When I first came to Portland in 2015, to start my coast-to-coast train journey from Portland (Maine) to Portland (Oregon), I very nearly didn’t make it to Tandem Coffee Roasters. I’d arrived late in the morning and had settled into my hotel before realising that (in those days) Tandem closed at 2 pm. By then, it was already gone noon and Tandem was at the other end of town!
I made it, of course, and was very glad that I did, Tandem becoming a firm favourite of mine, along with the likes of Bard Coffee and Speckled Ax. There are, in fact, two Tandem Coffees in Portland, the Cafe/Roastery (the subject of this Coffee Spot) and Tandem Coffee + Bakery (cunningly disguised as a gas station on Congress Street).
Returning to the Cafe/Roastery, this consists of, unsurprisingly, a coffee shop and, in a second, standalone building behind it, the roastery, where Tandem roasts all its coffee on a 35kg Loring. The coffee shop is the focus of this Coffee Spot, while the roastery has its own Meet the Roaster feature. These days, by the way, the coffee shop is open until four o’clock each afternoon (except Sunday, when it’s closed).
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Tandem Coffee Roasters’ Cafe and Roastery is on Anderson Street, near its corner with Fox Street, at the northern end of the Portland peninsular. When I first visited in 2015, Anderson was just a dirt road, although it was in the process of being resurfaced. Let’s say the neighbourhood was up-and-coming back then, while these days it’s very much made it.
Tandem occupies a squat, modern-looking, brick-built L-shaped building that actually dates from the 1930s and looks considerably prettier than my description implies with a small, leafy tree and a picnic table outside. The door, in the crook of the L, leads to the first of two rooms. This used to be the roastery, before it relocated to a separate building behind this one. These days it houses a large, open laboratory/training area, with a cosy seating area off to the right, consisting of an L-shaped bench, complete with padded back, lined with three round tables.
If you don’t fancy sitting here, turn left, where you’ll find the lovely coffee bar. This has a roughly square floor plan and occupies the other half of the L. However, continuing the L-theme, there’s an L-shaped counter, to your right as you enter, and an L-shaped window-bar running around the left-hand and far walls. If you don’t fancy the bar, you can sit at the far end of the counter (a far better option in my opinion), where you’ll find yourself next to the built-in brew-bar with a good view of the business-end of the La Marzocco espresso machine which sits in the middle of the counter.
It’s a small, cheery spot. Regular windows and mainly whitewashed, plastered walls (with the exception of bare brick behind the counter) give it a bright, clean feel. Wooden furniture, including the counter, combine with the bare, wooden ceiling beams to stop it feeling too austere. Given its size, it’s hard not to interact with the barista, all the more reason to sit at the counter, rather than with your back to the barista and the rest of the customers.
Tandem’s offering has expanded slightly over the years, but it’s always been designed to show off the output from the roastery. There’s a concise espresso menu, with the Time and Temperature house-blend and a single-origin on the second grinder. These are joined by a single-origin on batch brew, plus two more on V60, along with cold-brew on tap in the summer. There’s also a small selection of tea and, if you’re hungry, cakes, plus breakfast sandwiches.
On my first visit in 2015, I had the Adado, a single-origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Beautifully made, it was slightly too sharp for my palette as an espresso, but when I tried it as a pour-over it had a markedly different flavour. Although still quite bright and floral, I preferred it to the espresso, plus it matured wonderfully as it cooled.
I returned four years later, when I was joined by Amanda who opted for a cappuccino with the Time and Temperature house-blend (which she declared to be very fine). I, meanwhile, repeated my experiences from my first visit in 2015, this time having the La Folie, a washed coffee from Antigua in Guatemala. A rich, complex coffee, I had it as an espresso, a fitting drink to mark my return to Tandem.
March 2020: when I was back in Portland, I noticed that Tandem had started charging $0.25 to customers who wanted a their coffee in a disposable cup, something which I thoroughly support. What I hadn’t realised, until I saw this article in Huffington Post, was just how successful it’s been!
|122 ANDERSON STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04101 • USA|
|www.tandemcoffee.com||+1 207 899 0235|
|Monday||07:00 – 16:00||Roaster||Tandem (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 16:00||Seating||Bar, Counter, Table (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 16:00||Food||Cookies|
|Thursday||07:00 – 16:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 16:00||Payments||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 16:00||Wifi||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||Original: 4th June 2015
Update: 3rd August 2019
25th January 2020
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