Coffee-Shop Etiquette

Rules of the road at six different types of Portland cafe.

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The Cupping Lab

How you know you're there: You walk into a rehabbed warehouse and are greeted by a guy with an apron, a beard, a Don Draper haircut and a coffee setup that looks like a meth lab.

How to be: Try not to get flustered when asking for "a regular cup of coffee" sends you headfirst into a conversation about "tasting notes" and "extraction times." Ideally, it should take you longer to order the coffee than it does to drink it.

What to order: Check out the bean origins and listen to the descriptions. Nod knowingly, then decide at random. Cream and sugar? Yeah, they might have it in the back somewhere behind the mop sink. That's the white stuff they have at truck stops, right?

Not unlike: Coava, Sterling, Heart.

High-Volume Third Wave

How you know you're there: Kind of like the cupping lab, but the pastry case has muffins, the music is louder, there's a line out the door, and the person at the register is mostly a bouncer fielding customers' asinine questions.

How to be: Study the menu in line so you don't waste everyone's time while the counter attendant tries to read your mind. If you look like a tourist, he'll write "mouthbreather" on your ticket and you'll get a large caramel latte, whether you like it or not.

What to order: You can usually get a cappuccino with hearts drawn in the froth, but looking confused and asking for "coffee" will yield fantastic results: Most of these places French press even their basic coffee.

Not unlike: Stumptown, Albina Press, Barista.


How you know you're there: There's a pit bull outside with a Crass flag pinned to its service-animal harness, tied up next to U-locked fixies. The board has vegan potluck fliers that look like they were printed in the Reagan era.

How to be: Don't wear leather or a North Face jacket. And never mind the girl with the Prius, the septum piercing and the China-made MacBook Pro covered in "Food Not Bombs" stickers. It's all good, you fascist.

What to order: Coffee is for boring suburbanites who need synthetics to get their empty hearts pumping while they drive an SUV to their office-park McJob. But cups served to randoms keep the lights on—even when served from pots last cleaned before Jello Biafra ran for mayor. Stick with the tea and kombucha.

Not unlike: The Red and Black Cafe (R.I.P.), Backspace (R.I.P.), Black Cat (R.I.P.)


How you know you're there: Young moms in yoga pants are simultaneously making phone calls, wrangling their kids and ordering decaf soy lattes with extra dry foam and exactly 2.75 pumps of vanilla syrup.

How to be: Morale is generally low among employees, so gestures as simple as self-bussing, leaving animals outside and not making five modifications to your drink can go a long way.

What to order: What you see is what you (can) get. If you don't hear a blender, your salty caramel frappuccino is not gonna happen. If there's a greasy spot where the breakfast sandwiches used to be, guess what you're not having today: a breakfast sandwich. If you ask for a cup of coffee and pay cash, it's a highlight of your barista's workday. 

Not unlike: Woodlawn Coffee and Pastry, Vivace.

The Dive

How you know you're there: Behold the grungy couches crowded with friendly cross-dressers, strung-out college kids, homeless-looking individuals waiting for their pre-paid phone to charge and a first-date couple nervously playing Scrabble.

How to be: Beyond watching porn on your laptop without headphones, anything goes. Just be kind to the tortured soul behind the counter.

What to order: Be considerate of the logjam of orders for sandwiches, smoothies and all manner of strange food items with quirky names the barista may be up against. Drip coffee is usually safe, but an Americano will suffice if you're worried that the same pot has been sitting there since the shift changed at noon.

Not unlike: Anna Bannanas, Southeast Grind, Coffee Time.

Imitazione Européen

How you know you're there: The words PANINI and ESPRESSO are written in giant gold letters on the window, approximating authentic rustic Italiano. Everything is shiny, even the gelato saucers. A pseudo-Euro guy with a soul patch and a man purse tells his date about the layover he spent in Milan.

How to be: As insufferable as humanly possible. Scoff at the barista when he asks if you'd like room for cream. Hoard the shaker of raw sugar from the shared condiment counter at your table. Always send your first drink back, then tell the barista the second is "perfecto" even though they prepared it the same way.

What to order: The Americano. This is the only option for a jet-setting connoisseur of the world's most popular beverage. Make sure to leave scattered dishes and trash as you leave to catch a very important phone call.

Not unlike: Caffe Umbria, Via Delizia.

WWeek 2015

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