New Harvest Coffee & Spirits is that relatively rare combination in America: a coffee shop and bar, serving coffee by day and whisky and other spirits by night (although I believe you can order anything anytime). That it’s also a long-standing roaster (as New Harvest Coffee in Pawtucket, Rhode Island) and is housed in America’s old shopping mall, the Arcade Providence, makes it something very special indeed.
Although New Harvest Coffee has been roasting since 2001, the coffee shop only opened in 2014. There’s a seasonal house-blend and decaf on espresso, two options on bulk-brew and one on pour-over (Kalita Wave), backed up by a selection of cake and a wide range of spirits and cocktails.
New Harvest Coffee roasts 8-10 single-origins at any one time, giving it plenty of options in the coffee shop. There’s a light-roast on bulk-brew, which is usually a single-origin (which changes every day or so) and a dark roast (which changes less frequently). This tends to be a one of two filter-blends, but during my visit it was a single-origin from Papua New Guinea, while the light-roast was a Kenya from Kiangothe. Finally, the pour-over option is another single-origin (an Indonesian during my visit).
February 2016: Since I was in Providence the day I published my piece on New Harvest, I couldn’t resist popping in for a lovely Costa Rican pour-over. It’s so rare I get to re-visit places on the day I publish about them 🙂
When I used to stay in downtown Chicago, my hotel was just around the corner from Tempo Café, an amazing 24-hour diner in Chicago’s Gold Coast (I say “used to stay”: it was all of three times!). However, I loved the place and made sure I visited for breakfast at least twice on each trip. Therefore, when I was back in Chicago as part of my coast-to-coast extravaganza last year, and unexpectedly found myself north of the river, I made a beeline to Tempo for a late brunch.
Tempo, along with Boston’s Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, is one of my favourite American diners, although compared to Charlie’s, it’s a very different place, slightly more upmarket in layout and feel, but still great value for money. All the usual diner staples are there, but you can also get full meals and everything is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Comfort food at its best!
Portland Roasting is the final Coffee Spot from my mammoth coast-to-coast trip across the USA last year. It was one of six Portland coffee shop/roasters that I visited, but the only one where the roastery was actually on the same site as the coffee shop (known as the Cupping Room Cafe). Portland Roasting is a well-established name in Portland, having been around for 20 years now. It occupies a relatively large two storey building on the corner of 7th Avenue and Oak Street just east of the Willamette River, opposite the city centre. The building houses not just the roaster and its two drum roasters, but it also provides a home to the company’s administration and marketing departments and the delightful Cupping Room Cafe.
Set in an area that is predominantly offices and workshops, it’s not somewhere you would naturally find yourself strolling through. However, Portland Roasting and The Cupping Room is worth making a short detour to visit. With two options on espresso, another on bulk-brew and two more single-origin pour-overs, the coffee alone is worth the trip. On top of that, if you get your timing right, there are roastery tours and public cuppings (Monday/Wednesday/Friday, 10:00 & 14:00).
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!
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.
Case Study Coffee Roasters is the first coffee shop I visited in Portland. Located in the heart of downtown, on the intersection of SW 10th Avenue/Yamhill Street, it is one three branches of this local chain, which roasts all its own coffee in a separate roastery.
The downtown branch is glorious. Rectangular in shape, there’s an amazing, copper-topped island counter and floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides, the natural light supplemented by multiple, interesting light-fittings for the odd gloomy day. The seating follows the windows, with the trees lining the streets providing plenty of shade, plus you can sit at the counter, or right at the back whether there are four more tables. The right-hand wall is taken up by a large set of retail shelves.
The focus, of course, is firmly on the coffee, all roasted in-house. There is a choice of the house-blend on espresso, joined by a single-origin and decaf. For filter, there’s the obligatory bulk brew, plus a choice of four single-origins through the Kalita Wave filter, which you can watch being made. Finally, Case Study has cold brew, made on the counter using some impressive kit that could have come straight out of a chemistry lab.
