Tandem Coffee + Bakery

A dual-hopper Malhkonig Coffee Grinder with three bags of Tandem Coffee Roasters coffee in front of it, each with Tandem's logo of a stick-figure tandem bicycle.A highlight of last summer’s (brief) visit to Portland was Tandem Coffee Roasters, the roastery doubling as a lovely, intimate coffee bar. I was staying on the opposite side of town and Google Maps suggested I’d pass Tandem Coffee + Bakery on my way. So off I went, keeping an eye out for said bakery, only to walk right past without noticing!

My excuse? I, fool that I am, was looking for something bearing a vague resemblance to a bakery. Instead, I should have been keeping an eye out for something bearing a striking resemblance to a gas (petrol) station… Obviously. I discovered my mistake at the roastery, so on my way back, I paid more attention: there, right where Google Maps said it was, I discovered the bakery, occupying an old gas station.

Just as Tandem Cafe & Roastery’s a roastery with coffee bar attached, so Tandem Coffee + Bakery’s a bakery with coffee shop attached. And lovely outdoor seating. It doesn’t have quite the same range as the roastery, just a house-blend and single-origin on espresso, the same single-origin on Aeropress and another on bulk-brew. Being a bakery, there’s also multiple savoury and sweet things to feast upon.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Back to New England, 2016

A cappuccino in a classic, earthenware, tulip cup, sitting on a wooden window sill, bathed in sunlight.Welcome to the third and final part of the 2016 instalment of my occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series. Part I saw me flying out to Newark and sauntering around New York for a couple of days before heading down to Philadelphia. Part II covered my time in Philadelphia, Washington DC and my brief return to New York as I swung back north.

Part III sees me back in New England, where I started my coast-to-coast trip in June last year. I had a day in Providence, which I first visited last year and, like Philadelphia, has a great, unsung coffee scene. From there it was on to Boston for the end of my trip, before flying home. As I did last June, I flew with British Airways, while all internal travel was on Amtrak, a great way to travel in the US if you’re not in any particular hurry.

Highlights of this leg of the trip were discovering more of Providence, which, as well as having an excellent coffee scene, is a lovely, historic city, and seeing Boston’s speciality coffee scene finally starting to take off with three really excellent places opening in Downtown Boston in the last 12 months.

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L.A. Burdick, Harvard

The single-source chocolate options at L.A. Burdick in Harvard, chalked up on a board, complete with tasting notes.I first discovered L.A. Burdick in my pre-Coffee Spot days, after a recommendation by some Boston friends. It sounded so awesome that I had to seek it out when I was looking around Harvard. I must confess, I was not disappointed… When it came to starting the Coffee Spot, L.A. Burdick was one of the places I wanted to write about, but, of course, in traditional Coffee Spot style, I first visited L.A. Burdick’s New York City branch, plus the branch in Boston’s Back Bay, before finally getting around to a return visit to Harvard at the start of my coast-to-coast trip last summer.

As well as being the hot chocolate equivalent of a coffee shop, L.A. Burdick sells chocolate (and chocolates), the retail space usually being of equal size to the café part. There’s also tea, coffee and a wide range of sumptuous-looking cakes. However, for me, the whole purpose of coming to L.A. Burdick is to indulge in the amazing, rich and, above all, chocolaty hot chocolate.

Be warned: Harvard is smaller than the other two branches. You’ll often struggle to get a seat, having to wait for a one to become free before putting in your order.

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Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe Update

The tiling in front of the door at Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe: small, white, square tiles with the number "429" above "CHARLIE'S" spelt out in red and black tiles.Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, the quintessential family-run American diner, had been in the Manjourides family since it opened in 1927, serving the people of the South End from 429 Columbus Avenue. I discovered Charlie’s in 2003 and when, in recent years, I started to stay in the South End, it became my go-to breakfast place, dishing up my favourite staples of poached eggs, home fries and griddle cakes.

I wrote about Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in 2013, visiting again in 2014. However, towards the end of that year, I heard troubling rumours that Charlie’s had closed. It was only when I returned to Boston in June 2015 that I was able to confirm it for myself. I swung by in the vain hope that it would be open but it was well-and-truly shut, although deep inside I heard sounds of construction. Disappointed, I went on my way, ending up in the nearby Render Coffee.

However, when I returned this year, I was once again walking down to Render, and, instead of finding the empty shell of Charlie’s, or something new in its place, there was Charlie’s itself, looking superficially very much as it had year after year. Intrigued, I stepped inside.

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Dwelltime/barismo 364

The sign hanging outside dwelltime in Cambridge, although since my visit in June last year, it's changed its name to barismo 364.I visited Dwelltime in Cambridge (Massachusetts, not UK) on my coast-to-coast adventure in June last year and, since I’m now back in Boston, I thought it was high-time I published it! However, since my original visit, Dwelltime has renamed itself barismo 364 to better reflect its ownership (although I quite liked the name Dwelltime).

Dwell-barismo-364-time (henceforth barismo 364) opened in 2012 as the flagship coffee shop for local roaster barismo. It incorporates a full kitchen at the back of the store, where all the food is prepared and all the cakes, cookies, etc are baked. It also has a lovely island counter, which was all part of the fit-out when barismo took over the disused Hubley auction house on Broadway.

