The Proper Cup, on Portland’s busy Forest Avenue, has been on my radar ever since it opened in 2018. Located on the west side of the street, it principally serves the local neighbourhood, but is on the route of the No. 2 bus and, if you’re walking around Back Cove along Baxter Boulevard, a small diversion along Dartmouth Street will bring you out opposite The Proper Cup. After being takeaway only for a long time during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Proper Cup had a complete makeover before reopening earlier this year to reveal a bright, uncluttered shop with the counter on the right, window seating at the front, plus tables and a sofa on the left.
The coffee is from New Hampshire’s Flight Coffee Co., with the Liftoff blend and Ground Control decaf on espresso, all the shots pulled on a lovely Slayer espresso machine at the end of the counter. Meanwhile there’s currently a Zanzibar Peaberry from Tanzania on batch brew filter, along with a range of teas, iced coffee and some seasonal house specials. If you’re hungry, a selection of sweet and savoury products from a pair of local bakeries are available in a display case on the counter.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Proper Cup occupies the left-hand side of the ground floor of a low, two-storey brick-built building on the right of Forest Avenue as you head towards downtown Portland. There’s 15-minute parking outside the shop, with longer parking options across the street, while the No.2 bus stops on the corner.
The front of The Proper Cup has a pleasing symmetry, with central double doors slightly recessed between a pair of windows which, between them, span almost the full width of the shop. These have a slightly unusual sloped design, with the bottom of the window, on a low, brick sill, slightly recessed compared to the top. Inside, the windows are home to a pair of four-person window-bars, seating provided by tall chairs.
The window-bar is the only seating on the right, the remaining space being occupied by the large counter, with the till at the front corner, next to the display case for the pastries. The menu is on the wall between the counter and window-bar, above a fridge with all the cold drinks. Once you’ve ordered, make your way to the back of the counter to collect your drinks, where you can either admire the Slayer espresso machine or peruse the retail display on the back wall. Meanwhile, if it is coffee beans you are after, there’s a limited selection on a pair of shelves built into the counter under the till.
The bulk of the seating is on the left-hand side, where a long bench runs along the wall, lined with six two-person tables. If you want to drink your coffee in style, there’s a fancy couch opposite, its back to the counter, facing a pair of chairs across a low coffee table. Finally, if you’re in a group, or just want space to spread out, there’s an eight-person communal table at the far end, running across the width of The Proper Cup.
This was a long-overdue visit to The Proper Cup. I had meant to go in early 2020, but various things conspired to stop me, then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when I could return to Portland this time last year, The Proper Cup was only offering takeaway service and, in a fit of good timing, it re-opened its doors for full service the day after I left Portland at the end of April this year.
With my next two visits spent in Atlanta this summer, I was even more determined to finally visit The Proper Cup on my return to Portland, managing to sneak in at the end of last week, just before closing time. I was familiar with New Hampshire’s Flight Coffee Co., having visited its sister shop, Flight Coffee of Dover in April, and I was looking forward to trying the Liftoff blend again, which I had in a cortado.
If I’m being slightly pedantic, I’d say it was more of a flat white size than a cortado, but it was lovely nonetheless, the Liftoff combining with the milk to produce a sweet drink, with some classic chocolate notes. Before I left, I offered the staff some coffee from my Austin/New Orleans stash. They chose the Rodrigo Pelaez Colombia from Cherry Coffee Roasters in New Orleans and in return I bought a bag of the Ethiopia Kayon Mountain to take back to the UK.
|500 FOREST AVENUE • PORTLAND • ME 04101 • USA|
|https://thepropercupcoffeehouse.com||+1 207 405 4089|
|Monday||07:00 – 13:00||Roaster||Flight Coffee Co. (espresso + batch brew)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 13:00||Seating||Tables, Sofa, Window-bars|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 13:00||Food||Cakes, Pastries, Savouries|
|Thursday||07:00 – 13:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 13:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 13:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:00 – 13:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||8th December 2022|
If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Portland’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Portland.
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