Heart Coffee Roasters is one of many coffee shops/roasters based in Portland, Oregon, but, after Stumptown, it’s probably the one that the most people on this side of the Atlantic have heard of. It was certainly very high on my list during my brief visit to Portland as part of my coast-to-coast trip last June, so I thought it was about time it featured on the Coffee Spot.
There are two Heart coffee shops in Portland, one on the west side, and this, on the east side, on East Burnside, right in the middle of the vast grid of residential streets on the eastern bank of the Willamette River. As well as being a coffee shop, this was also where, for many years, all of Heart’s coffee was roasted. However, the old Probat roaster was retired shortly before my visit due to Heart moving its growing roasting operation to a dedicated facility nearby.
The result, when I was there, 11 months ago, was a coffee shop in flux, so there may well have been more changes since my visit. However, what I found was a delightful, spacious, sunny spot, serving some excellent coffee, amongst the best of my entire trip.
I discovered Asado Coffee when visiting Chicago last summer on my coast-to-coast train trip across the USA. Jeff Liberman, one of Asado’s co-owners, met me when I arrived at Union Station, giving me a behind-the-scenes tour of Asado’s Pickwick Place branch (which has now changed hands) down in the Loop before adding a bonus tour of the River North branch. This was interesting because it hadn’t yet opened, although it was all kitted out and ready to go. It’s the first time I’ve been in a fully-functioning coffee shop before it’s opened. As it turned out, River North would have to wait another five months before Asado finally opened its doors. Hopefully my descriptions aren’t too out-of-date!
At the time of writing, Asado was a coffee shop/roaster chain with four branches in downtown Chicago, although that’s now down to two as of August 2016. Asado roasts all its own coffee, with both shops having their own bespoke analogue roaster. Asado’s other main quirk is that it only uses lever espresso machines, usually from Kees van der Westen, although in the case of River North, it’s an Astoria. As well as espresso, there’s bulk-brew filter in the mornings, plus hand-poured filters throughout the day using Zero ceramic drippers from Japan.
If I was still running the Where It All Began Coffee Spot Award, then today’s Coffee Spot, Intelligentsia’s branch in the Monadnock Building, on Jackson Boulevard, right in the heart of downtown Chicago, would be a shoe-in. It’s the second-ever Intelligentsia, a Chicago coffee roaster which now boasts six coffee shops in that city, plus three in Los Angeles and the High Line Hotel in New York City.
I think the Jackson Boulevard branch opened in 2002, but it was certainly there when I first visited Chicago in 2003. It’s quite possibly the first speciality coffee shop I ever visited, although back then I had no idea that speciality coffee shops existed. All I knew was that Intelligentsia served exceptionally good coffee.
Since then, I’ve become a regular visitor, regular in that I pop in whenever I’m in downtown Chicago. My latest visits came as part of my coast-to-coast trip across the USA last year, when I called into Intelligentsia twice, once when I arrived in Chicago and again, two days later, when I left. I’m pleased to say that it looks and feels very much how I remember it from that first visit all those years ago in 2003…
Speckled Ax joins fellow roasters-cum-coffee shops, Bard Coffee and Tandem Coffee Roasters, to form a small and vibrant specialty coffee scene in Portland (Maine). Speckled Ax started life as a roaster in 2007 (under the name “Matt’s Wood Roasted Organic Coffee”), with the coffee shop following five years later in 2012, prompting the name-change to “Speckled Ax”.
Situated on Congress Street, just west of the centre of Portland, Speckled Ax is long and thin, with the counter at the back and tables along either side. There’s a neat seating area in the window at the front, with benches clustered around a tree stump. This acts as a coffee table, instantly reminding me of the window-seating in Menagerie Coffee in Philadelphia.
Speckled Ax’s particular claim to fame is that it is one of just a handful of wood-fired coffee roasters in the USA (reminiscent of Witney’s Ue Coffee Roasters in the UK). Speckled Ax offers one or two single-origin espressos, plus decaf, in the shop through its Synesso espresso machine. There are usually three more single-origins available as filter, through the syphon, V60, Chemex or Aeropress, depending on your particular requirements. There’s also bulk-brew until 11am if you’re in a hurry.