5 Portland roasters who weave coffee identity, culture and history
While most of us stare at our morning cup of coffee and think about a fresh start, roasters see the conclusion of a long journey that began on a farm thousands of miles away. For some roasters, this journey is more intimate and personal. Whether it’s sharing a part of their home serving coffee grown on a family farm or debunking misconceptions about their area’s coffee, these Portland roasters show how sourcing coffee from their roots can stimulate conversations and build community.
In the specialty coffee industry, beans from Africa and South America are considered the best. But Vietnamese coffee? Not really. No surprise to Kim Dam, who in more than five years as a barista and cafe manager, had never worked at a place selling specialty Vietnam coffee. Daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Dam had other ideas. When the pandemic gave her time to dive back into coffee and learn roasting, she started at her mother’s House of Banh Mi sandwich shop and connected with coffee farms in Vietnam. After tapping into her roasting skills, she opened Cà Phê in April, featuring three different roasts from Vietnam, as well as the pork banh mi with tofu and lemongrass from her family’s shop. The house blend is half Arabica, the most cultivated and popular species of coffee in premium coffee in the United States, while half is Robusta, which dominates Vietnamese coffee production but is often considered less desirable in the US market. The fruity arabica is balanced by the earthy robusta, says Dam.
PHILOSOPHY: “Coffee has to be how you want to drink it. There is no right way to drink it; there is no wrong way to drink it.
WHAT TO ORDER: Ube Latte (homemade purple yam syrup with espresso and milk)
WHICH BEANS TO TRY: House blend (50% Robusta 50% Arabica)
Originally from Hefei, China, Joe Yang’s love of coffee took him across the world to Portland, propelled by the dream of opening his own cafe in the United States. He also wanted to introduce Chinese coffee beans to the palates of West Coast aficionados. At Super Joy, the 2020 American Coffee Championships roast winner imports a limited amount of beans from China’s Yunnan region which he roasts alongside coffee from more traditional regions like Colombia, Ethiopia and Nicaragua.
PHILOSOPHY: “To share the joy with our coffee.
WHAT TO ORDER: Cortado or 8oz Latte (so customers can taste the quality of the espresso)
WHICH BEANS TO TRY: Yunnan (complex blend of wine, blueberry and chocolate notes)
When Faisal Mutua was growing up in Kenya, he would roam his grandfather’s coffee farm in search of ripe coffee cherries ready to harvest or branches to prune. Fast forward to a move to Portland to study nursing, where his love of coffee followed him. So in 2015, the part-time nurse and third-generation coffee grower created Abundancia to roast and sell his family’s coffee here in the United States, winning several awards for his coffee, such as a delicate medium roast with sweet notes of blackberry while insisting on a middle class salary for its coffee farmers in Kenya. Grab a cup with Wagyu Beef or Impossible Dumplings or freshly baked raspberry scones at Momo Master, a Nepalese food cart that Mutua opened with a friend in the spring of 2021.
PHILOSOPHY: “Simplicity is elegant. “
WHAT TO ORDER: Pour over
WHICH BEANS TO TRY: Kenya Great Reserve
Hector Mejia Zamora doesn’t see coffee as just a drink to wake up lazy people – for him, it’s a tool that has the potential to make his home a better place. Growing up on his family’s coffee farm in Guatemala, he saw the many ways small coffee farmers were underpaid for their work. When he moved to Portland, Zamora held several entry-level jobs while learning English. But it was while working as a Lyft driver that he met two passengers who helped him fulfill his dream of importing coffee straight from the family farm to serve it in the United States: a roaster who helped him. to import its first batch of green beans and a retail space owner. who told her about an available place that has become the welcoming and warm Café Zamora, complete with a backyard, community events, occasional live music, and heartwarming loroco-stuffed Guatemalan tamales made by Zamora’s mother.
PHILOSOPHY: “Coffee is a platform to be able to accomplish something bigger. “
WHAT TO ORDER: Pour over
WHICH BEANS TO TRY: Medium mix (soft, crunchy, chocolatey)
Coffee, for Angel Medina, is about history and connection. Prior to founding Reforma Roasters, he spent a year traveling across Mexico to nurture relationships with coffee growers and deepen his understanding of coffee production. Reforma now sources beans exclusively from Mexico, working with farmers Medina knows personally and with trusted coffee importers. Find all of their beautifully packaged beans at La Perlita, the bustling Pearl Quarter cafe with brick walls and high ceilings in the Medina, and in the morning grab some pan dulce for soaking at your cafe in the nearby República restaurant.
PHILOSOPHY: “Understand the culture and buy from people you trust. “
WHAT TO ORDER: The real Mexican mocha (espresso, chocolate, milk and spices sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberry powder and crushed cocoa beans)
WHICH BEANS TO TRY: »Tell us what you like and we’ll point you in the right direction.