I exited the house to sunshine. A wonderful welcome to my 6th day in Portland. The theme of the day was apparent upon sight of the Portland Water Bureau van with the moniker“from forest to faucet.” I laughed. I’m used to hearing origin to destination terms like “farm-to-table” and “crop-to-cup”, however, what I’m sure is common for Portlanders was new to me so I took a photo. This led to a morning of noticing signs all around me. My ten block walk to my first bus of the day aided my wonder.
I saw a sign to protect kids at play, a lawn sign for recology (a first), a an old Coca Cola sign on the side of a house, a newspaper delivery box for the Oregonian , one announcing Autumn at a house address, street signs, and then a lovely PDX sign in the arms of a man riding the bus.
As the signs continue, I made my way to HeartRoasters for their two year anniversary. I was so happy I was in town and that Rebekah and Ville told me of the occasion. I stopped in to Heart filled with natural light and one of their barista’s dj’ing the turntables. I must admit that I love when coffee shops create a space for music; I believe music is a vital cultural component.
Almost instantly I meet a local and her friend who invite me to share their space and drink coffee with them. We speak about Heart, the rise of Stumptown, the need for people to connect and commune. Then, she recommends a few spaces I must check out like Mississippi records. Notes were taken.
Within an hour we all leave together and head towards city center. Somehow I lost my bus pass and she kindly offered to pay my fare and I offer to buy her next cup of coffee. (spoiler, yes we meet again) My timetable delivers me to the Pearl district where streets are lined with brick facades, colorfully painted concrete and its own montage of street signs.
I walk just a block up and a couple over to catch the 17 bus to the densely populated Alphabet District. Since it was so close to Barista, I figured taking a locals recommendation and venturing to Sterling Coffee Roasters was a no-brainer. And, boy was I in for a treat. The sign of the shop on the street corner of the block where it was located let me know I was close. I saw a man walking over to a bicycle parked near the curb and stopped to take his picture. When he halted for me, I encouraged him to continue as I was okay with him being in my shot. Turns out he was one of the duo’s behind Sterling Coffee Roasters.
The parlor like model condo of 50 sq feet approaches its espresso techniques with precision as its aim (they steam to time and weigh all their beans) I’m surprised when he tells me that the espresso isn’t served until at least 10 days after its roasted – this allowing time for it to e-gas -otherwise it taste like “rolling a goat in blueberry.” What an image! Since opening, part of their specialty is offering a variety of coffees often – 120 and counting as of this post. Visiting here means your beans will be sourced from one of two origins, the exotic notes of Africa or fruity nuances of Latin America.
Somehow, I get turned around and the bus I’m on is headed in the opposite direction and I lose an hour of time. By the time I make it to NE Alberta, my perusing must occur quickly. I walk in the rain with wet jeans and a caffeine high. I see beautiful graffiti on an inner wall, snap it and realize I’ve found Eden, I Eden a little bakery shop with some gluten free treats. Inside, there is a sign that says “free yourself” and think to myself, so glad that I have.
Then I see some pre-teen girls enjoying ice cream at snap Salt and Straw. I want to go in and try something, however, I have to head back to SE Portland as my host family wants to go for coffee. Yes?! I make the hour trip back home via bus and the Max. We head to the Stumptown on Division – where I hadn’t visited yet. We order two single origin drips and a latte – of course – for me. After all, I wanted their first introduction into specialty coffee to highlight one of its coolest attributes – latte art. They love it all!
We dine on Chinese later and that concludes a day whose sign points towards home and sleep so that I can do it all again tomorrow – my final full day in Portland.