Tandem Cafe & Roastery

A light bulb in the shape of a tandem bicycle from the wall of the Tandem Coffee Roasters RoasteryWhen 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, from my recent visit in 2019, which looks remarkably similar...
  • ... to how it did on my first visit in 2015, albeit with the outdoor seating slightly rearranged.
  • Tandem occupies a low, single-storey, brick-built building, set back slightly from the road.
  • There's also a second, standalone building behind the first which houses...
  • ... the Tandem Coffee Roastery. You can just see the Loring roaster through the window.
  • Returning to the first building, the door is in the crook of the L. Let's go in, shall we?
  • The view from just to the left of the door.
  • Directly ahead of you is a large, open lab/training space, while to the right...
  • ... is a small, cosy L-shaped seating area. However, it didn't always look like this.
  • When I visited in 2015, it housed the Tandem Roastery, now in the second building.
  • Meanwhile, off to the right, instead of the seating area, was this entrance lobby.
  • The main part of the coffee shop is off to your left. All the photos are from my 2015 visit.
  • A panoramic view of the coffee bar from the far corner. You can sit at the counter...
  • ... or if you don't fancy that, how about this neat window bar which runs around two walls?
  • Tip to coffee shop owners: if you have a bar, put some hooks in! Very handy things.
  • This nook joins the front door (through the doorway on the right) with the coffee bar.
  • The nook holds Tandem's retail shelves. This was the layout in 2015...
  • ... by the time I returned in 2019, the retail shelves had expanded considerably!
  • The coffee bar also has one of the best light displays I've seen in a while...
  • ... and I just loved the exposed timber beams in the ceiling.
  • The grinder and boiler for the pour-over is behind the counter, with cold-brew on tap too!
  • The comprehensive menu gives you the pour-over choices, as well as the batch brew...
  • ... while the single-origin espresso is on the counter (this was during my 2019 visit).
  • There's also a limited selection of cookies and scones... if you get there early enough!
  • On my first visit in 2015 I started with the guest espresso, served with a glass of water.
  • My espresso on its own. Loving the classic, white cup.
  • I followed it up with the same single-origin coffee as a pour-over...
  • Just give it a quick stir...
  • ... et voila!
  • On my return four years later, I also had the single-origin espresso, while Amanda...
  • ... who came with me, had a cappuccino, using the Time and Temperature house-blend.
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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.


February 2020: this is an updated version of the original post which was published in July 2015. You can see what has changed in my Coffee Spot Update.

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
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain Local Visits Original: 4th June 2015
Update: 3rd August 2019
25th January 2020

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15 thoughts on “Tandem Cafe & Roastery

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  3. Looks like a quaint little place.. I was giggling when reading your Blog thinking that you must really really like coffee haha!! The only issue I have is their seats, they look very uncomfortable! In a place like that they could do with a pop of red lounge suites!

    • I confess, they’re not great if you want/need back support, but otherwise the bar stools are very, very comfortable. Perhaps Jason, if he’s reading this, would care to comment since he goes there more than I do!

      Brian.

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