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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Tandem Coffee Roasters

A light bulb in the shape of a tandem bicycle from the wall of the Tandem Coffee Roasters RoasteryTypical. You wait ages for one Meet the Roaster, then two come along at once. Not only that, but they’re both American! Hot on the heels of last Saturday’s feature on the Brooklyn Roasting Company, comes the subject of today’s Meet the Roaster, Portland’s Tandem Coffee Roasters.

I first came across Tandem when I was in Boston, where I enjoyed a cappuccino at Boston’s Render Coffee made using Tandem’s seasonal Time and Temp espresso-blend. I also met with Larry, owner of Boston’s Pavement Coffeehouse chain, who sang the praises of Tandem’s co-founder and chief roaster, 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 coffee roaster, but a cracking, friendly coffee bar too. Coffee bar aside, which has already featured as a Coffee Spot in its own right, today’s Saturday Supplement is focusing on the roastery side of the business, which centres around Tandem’s 12kg Probat roaster, housed in a separate wing of Tandem’s single-storey, L-shaped building  on Anderson Street.

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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 RoasteryThere are times when you feel that maybe the Coffee Gods don’t want you to visit somewhere. Rolling into Portland (Maine) one morning, I took my time settling into my hotel, intending to wander over to visit Tandem Cafe & Roastery in due course. Fortunately, I checked on-line. It closes at 2 pm. The time? Just gone noon! And it’s where? Oh, about as far away from my hotel as is possible…

One brisk walk later on a hot, summer’s afternoon, I arrived in a very unpromising neighbourhood. Let’s just say it looks industrial. Oh, and they were digging the road up. Not ordinary roadworks. Oh no, the whole road. Anyone would think they’d seen me coming.

Tandem Coffee Roasters is a fairly recent arrival in Portland, joining the likes of Bard Coffee and Speckled Ax. It has two outlets, Tandem Cafe & Roastery, subject of today’s Coffee, Spot, and Tandem Coffee + Bakery, which I’d unknowingly walked past going into town (it’s cunningly disguised as a gas station). The roastery consists of, unsurprisingly, the roastery, where Tandem roasts all its coffee, and a lovely little coffee bar (the cafe), where you can drink said coffee. As long as you’re there by two o’clock…

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Render Coffee

The Render Coffee logo, from the sign outside. The words RENDER COFFEE above a line-drawing of an anvil.I think I’ve found a new favourite in Boston. Head a few blocks along Columbus Avenue past my favourite breakfast spot, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, and you’ll find Render Coffee, just before the junction with Massachusetts Avenue. Ironically, I found it from the other direction, walking south along Mass Ave from Pavement Coffeehouse on Boylston. Although only 10 minutes from Pavement, the contrast couldn’t have been sharper, going from the busy Pavement to the relatively laid-back calm of Render. Quiet, but not empty, it was a relaxed and relaxing place to spend the afternoon.

Like Pavement, Render serves Counter Culture as both espresso and pour-over, along with guest coffees (both from Gracenote Coffee during my visits). One of the things I really liked is there’s no bulk-brew filter coffee. Instead, Render only offers hand-pour. There’s also an excellent selection of food and cake.

Long and thin seems to be a theme for Boston coffee shops and Render is no different in this respect. Accessed by a short flight of steps up from Columbus Avenue, you can sit right at the front and watch the traffic go by, or better still, sit at the back where there’s an excellent fireplace and conservatory!

February 2016: Render now uses Portland’s Tandem Coffee Roasters and the local Gracenote Coffee rather than Counter Culture.

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