Bastion Coffee’s Jam Latte Is the Way to Kick Off Berry Season in Portland

The drink combines summer sweetness with creamy comfort.

Bastion Jam Latte (Chris Nesseth)

Like wandering Peacock Lane in winter or heading to Silver Falls State Park to see the cascades swollen by spring, berry-picking is perhaps the most stereotypical of Portland’s summer activities. But some ideas are ubiquitous for a reason: Few things in life are more enjoyable than berries fresh from the vine.

Fortunately, though, you don’t have to drive all the way out to Sauvie Island to get your berry fix—and with an added buzz, at that. Northeast Portland’s Bastion Coffee serves up a jam latte that combines the summer sweetness that’s just around the corner with a creamy comfort that’s fit for this in-between weather.

Thank goodness, because the day I go to sample it, the sun is suddenly interrupted by a downpour and I’m forced to wait out in my car for 10 minutes—just to reappear like nothing ever happened. Inside the snug but comfortable space, Elliot Smith pours quietly from unseen speakers. Studious patrons sip and type, nestled on the retro goldenrod couch that lines the left-hand wall.

The jam latte, barista Abigail Griswold tells me, is what the shop is known for—and is also something of a happy, collaborative accident. Back when Bastion had yet to open its North Mississippi Avenue storefront, it operated from a weekend booth next to Alchemist’s Jam at the Beaverton Farmers Market.

Jason Nylen, Bastion’s head roaster, quickly became friends with Alchemist’s Jam co-owners Danny Roberts and Jennifer Fisher. “Danny and I would skate together and talk shop all the time,” Nylen wries in an email. “The idea to sweeten our coffee with their jam was always floating around conversations, but never too seriously.”

Then, Alchemist’s Jam opened its own cafe in McMinnville, and Bastion soon followed suit, moving into its present-day cafe on Mississippi just a few months later. The idea, like their brands, suddenly became concrete: Together, Roberts and Nylen cooked up the idea to bring natural brightness to their lattes with the fresh, locally sourced fruit jam Alchemist’s was concocting, rather than the corn-syrup-laden sweeteners commonly found elsewhere. “We left the seeds in it,” Roberts tells me over the phone, “so it felt like it was more jammy.”

Bellied up to the bar at Bastion, I order a jam latte for myself—forgoing the newer jam matcha drink, which pairs the jam with fresh tea powder for an even springier (and decidedly greener) drink. Although Alchemist’s makes dozens, the featured jam is a raspberry, cardamom and rosehip medley—and a Good Food Award recipient. It’s subtly sweet against the toasty notes of the espresso—think summer, but make it cozy.

While I’m at it, I also grab an ocean roll, whose pillowy vanilla-and-cardamom combination works in perfect harmony with the jam latte. Griswold tells me it’s from the St. Johns location of Sparrow Bakery, which is to say Bastion has truly mastered the art of collaboration.

And they know it, too. “This drink only works because Alchemist’s Jam is unlike any other jam you’ll find out there,” Nylen writes. It’s a sweet symbiosis: You can also get a similar (though not identical) jam latte at Alchemist’s Jam’s cafe, along with jam sodas and pastries featuring the good stuff. All the coffee products there feature Bastion beans. So while we wait for these blue skies to make a steady appearance (and the berry fields to open), head down to Bastion on Mississippi to get a summery sip—no picking necessary.

GO: Bastion Coffee Roasters, 4330 N Mississippi Ave., 8 am–3 daily, wine bar 5–9:30 pm.

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