No Longer Just a Cup of Joe

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This past weekend I stopped by Barista, a new coffee shop in Portland’s Pearl District.   While stopping by a coffee shop may not be exactly notable, it’s Barista’s approach to the coffee that’s stirring things up.

While most shops feature one roaster, Barista prides itself on offering customers the roast of their choice from the roaster of their choice.

Barista's Billy Wilson. Photo from the Portland Mercury, taken by David Reamer.

Barista's Billy Wilson. Photo from the Portland Mercury, taken by David Reamer.

On this particular visit, I could choose between Ritual‘s Sundae or Counter Culture’s SOE Brazil for espresso, and Counter Culture’s Guatemala Huehuetenango for iced coffee.  Other roasters on rotation are Intelligentsia, Ecco and Portland’s own Stumptown.

Coffee can be french pressed or served in a vacuum pot (starting at $8!). Their drink menu is equally specific. If you want a cappuccino, you’ll be served Intelligentsia’s Black Cat; an Americano, Stumptown’s Hairbender.  Mochas can be made with either Guittard or Valhrona, and vanilla lattes are handmade with actual vanilla beans. Either way, you’re getting whole milk – as, according to their menu, “it’s better that way.”

I have to say, the mocha (Valhrona – 20 grams of 61% bittersweet) was just exquisite. But at $4.50 for an 8 ounce cup, I wouldn’t make it a regular indulgence.

As someone who infrequently drinks coffee (and only specialty drinks when I do), the whole differentation between beans doesn’t mean that much to me.  But I have to wonder – for those caffiene addicts out there – what’s the deal? Can you taste the difference between beans? Is a vacuum pot that much better?

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