Coffee Is Culture. Yes, Please!

by | Nov 1, 2011

Portland is home to a number of top flight coffee shops–Barista, Albina Press, Spella, Stumptown, Ristretto, Heart and Extracto all contribute mightily to the thriving coffee scene in Portland. But their largess does not extend to the suburbs, and as a resident of West Linn I’m somewhat put out by that.

The best place in West Linn to order an espresso drink isn’t even at a coffee shop, it’s inside the Market of Choice supermarket, where they serve Stumptown. Of course, there are coffee shops in West Linn, Oregon City and Lake Oswego, but none of them compare in quality or atmosphere to the shops named above. And none of the shops named above have a location outside the city, except for Stumptown which has locations in Seattle and New York City.

Is it because the ‘burbs belong to Starbucks? Or do the ‘burbs belong to Starbucks because there’s a lack of outstanding indie coffee shops to choose from and support? It’s a “chicken or the egg?” question, and I don’t want to get lost in philosophy. Instead, I prefer to focus on the present-day market opportunities and how culture spreads (or does not spread) from one community to the next.

West Linn is a relatively affluent community, just to the south of extremely affluent Lake Oswego. I mention the economic reality of these two “South Shore” communities because it’s plainly obvious that the residents of West Linn and Lake Oswego can afford to support high-end coffee shops, to say nothing of better restaurants, a food cart scene and a handful of local breweries. Yet, as it stands today there are zero food carts in Lake Oswego and West Linn, although Clackamas County officials are working to create a streamlined, affordable process for entrepreneurs looking to open mobile food carts, drive-through espresso stands and similar developments.

I can imagine that the best coffee purveyors in Portland don’t believe their shops would prosper in a suburb where the number of skinny jeans-wearing hipsters is at a minimum. But I beg to differ. People of the Pacific Northwest who wear wide-legged jeans, chinos and cords also drink coffee, and they will drink exceptionally well made coffee, every day, when provided the opportunity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user, Joseph Robertson.