A highlight of last summer’s (brief) visit to Portland was Tandem Coffee Roasters, the roastery doubling as a lovely, intimate coffee bar. I was staying on the opposite side of town and Google Maps suggested I’d pass Tandem Coffee + Bakery on my way. So off I went, keeping an eye out for said bakery, only to walk right past without noticing!
My excuse? I, fool that I am, was looking for something bearing a vague resemblance to a bakery. Instead, I should have been keeping an eye out for something bearing a striking resemblance to a gas (petrol) station… Obviously. I discovered my mistake at the roastery, so on my way back, I paid more attention: there, right where Google Maps said it was, I discovered the bakery, occupying an old gas station.
Just as Tandem Cafe & Roastery’s a roastery with coffee bar attached, so Tandem Coffee + Bakery’s a bakery with coffee shop attached. And lovely outdoor seating. It doesn’t have quite the same range as the roastery, just a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, the same single-origin on Aeropress and another on bulk-brew. Being a bakery, there’s also multiple savoury and sweet things to feast upon.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Tandem Coffee + Bakery is on Congress Street, the main thoroughfare running southwest-northeast through the heart of downtown Portland (Maine). A 10-minute walk southwest of the centre, the bakery does indeed occupy an old gas/petrol station. Tandem hasn’t done much to disguise the building’s heritage, which is why I failed to notice it in the first place. In fact, the main visual clue is that where you would expect to find the pumps, Tandem’s placed three large picnic-style tables, sheltering under the massive awning which vaults over the forecourt from the front of the shop.
If the Tandem Coffee + Bakery is anything to go by, more coffee shops (and bakeries) should consider occupying old petrol/gas stations. It’s a bright, spacious location, the front almost entirely glass, with doors at either end. To the right (the western end), double doors deposit you at the far end of the counter, which stretches away to the left. This is very much the heart of the bakery, much in the same way that the roastery’s the heart of Tandem Cafe & Roastery. The bakery, located behind the counter, occupies the bulk of the space, and, as long as you don’t arrive half an hour before closing, you can watch the bakers at work. And, of course, the whole place smells amazing!
The actual customer space is long and thin, with a six-person window-bar to the left of the doors, opposite the counter. Carrying on past the counter, you’ll come to an open, rectangular room on the left-hand (eastern) end of Tandem. The bulk of the seating, such as it is, is here, making it the counterpart of the coffee bar at Tandem Cafe & Roastery. There’s a long, high, six-person communal table at the back, along with a bar against the left-hand wall. At the front, benches, with a couple of small coffee tables, line the windows left and right of the solitary door. Again, the front half’s all windows, stretching from floor to (considerably high) ceiling.
As a space, it instantly reminded me of Brooklyn Roasting Company’s Flushing Avenue branch, while in concept, Exeter’s Exploding Bakery or Bristol’s Hart’s Bakery spring to mind. Indeed, it’s a surprise that there aren’t more combined speciality coffee shops/bakeries, since they seem such natural companions.
When it comes to coffee, the bakery has only a slightly reduced range compared the roastery (where you can have pretty much any coffee). There’s the Time and Temperature seasonal espresso blend, plus a single-origin on bulk-brew (a Kilenso Ethiopia during my visit). There’s also a featured coffee, another Ethiopian, a Guji from Sidamo (the roastery’s featured coffee was a Yirgacheffe from Adado). This doubles as a guest espresso and can also be had through the Aeropress. However, I was a bit over-caffeinated, so as much as I would have loved to have tried the Guji, I went for a decaf cappuccino.
This, a single-origin San Sebastian from Colombia, was a lovely, bright coffee, which, I suspect, might have been a little too bright for me on its own. However, it was perfect in a cappuccino, the milk blending well with the coffee, its sweetness taking the edge off of the espresso. The milk was also expertly steamed, holding its pattern all the way to the bottom of the cup.
March 2020: when I was back in Portland last month, I noticed that Tandem had started charging $0.25 to customers who wanted a their coffee in a disposable cup, a policy which I thoroughly support. What I hadn’t realised, until I saw this article in Huffington Post, was just how successful it’s been!
|742 CONGRESS STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04102 • USA|
|Monday||07:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Tandem (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Window-bar, Benches, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Sandwiches, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 18:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 18:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||4th June 2015, 25th February 2020|
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