Craft coffee has been on an upward swing here in Portland and the Old Port neighborhood is the epicenter of the movement.
Portland Coffee Pioneers
Congress Street has played host to specialty coffee since Mary Allen Lindemann and Alan Spear opened the first Coffee By Design (CBD) in 1994. A pioneering player in the Portland coffee scene, CBD now operates four coffeehouses in Portland, one in Shreveport, and a well-respected roasting operation, as well.
“I feel like CBD were kind of the first people on the map trying to do something different than the national chains, super big on giving back to the community,” says Brittany Feltovic, director of operations at Bard Coffee. “They were the ones that really kicked things off here.”
The next year, 1995, John and Cathy Walsh opened Arabica Coffee Company, also becoming pioneers in the Portland coffee scene. Fast forward to 2009 and Bard Coffee was founded by Bob Garver (also of Wicked Joe Coffee Roasters), whose helped solidify “third wave” coffee in Portland and southern Maine.
Third Wave, What?
Third wave coffee is centered on producing high-quality coffee from farm to each barista-made cup. Operators of this sort consider their product and their trade artisanal in nature, much like wine.
Think about it in terms of beer: imagine a small, hands-on brewery compared to one that’s large and corporately owned. Third wave roasters usually offer carefully made drinks like espressos, pourovers, and lighter roasts. They also feature different processing methods and work to educate customers and the community on the in’s & out’s of really good coffee…without being irritating.
“Our job is to make good coffee consistently, to offer good, friendly customer service,” says Feltovic. “We’re open to educating the community about coffee, but are careful not to push anything on people they don’t want to know.”
10 Spots To Get Your Third Wave Coffee On
For Feltovic, what makes Portland’s coffee scene unique is the diversity of coffee-making styles and atmosphere. “Our collective mission is to bring interesting, well-made coffee to Portland,” says Feltovic. “Every roaster and every shop here has its own vibe, it’s own mission.
“With our downtown location, our daily crowd is pretty diverse. You’ll see people getting work done on their laptops, having a business meeting, meeting up with a friend, stopping in for a drink after school, reading a book, etc.,” says Feltovic. “Whereas, Tandem Coffee Roasters is a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee, delicious baked goods, and maybe even a beer with friends and family. We share a lot of customers and their choice depends on their mood that day, their location in town, or they can go to both!”
Here are some of the best third wave shops in Portland: