March 9th, 2010 5:33 pm | by KELLY CLARKE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Time Mag Asks: Is Stumptown the new Starbucks?


Okay, the answer to that question is HELL NO. Starbucks is all about cushy lifestyle porn. Stumptown is all about beans. (And the tight pants—Ed.) Still, the born-in-Portland, beloved-by-New Yorkers coffee roaster reached a new level of notoriety today when it was heralded in a story in Time magazine titled, "Is Stumptown the New Starbucks—or Better?"

Writer Josh Ozersky (who won a Beard award and wrote The Hamburger: A History) explains:
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. And the coffee they produce is as much an improvement over Starbucks and its rivals as Starbucks was over Taster's Choice....

...What all the third wave coffee people have in common is a thinly veiled revulsion at Starbucks and its rivals, in particular the way they overroast their beans. "Coffee beans aren't supposed to be uniformly dark and shiny," says John Moore of Dallis. "Every bean has a level it's supposed to be roasted to, so that you can taste it. Otherwise it's like cooking all meat well done."

He's right on about the bearded thing. I've taken to calling our lot of furry caffeinates "Foam Jockeys." Ozersky goes on to note Stumptown's excellent espresso delivery systems, its habit of paying "more at auction for prized lots of coffee beans than anyone else..." and, in general, the way the company is "changing the idea of coffee from a staple commodity, like corn or sugar, to something closer to wine." But he says the company's ace in the hole is its polarizing leader, Duane Sorenson, who he says has Pentecostal zeal for getting to the best beans.

No arguments there (read former WW scribe Zach Dundas' excellent 2006 article, "Bean Town" if you're interested in how all this coffee fervor started brewing in Portland). So, if Stumptown's the new, improved Starbucks, then what does that make Portland's Ristretto Roasters? Or Extracto's Cherry Coffee Roasters? Or Spella!? And what's the fourth wave going to be? Here's a sneak peek from Hanna Neuschwander's roundup of new Portland coffee roasters and shops, which hits news stands tomorrow in WW's Cheap Eats Guide 2010...

Sterling Coffee Roasters
2120 NW Glisan St., 8 am-6 pm daily.
Portland's newest and craziest cafe is the micro-est micro-roaster in town—and perhaps in the country. In addition to a minimalist space—a mere 50 square feet—partners Adam McGovern (of Coffeehouse NW) and Aric Miller are roasting a changing selection of coffees in inconceivably tiny batches: one pound at a time. They'll operate the on-site roaster 10 to 12 hours a day to produce enough beans for the tiny shop. Like any heedless pronouncement of love, the scheme is so insane it might just work. Grab espresso ($2), cappuccino ($3), or drip coffee to go ($2.50)—or a changing selection of whole beans presented in a tony glass cylinder ($15 per pound).

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