One of the neat things about being a regular visitor to Portland (Maine) is that I’ve been able to watch Tandem Coffee Roasters evolve over the last eight years. Tandem has two locations, Tandem Coffee + Bakery (cunningly disguised as a gas station on Congress Street) and the subject of today’s Coffee Spot Update, Tandem Cafe & Roastery on Anderson Street in Portland’s East End. This has undergone two large overhauls since my first visit in 2015, when I came to Maine to begin my coast-to-coast train journey from Portland to Portland.
The first overhaul came when the roastery moved into a separate building behind the original. I reported on this and the subsequent remodelling of the cafe in 2020, publishing my Coffee Spot Update less than a month before the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world. This resulted in the cafe closing its doors for over two years, from March 2020 until May 2022, although the roastery kept going the whole time. However, one good thing that came out of the enforced closure was that it gave Tandem the time and space to undertake a complete remodelling of the café, which is the subject of today’s Coffee Spot Update.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Tandem Coffee Roasters’ Cafe & Roastery is at the southern end of Anderson Street, near its corner with Fox Street, in Portland’s East End. 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. There’s free parking onsite or out on the street, although Tandem an easy walk from central Portland if you’re relying on public transport.
When I first visited in 2015, both cafe and roastery were housed in the same building, the cafe in the space to the left as you entered and the roastery straight ahead. In those days, seating was provided by an L-shaped window bar running around the left-hand and far walls of the cafe space, although you could also sit at the far end of the counter. Meanwhile, if you wanted to watch the roastery in action, there was also seating in a little nook to the right of the door.
When the roastery moved into a separate building behind the cafe, Tandem turned the original roastery space into a large, open laboratory/training area, while the little nook was expanded into a cosy seating area, its L-shaped bench, complete with padded back, lined with three round tables. However, other than an expansion of the retail area, there was little change to the cafe part of Tandem, although this wasn’t down to any lack of ambition on Tandem’s behalf.
Instead, it was the age-old problem of how to do a major remodelling without closing the coffee shop for an extended period of time. Then along came COVID-19 and suddenly it wasn’t a problem anymore, with Tandem closing the cafe until May 2022, giving plenty of time to get the work done. This resulted in the counter moving from its original home and into the old roastery/lab space, while the old cafe space is now used for additional seating, a bench with seven small tables running around three of the four walls. You can also sit in the main room with the counter, either at the counter itself or at one of two window-bars (see the updated Coffee Spot for a full description).
Like the space, Tandem’s offering has evolved over the years, but has always been designed to highlight the output from the roastery. Initially, the espresso menu featured the Time & Temperature blend, along with the Sun Lamp Decaf and a single-origin option. These were joined by two single-origins on pour-over while, unusually for the time, there was no batch-brew option.
These days, Time & Temperature is no longer the mainstay of the concise espresso menu (although if you’re hankering after a T&T fix, it’s still served at Tandem Coffee + Bakery). Instead, Tandem has a daily single-origin, with the Sun Lamp Decaf on the second grinder, while the filter options have been expanded, with Tandem now offering batch brew, typically featuring the Time & Temperature or West End Blues blend. Alternatively, you can sample more of the single-origin range by ordering a pour-over, made using the Marco SP9 automated system using the V60. There’s usually a choice of two or three single-origins each day. On my most recent visit, I had a gorgeous cortado, served in a glass, and made with a Colombian single-origin that was sweet and funky, the coffee’s fruity notes coming clearly through the milk.
Tandem is also doing its best to reduce waste, with a long-standing $0.25 charge for customers who want their coffee in a disposable cup. More recently, discounts have been introduced for customers who bring their own containers when buying coffee beans (or ground coffee).
Tandem has become a regular stopping off point of the coffee-go-round. When I visited in December last year, I brought an Ethiopian single-origin with me from Pretty Coffee Roasting in New Orleans, while this time it was an Ecuadorian coffee that I’d brought back from Primary Coffee in Sydney. In return, the manager always ensures I go away with another bag from Tandem to keep the coffee-go-round turning.
There’s a full write-up of Tandem Cafe & Roastery, including a complete gallery, in its main entry. You can also see what I made of it in my original write-up, from July 2015, as well as what I thought in my update from February 2020, not long after the roastery moved out.
|122 ANDERSON STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04101 • USA|
|www.tandemcoffee.com||+1 207 899 0235|
|Monday||08:00 – 13:00||Roaster||Tandem (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 13:00||Seating||Bar, Counter, Table (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 13:00||Food||Cakes|
|Thursday||08:00 – 13:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 13:00||Payments||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 13:00||Wifi||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||Original: 4th June 2015
Updates: 3rd August 2019, 25th January 2020
7th December 2022, 12th July 2023
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Portland’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Portland.
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