I had two full days in Portland on last year’s coast-to-coast trip; naturally, I spent them visiting coffee shops. The first was Five Points Coffee Roasters on Division Street, in suburban eastern Portland. It was a pleasant stroll from my motel, down leafy, residential streets, so I headed over for breakfast.
First, let’s clear up the issue around the name. Five Points started off life as Coffee Division six years ago, when it was acquired by the current owner, Chris. Initially Coffee Division used Stumptown, but four years ago, Chris started roasting on nearby Powell and 21st, using the name Five Points Coffee Roasters. By the time I arrived almost exactly a year ago, Five Points was in the middle of moving to have both coffee shop and roaster under the single brand
Five Points offers its house-blend on espresso, plus decaf, although by the time you read this, there should also be a single-origin on the third grinder. However, where Five Points really scores is on its filter coffee. There are four single-origins available as an individual hand-pour Chemex and, eschewing the normal batch-brew, Five Points makes up two Chemex at a time using its filter of the day.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The walk from my motel, along quiet, tree-lined residential streets, was interrupted when I suddenly come upon a small parade of shops on Division Street, with Five Points Coffee Roasters immediately standing out on the corner of 35th Place. Consisting of two connected units, you enter via the bigger one on the corner. This has the counter, plus quite a bit of the seating, while the smaller unit, to the right, is accessed through an opening in the party wall. This is nearly square and contains nine two-person tables. There’s a door to the street, but it’s no longer used. Instead, it forms two bay windows, one to either side, each holding a table, the prime seating spots if you like the sun.
The main unit’s very spacious and uncluttered, with the large counter dominating the back of the room. The espresso machine and its three grinders are hidden away behind pot-plants on the left, leaving the front clear for a pair of Chemex, the till and a well-endowed cake counter. A narrow corridor to the counter’s left leads to a take-away station and another door opening onto 35th Place. There’s some outdoor seating here: a pair of two-person tables and two picnic tables with benches, the latter sheltering under a tree.
Back inside, a window bar runs the length of the front window to right of the door, while there are two square, two-person tables along the left-hand wall. On the right, between the opening to the second unit and a set of retail shelves, there’s another two-person table. Finally, a six-person communal table occupies the centre of the room.
Five Points has a very simple to feel to it, with its white walls (hung with artwork), black-tiled ceiling and plain wooden counter. It’s very unpretentious, reminding me of a more spacious version of Boston’s True Grounds.
Five Points serves its seasonal house-blend on espresso, roasted for consistency throughout the year. I began with a cappuccino, which came in the proper-sized cup (5.5 oz). The coffee was smooth, with a hint of sweetness which went well with the rich, creamy milk. Lauren, my barista, had recently won a latte art competition with the amazing pattern she used in my cappuccino!
For breakfast I had an excellent, crunchy, chewy (toasted) bagel with butter, followed by a corn and gruyere muffin. This was very filling but perhaps not as exciting as I’d hoped.
I then turned my attention to the filter coffee. Five Points’ unique claim to fame is that it bulk-brews its filter coffee by hand through the Chemex (although there is a bulk-brewer which gets used later in the afternoon). Two Chemex are brewed at a time, using the filter of the day (when I was there, this was the Ethiopian single-origin). The coffee is then either served immediately or put in flasks to keep it warm. During the hour I was there, a total of eight Chemex were made, each one holding enough for three medium cups.
The closest I’ve seen to this is Intelligentsia in Chicago, where V60s are made on a continuous basis. I think it’s a very clever solution to the bulk-brew problem and its gets the Chemex out there front and centre for all to see. You can also have a Chemex hand-poured for one, with a choice of four single-origins. I selected the Peru Finca La Flor del Sapote, which turned out to be a complex, well-balanced coffee. As I’d expect from a Chemex, it was smooth, with not much body. It matured wonderfully as it cooled, chocolate notes emerging to delight me.
|3551 SE DIVISION STREET • PORTLAND • OR 97202 • USA|
|Monday||07:00 – 20:00||Roaster||Five Points Coffee Roaster (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 20:00||Seating||Tables, Window Bar, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 20:00||Food||Cake, Bagels|
|Thursday||07:00 – 20:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 20:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:00 – 20:00||Wifi||Free|
|Sunday||07:00 – 20:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||16th June 2015|
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