LETTER FROM PORTLAND OREGON — BARISTA
If it’s historic old warehouses, great street life and a funky, cool atmosphere that attracts you, look no further than the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. Centrally located and adjacent to downtown, what was once a decaying area of derelict warehouses, light industry and railroad yards has been transformed into the most hip urban area in Portland, an attractive and interesting neighborhood of upbeat style and commerce.
Beginning in the 1980s, the change was gradual. The area morphed slowly but surely into a neighborhood of warehouse loft conversions, galleries, stylish boutiques, restaurants, design stores, collections of craft breweries and coffee shops with an eclectic mix of unique merchants, like Barista.
Barista is a small chain of three coffee shops in Portland, with one of their stores located in The Gadsbury Building in the Pearl District. Its as unique and original as its neighborhood. The creative force behind the company is Billy Wilson, himself a multiple winner in national and international barista competitions. He is a coffee aficionado, with a passion for his product and its craft; while barista does not have a roastery, but curates coffee beans from the best roasters in the country.
Each month, three new coffees are featured, their names written up on a black board and the Baristas (or Baristi !!) are trained to know everything there is to know about each variety.
Carefully selected tea is also served, but the star of the “show is coffee and the aroma is tantalizing as one enters the space. Mostly the drinks are espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes that are prepared either with a deluxe La Marzocco Espresso Machine or counter top glass vacuum pots using a siphon brewing method.
Barista daily turns out the best pure, smooth, delicious coffee – not ersatz concoctions with Italianate names, topped with swirls of cream. Has anyone noticed in the last few years — the new reverential adjectives being used when discussing coffee? Fruity overtones, complex flavors of cherry, tangerine or almond, tart, tangy ,piquant, mellow – smooth talk previously reserved for fine wine. These Baristas trained in the art of making and serving great coffee, but they also have a wealth of coffee information and can chat confidently and at ease while preparing the orders, incorporating some of the above “new”terminology, but not to the point you feel like you’re making things up.
The design of the coffee shop has an industrial feel with aged wooden floors and huge windows letting in the light with a view of the street and the passing parade when I visited. Most of the interior is taken up with the coffee preparation and ordering. There is some seating inside and in the lobby, but the main seating section is outside — an attractive area, great for meeting friends and people watching.
Barista is a coffee shop where the art and preparation of coffee has been elevated to the top rung of the ladder. The Baristas perform like Iron Chefs — well trained and polished in their technique, knowledge and presentation. Their website says it best: “Serving exceptional Coffee from the world’s finest roasters prepared by the most skilled Baristas”.
Everything is visually attractive and the coffee is flawless. If you are interested in visiting “the best of” sorts of places it does not get better than this…