What About Decaf?

Most of Portland's more than 40 coffee roasters are turning out exceptional beans for those of us who don't mind caffeine, but what about those among us who love coffee but have been warned off the hard stuff? We grabbed every locally roasted decaf coffee we could find on the shelves at New Seasons, plus a bag of Starbucks to make things interesting, and put them all to the slurp test.

1. Stumptown Decaf House ($12.25 per 12-oz. bag)

By far the least offensive and cleanest tasting of the beans we tried, the Stumptown is a little nutty, a little astringent and a little bitter. One taster described it as papery and "roasty." This was roundly the decaf all of our tasters would buy.

2. New Seasons Decaf ($8.99 per pound)

The most complex of the beans we sampled, this house label reminded tasters of dark-roasted nuts, caramel and Korean corn tea, but one taster dissented, calling the beans stale-tasting.

3. Starbucks House Blend Decaf ($10 per pound)

The most acidic and astringent of the bunch, the Starbucks reminded tasters of cigarette butts and citric acid. It smelled of tomatoes and got progressively more bitter as it cooled. In fairness to Starbucks, though, the bag we got from New Seasons was two weeks past its best-by date.

4. Nossa Familia Teodoro's Italian Roast Decaf ($10 per 12-oz. bag)

Described as flavorless, woody and "like community-center coffee," the decaf beans from this otherwise reliable roaster were the closest to what we talk about when we talk about percolated decaf.

5. St. Johns Coffee Roasters Flying Squirrel Decaf Blend ($14 per pound)

Roundly despised by our tasters, this blend of Indonesian beans was described as tasting “like old clothes.” 

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