Thursday, February 16, 2012

portland micro roasters fueling the local economy (p1)

Portland's micro coffee roasters and our D.I.Y. spirit in the press is nothing new. And last week The New York Times' travel section gave another tip of the hat to what it called Portland's "D.I.Y. coffee culture."

Did The NYT cover a few of our great, local micro roasters? Yes.

But our D.I.Y. coffee culture? Not so much.

As Mr. Green Beans, Portland's "Do-It-Yourself destination" where you can learn to roast your own beans or take classes from coffee coaches, was quick to humorously point out via Facebook:

Not sure how they are defining D.I.Y.! The only roasters mentioned are commercial roasters. Really good roasters, Sterling Coffee Roasters, Coava, and Heart, but they produce coffee for others, not really the idea behind do-it-yourself. Maybe 'buying your own' is how they define D.I.Y. in New York.

Still, being the proud Portlanders that we are, it's nice to see some of our local favorites noticed by one of our nation's most prestigious news outlets. But beyond the rich coffee and trendy culture, there's a better reason for all this back patting.

The New York Times taking note of Portland micro roasters highlights another facet of our robust, small businesses community—one that not only fuels our city with java but also economically. And, you too can stimulate our local economy with your money, voting with your dollars by supporting local coffee roasters rather than corporate coffee like Starbucks.

It'd be quite a task to feature them all (one count put the list at more than 30 local micro roasters), but we have to start somewhere. So, here are three Portland micro roasters with coffee shops that support local and in turn energize our economy through collaboration.

And, must we say it again? Each is a superior, local alternative to Starbucks.


Local and sustainable (it's called Courier because most deliveries are made by bicycle!) have been fundamental practices for Courier roaster Joel Domreis for eight years. Even though the coffee beans may come from afar, all of the shop's baked goods are made from scratch on-site using as many locally sourced products as possible—except the bananas, of course. Fresh produce often comes from the PSU Farmers Market and includes what's in season (strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, mushrooms), honey from Sauvie Island, and other ingredients from around the northwest, like Shepherd's Grain flour or organic products from Portland's Dovetail Bakery and GloryBee Foods in Eugene.

The shop also support local artists, whether that's featuring prints from rotating artists, hosting small events, or letting friends sell items, like the Pendleton wool mason jar koozies currently available. Courier's traditional brown coffee cups may be exported from Italy, but "we've been getting batches of cups from [local ceramic artist] Gretchen [Vaudt] for a year and a half," Domreis says. And the Oregon-harvested, walnut bar came from "no more than 100 miles away," according to Domreis.

With almost 100 regular wholesale clients, Domreis' product never leaves the city of Portland. You can find his joe at some 15 bars, restaurants and coffee shops and more than a handful of private businesses, but most of his clientele are individuals and Domreis' bike delivery team will leave a fresh bag of beans on your doorstep if you'd like. Those custom cargo bikes and parts come from the Eugene-based Center for Appropriate Transport while Courier itself tries to support other roasters by servicing espresso machines.

"People know that we have parts inventory for certain things, so other roasters and other owners of businesses will call me up to borrow things," Domreis explains. "We're going out and helping other people out with their equipment problems."

Courier is currently helping the local economy by employing seven people, creating seven local jobs—two part-time and the rest full—and making those jobs as busy and sustainable as possible. Without much money for an advertising budget or extraneous operating costs, Courier does what it can to save money on its own.

Read the rest on Courier plus other PDX micro roasters, including Stumptown Coffee and Ristretto Roasters, on Neighborhood Notes.

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