Wake Up: Awesome Artisanal Roasters From the West Coast

by Dinah Sheehan July 24, 2014

I’m kind of obsessed with coffee. Okay, I’m really obsessed with coffee. My office, where I do my Day Job, has a coffee machine that smells like a combination of burnt toast and assy jeans. I’ve never drank a single cup from it. I have a small cone pour-over and unbleached filters made from recycled papers that I keep at my desk. In the break room, at least once a week someone comments on this contraption – which I find funny, because it seems way more logical than the torture chamber they get their coffee from, but whatever. One time I saw someone fixing the coffee machine (something that never happens to me, what with my cone), and she pulled something out of it that looked like a bike chain. No. Just – no.

Whenever I go to a new place, I check out new coffee roasters. Any town worth its salt has one. Portland has like infinity. This led me to thinking about composing a list of my top five favorite coffee roasters. I debated, because I don’t want the secret to get out, but really, you need to know. These are roasters that are thoughtful, that practice fair trade as a matter of course and direct trade where it is possible.

(Side note: Fair trade means that a buyer or producer sources the materials [in this case, coffee] from a cooperative, who then uses the money paid to guarantee certain quality assurance measures for labor, environmental, and developmental practices. Direct trade means that the buyer works directly with the farmers to negotiate price without having to pay the fees and premiums associated with cooperatives.)

So, here are my top five favorite coffees:

  1. Wandering Goat Coffee Co. in Eugene, Oregon. This coffee is so good, it’s obscene. They have a massive array of organic, fair and direct trade, single-origin coffees. I always get the Caffe Feminino, coffee sourced from small farms run by women. It never fails to disappoint. In addition to this, they also make an incredible iced mocha, which is hard to do. When ice hits espresso, it can sometimes take all the good things out of it and leave you with the taste of – well – dirt. Not so at the Goat. Also, their shop is down the street from my very first apartment, in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. I lived there before it was gentrified, and I have many fond memories of politely asking people to not sit on the Dumpster outside my window and drink their malt liquor.

  2. Hub Coffee Roasters in Reno, Nevada. Sweet baby Jesus, Hub roasts some good coffee. Right now, I have their Sulawesi, and it is like dark chocolate and cherries. They are also working toward more direct trade, in addition to slowly taking over Reno with their coffee, which is great. The baristas are really nice, too. That’s important.

  3. Coava Coffee in Portland, Oregon. These guys are incredible. They actually developed their own custom steel mesh cone for pourovers. It’s like the cone I have, only it’s made of steel, and it doesn’t need a filter, thus further reducing waste. And their coffee is stellar. I’ve only had it a few times, but each time was like a coffee hug for my tongue.

  4. Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California. Look, I’m not going to lie to you. I only tried this place because Zachary Quinto likes it, and he’s pretty much my gold standard when it comes to celebrities. Luckily, Z.Q. has awesome taste in coffee. Now, this joint is expanding and has a store in Urban Outfitters, which is pretty dumb, but they make some exceptional hand-crafted pourovers.

  5. Water Avenue Coffee in Portland, Oregon. Oh god. I bought myself a bag of their Ethiopian coffee for Christmas last year, and it was like God Himself caught me under the mistletoe. A good Ethiopian coffee will smell exactly like blueberries, and this one did. Sometimes that flavor gets lost when you brew it, but not the Water Avenue Ethiopian.

Honorable Mention:

Portland Roasting Coffee in Portland, Oregon. This is a great company. They are committed to being a carbon neutral company, and their bags are compostable. They also, of course, do mostly Fair Trade and organic. This coffee isn’t as cheap as Folgers, but it is a little cheaper than other small roasters, which is nice for me, because I haven’t earned the J.K. Rowling money yet, so I have to budget. Also, their roastery is somewhere in SE Portland on my ride home, and I get to smell their delicious roasting when I bike home from work.

Spielman Bagels in Portland, Oregon. Spielman is a great little joint here that does superb bagels. I go there at least twice a week. Their cream cheese is the best I have ever had. Their coffee isn’t my favorite, but it’s still pretty good. They had an Ethiopia Limmu this past year that knocked my socks off. Also, the kids that work at this shop are adorable and nice and have great taste in music.

Central City Coffee in Portland, Oregon. Central City Concern is a local agency that helps people get back into permanent housing. One of their recent initiatives is starting a roastery and creating jobs, so when you buy this coffee, you are literally keeping someone off the streets. Hell yeah.

Lovejoy Coffee Company in Portland, Oregon. This guy roasts his coffee in his garage. I’ve only seen him at the Woodstock Farmers Market. He’s super nice, and his coffee is out of this world. He also knows the industry really well, which is cool.

So, tell us about your favorite. What are some local companies in your area, awakening the hearts and minds of your citizens?

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Dinah Sheehan
Dinah Sheehan

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