the city, well-known for their exacting detail to each and every drink (don’t expect fast service!), incredibly beautiful old buildings, and high attention to the art of selecting and roasting the best beans. We either stick with the very excellent drip coffees, or go for something over-the-top, like the special lattes with marzipan and honey.
Tov, SE Portland — Hawthorne District
Our food cart bike tour often stops at Tov (3207 SE Hawthorne, in the giant red bus at the back of the food cart pod), one of the most original and delightful experiences in Portland coffee. The owner, of Egyptian heritage, has made a wonderland of creative coffee and tea beverages inspired by Egypt, Turkey and his own imagination. From the classic and deeply sludgey Egyptian Coffee to the Rose Mocha to “Sounds like trouble with the cops” (vanilla latte with reduced rum), there is something to rev you up. The Mint Thing, cold brew coffee with mint and oat milk, is so beloved it can now be found in cans in stores all over the city. Get the experience, though, of ordering and (if luck and Covid restrictions allow) enjoying in the red double decker bus that once served a coastal town in England.
Cup & Bar, NE Portland — LoBu District
In Lower Burnside, or LoBu, the architecture is attention-getting and the chocolate is roasting at Ranger Chocolate (118 NE MLK Jr Blvd, only a block from the Burnside Bridge and the giant Fair-haired Dumbbell building), one of the best of Portland’s bean-to-bar makers. The mochas are the thing here, made perfectly, and the baked goods are all made in-house and run the gamut from excellent jammers to the classic, coconut-and-nut-packed Ranger cookie.