Barismo offers two options (during my visit, a blend and a single-origin) plus decaf on espresso, while there’s also a full filter-bar, offering a pair of single-origins through the V60. Unusually for an American coffee shop, there’s no bulk-brew filter (something it shares with Render Coffee). If you’re hungry, there’s an extensive lunch menu and a range of cakes, cookies and pastries. At weekends, there’s also a full brunch menu until 2.30 and a ban on laptops.

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The Shop

The words "The Shop" painted in black on the window.I’ve saved potentially the best until last. To celebrate my return to Providence today, I present the last of the three Coffee Spots which I visited when I was last here in June 2015 (the other two being Coffee Exchange and Dave’s Coffee). Once again, I must thank my friend Allison for inviting me down and for being my guide for the day.

The Shop, as well as being a favourite of mine, is also very well-regarded. Throughout this trip, whenever I mentioned going to Providence and asked for recommendations, The Shop was on everyone’s lips.

It has a simple layout, serving a simple menu, the ubiquitous Hair Bender blend (plus decaf) on espresso, along with a single-origin and house-blend on the obligatory bulk-brewer, all from Stumptown. These are backed up with a small, but very impressive range of bread, cakes and pastries (sweet and savoury) from local bakeries.

What makes The Shop stand out from the crowd is the staff and the atmosphere they create. Friendly, welcoming, caring, passionate about the coffee, about the shop itself and about the community it serves, The Shop is a gem. And your coffee’s brought to you, which is how it should be.

February 2016: I don’t get the chance to do this very often, so I took it and visited The Shop on the day which I published its Coffee Spot. So, here I am, sitting in the window, melting in the early morning winter sun :-). For the record, I had some very crunchy and tasty toast for breakfast, plus an excellent cappuccino.

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Dave’s Coffee

The words "Dave's Coffee" in red on a white wall.Since I’m going to be back in Providence later on this week, I thought I really ought to publish the last of the places I visited during my trip to Providence last summer. Dave’s Coffee roasts all its own coffee, which it sells throughout Rhode Island and beyond, as well as serving in its two cafes. My friend Allison, who was responsible for inviting me down to Providence in the first place, took me to visit Dave’s on Main Street, Providence, which was the first stop on a mini-tour which included the venerable Coffee Exchange and The Shop.

Dave’s roasts a signature espresso blend, the interestingly-name “Blind Pig”, as well as a decaf, both of which are available through the bright orange Slayer espresso machine. Dave’s has the obligatory bulk brew (the Black Crow blend) as well as featuring two single-origins on pour-over, available through Chemex, Aeropress, Clever Dripper and French Press, although the Chemex is most heavily featured and hence most often requested. Plus, if you ask nicely, the staff will open up whatever single-origins they have in stock and make you a cup. If you’re feeling peckish, Dave’s also has a small, but interesting, selection of cake.

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Tandem Coffee Roasters

A light bulb in the shape of a tandem bicycle from the wall of the Tandem Coffee Roasters RoasteryI first came across Tandem Coffee Roasters in Boston, where I enjoyed a cappuccino at Render Coffee, made using Tandem’s seasonal Time and Temperature espresso blend. I also met with Larry, owner of Boston’s Pavement Coffeehouse chain, who sang the praises of Tandem’s co-founder, Will (an ex-Pavement employee). That pretty much sealed it for me, and when, a few days later, I popped up the New England coast to Portland to start my coast-to-coast, Portland-to-Portland train trip, I naturally sought out Tandem’s roastery.

What I found wasn’t just a thriving roastery, but an excellent, friendly coffee bar too. The coffee bar aside, which features in its own Coffee Spot, this Meet the Roaster post focuses on the roastery side of the business. When I first visited in 2015, the roastery was in one half of a single-storey, L-shaped building, also home to the coffee bar. These days, it’s become so busy, it’s had to relocate to a separate building just behind the first, where a 35 kg Loring roaster takes pride of place, roasting all of Tandem’s coffee, for use in-house in the coffee bar and Tandem’s bakery/coffee shop on Congress Street as well as for Tandem’s growing wholesale business.

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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).

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Pavement Coffeehouse, Gainsborough

A plain white mug with the words "Pavement Coffeehouse" in black, The logo is completed by a drawing of an arm and hand holding a coffee mug, the arm bent to mimic the curve of the mug's handle.As much as I liked the original Pavement Coffeehouse on Boylston, which I visited last year, in comparison, I adored the Gainsborough branch. Both are in Boston’s Back Bay and are, in fact, just ten minutes’ walk from each other, albeit on different branches of Boston’s Green Line. Along with the equally close Render Coffee, they make the neighbourhood a go-to area for great coffee.

All the Pavements serve Counter Culture coffee. At Gainsborough, different beans, which change every two months or so, are available on espresso, bulk-brew and hand-pour, plus there’s a decaf option too. During my visit, they were all single-origins: a Bolivian Nueva Llusta on both espresso & bulk-brew, with a Kenyan Muthonjo on Aeropress (there’s usually a Chemex option on hand-pour as well), while the decaf was Peruvian.

The food is similar to Boylston: bagels and lunch/breakfast sandwiches, plus salads and cake. However, in terms of layout and atmosphere, Gainsborough and Boylston are like chalk and cheese. While Boylston is long, thin and very hectic, Gainsborough is square (in shape) and much more relaxed. There’s probably not much to choose between the two in size, but Gainsborough feels bigger and is certainly more spacious.

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