Coava Coffee Roasters, Hawthorne

Detail taken from a picture on top of the retail shelves at Coava Coffee Roasters branch on Hawthorne Street, Portland.Coava Coffee Roasters, on Hawthorne Boulevard, is another of Portland’s many coffee shop/roaster mini-chains. Coava’s a chain of two, with the roastery (combined with another coffee shop) being about 20 blocks away in the direction of the city centre. This branch is another shared space, in this case, the lobby of Hawthorne Twenty Six, a modern residential building on Hawthorne Boulevard, between 26th and 27th Avenues. It’s a beautiful space, split across two levels, with high ceilings and generous, south-facing windows.

Coava specialises in roasting single-origins (no blends here!) and forging strong links with individual farmers. Pictures of some of the coffee farms that Coava works with adorn the walls at Hawthorne. Typically, Coava roasts up to eight single-origins at any given time. Of these, two are available as espresso (along with decaf), while a third is on bulk-brew. If you don’t like what’s on offer, just wait a day or two and it will change, although this is quite pedestrian compared to the main shop/roastery, where the coffee can change several times a day! Talking to the baristas about this, they admitted it could be quite stressful trying to constantly dial new coffee in when it was busy!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Walking out of Portland on the busy Hawthorne Boulevard and... what's this on the left?
  • It's Coava Coffee Roasters, on the ground floor of a modern apartment block, Hawthorne 26.
  • This is the entrance to Coava: the benches further up belong to a place called Neat.
  • The sign is a bit of a give-away...
  • ... as is the A-board.
  • The outside seating gives a good illustration of the steepness of the hill!
  • Stepping inside and you find yourself here, with the counter to the right...
  • ... and the rest of Coava stretching off to the left, down beyond the L-shaped bar.
  • The downstairs seating part of Coava is centred around the lovely communal table.
  • Here's the view back over the communal table, looking towards the counter.
  • The only seating in the first part of Coava is this small, L-shaped bar.
  • There's step-free access to the lower part of Coava down this ramp running along back wall.
  • When you get to the bottom of the ramp, there's this lovely little bar, complete with stools.
  • Another view of the bar.
  • The alternative is to come down these two steps in the centre of the room.
  • There's another bar, to the left of the steps, running along the windows at the front.
  • This is followed by a lovely sofa unit in the sunlight corner.
  • The second space is dominated by this lovely communal table.
  • Another view of the communal table...
  • ... and the last one, I promise.
  • I suspect, in the winter, that this stove is a welcome addition. Not so much in the summer...
  • The mean-looking iron fence separates Coava from the lobby of Hawthorne 26.
  • Sound the alarm! One of the customers is escaping! No, wait, it's one of the residents.
  • The residents have a key to the gate, so can come & go as they please. Makes sense really.
  • There are also shutters which can close off the counter outside of opening hours.
  • There's a set of retail shelves to the left of the steps.
  • The top row, in red, is the Emilio Lopez single-origin from El Salvador, exclusive to Coava.
  • Bottom rows: more single-origins. Brazil, Ethiopia (top), Costa Rica, Kenya, Ethiopia (bottom).
  • There's also some merchandising if there isn't enough Koava in your life!
  • The pictures are from some of the coffee-growing farms that Coava deals with.
  • Interesting barrels.
  • Flowers on the communal table.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • The counter has perhaps the weirdest shape I've ever seen.
  • This is the cake display case!
  • The concise menu is on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... while the choices for the espresso and pour-over are to the left of the cake.
  • There are two single-origins and a decaf, each with its own grinder.
  • Meanwhile, the obligatory bulk-brewer is behind the counter.
  • My Guatemalan single-origin espresso in a classic white cup.
  • I was also given a bag of the Emilio Lopez  El Salvador single-origin to take home with me.
  • The coffee is exclusive to Coava (I think that what's the red bag means). It was lovely too!
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Coava Coffee Roasters occupies a beautiful spot on Hawthorne Boulevard, a busy four-lane thoroughfare running due east from the centre of Portland. Sharing the space with the lobby of Hawthorne Twenty Six, Coava has its own entrance from the street, which leads into a small, rectangular space with the counter to the right. The only seating up here is an L-shaped bar with enough space for three people, overlooking the main body of Coava which is off to the left.

This has the majority of the seating and is accessible down a couple of steps (although there’s a ramp providing step-free access down the back of the space, running behind the bar). It doubles as a lounge for the residents of Hawthorne Twenty Six and, outside of opening hours, steel shutters separate it from the upper area (where the coffee and counter are). When Coava’s open, more meshed-steel shutters separate the lounge from the lobby, but the residents still have access through a fearsome-looking steel door in the far corner (the residents have a key). At first sight it seemed overkill, but it actually makes a lot of sense. It must be nice to have such a great coffee shop in your apartment building’s lobby.

The lounge is spacious, with wonderfully-high ceilings and plenty of south-facing windows. There’s a concrete floor, with white walls and ceiling, and although it sounds rather stark, the reality’s much warmer and welcoming. Everything’s arranged around a large, eight-person communal table, running lengthwise in the centre of the room. Behind that, between the door to the lobby and the bottom of the ramp, is a long, nine-seat bar which looks (through the meshed-steel shutters) into the lobby itself. On the other side, a six-person bar straddles one of the windows, while the other is occupied by a generous corner sofa with a massive coffee table. Finally, on the left-hand wall next to the lobby door, is an enclosed fire; cosy, I’m sure, in the winter, but rather superfluous on the summer’s day I was there! Finally, there’s the option of sitting outside on the busy (and steeply-sloping) road, a pair of tables flanking the double-doors.

Back inside, the counter occupies the entire right-hand wall. A simple, steel-framed, wooden affair with stone top, it’s an interesting shape, slowly narrowing as it progresses to the left. The three grinders are tucked away to the right, then comes the La Marzocco espresso machine, followed by the serving area, built-in cake counter and, finally, till. There’s also a set of retail shelves, immediately to the left of the door.

The coffee menu is commendably concise, as is the selection of cakes/pastries. During my visit, I had a choice of Ethiopian (which was also on bulk-brew) or Guatemalan. Normally I’d have tried the Ethiopian both ways, but I’d already had a similar one the day before at Case Study, so I tried the Guatemala.

This was quite dark and bitter, not at all what I was expecting. Fans of lighter, more delicate roasts may well be disappointed, although I quite liked it. It reminded me of a (good) Italian espresso blend. Initially, I was surprised: why roast a single-origin that tastes like a blend? On the other hand, why blend if you can roast a single-origin to taste like one?

2631 SE HAWTHORNE BOULEVARD • PORTLAND • OR 97214 • USA +1 503-894-8134
Monday 06:00 – 18:00 Roaster Coava Coffee Roasters (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 06:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Bars, Sofas, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 06:00 – 18:00 Food Cake
Thursday 06:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 06:00 – 18:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 18:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 16th June 2015

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