Tandem Coffee + Bakery

A dual-hopper Malhkonig Coffee Grinder with three bags of Tandem Coffee Roasters coffee in front of it, each with Tandem's logo of a stick-figure tandem bicycle.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.

  • The first time I went by Tandem Coffee + Bakery on my way into Portland from the station, I walked right past without noticing, so successful is its disguise as a gas (petrol) station.
  • On closer inspection, the picnic tables where the pumps used to be are a bit of a giveaway!
  • It looks like this when approached from the other direction (on your way out of town).
  • The view straight ahead. Tandem hasn't done much to hide the building's roots!
  • The outdoor seating, once again, provides a clue that it's no longer a gas station.
  • However, there are other signs if you look closely enough!
  • Let's go in, shall we? There are two entrances, including these doors at the right-hand end.
  • These pitch you up at the end of the counter, useful if ordering takeaway.
  • There's also seating here, a row of six stools at a window-bar to the left of the door.
  • Most of the space is occupied by the large, impressive counter and the bakery behind it.
  • Keep going, though, and you'll come to the other part of Tandem Coffee + Bakery.
  • This is where most of the seating is, including this communal table at the back...
  • ... while there are benches in the windows at the front, along with the second entrance.
  • A view of the communal table in the seating area, as seen from the end of the counter...
  • ... and the view looking the other way, back towards the other entrance.
  • Although mostly windows, Tandem still has plenty of lights, such as these above the counter...
  • ... and this amazing array in the main seating area.
  • It's also a very green space, with lots of plants
  • See what I mean?
  • And it's not just hanging baskets!
  • The coat/hat stand by the door is a nice touch. There are also hooks under the window-bar.
  • There's a set of retail shelves at the other end of the window-bar...
  • ... and you can buy all of Tandem's beans to take home with you.
  • The business end of Tandem Coffee + Bakery.
  • Being a bakery, there are plenty of food options. Not sure of the 'Breakfast Sand' though...
  • These are some of the savoury options...
  • ... while there are also sandwiches (which, of course, are also savoury options).
  • Naturally, there are some sweet things too.
  • It's all produced in the bakery behind the counter. Sadly the pies were for the following day.
  • It's not just a bakery though. There's coffee too, as you would expect.
  • The filter end of the counter, with the ubiquitous EK-43 and the obligatory bulk-brewer.
  • Meanwhile, there's the house-blend and a single-origin on espresso.
  • I went for a cappuccino to round off my day.
  • The milk was beautifully steamed and held its pattern...
  • ... all the way to the bottom of the cup.
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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.

742 CONGRESS STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04102 • USA
www.tandemcoffee.com +1 207-805-1887
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 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 18:00 Wifi No
Sunday 08:00 – 18:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 4th June 2015

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