One Roaster Spills the Beans on Portland’s Coffee Culture
An insider explains why Portland has become a coffee capital.
If you have a hard time getting your morning started without a big mug of coffee, we’d encourage you to take a five-minute walk from deLuxe to 12th and Alder, where you’ll find Heart Coffee Roasters. Known for its high-quality product and thoughtful sourcing, Heart represents the pinnacle of specialty coffee without any hints of pretension. We had the chance to chat with Director of Wholesale, Ryan Cross, to learn a little bit more about what makes Heart unique, and what he loves about Portland’s coffee community.
How and when did you get into coffee? What drew you to the coffee world?
When I was old enough to boil water, my grandma would have me make her instant coffee; I was her little barista. My first ‘real’ barista job was in the late 90s at a Starbucks in Portland. My first exposure to specialty coffee was at Haven Coffee House (RIP). Haven was an early Stumptown account on SE Division & 34th. Stumptown’s training and education really got me hooked.
Aside from Heart, what are some of your favorite coffee shops in the Portland area?
There are too many wonderful coffee shops in Portland to list, and they all have something special going on. These ones serve quality beverages paired with something special.
Nuvrei – for the pastries
Either/Or – for the food
Prince – for the stroopwafel
What sets Heart apart from other roasters in Portland?
What sets us apart locally is our commitment to quality, ethical sourcing, advanced quality control, combined with our roasting and brewing philosophies. Our green buying team travels every year to our partnered farms and mills so that we can work as directly as possible with our producers, select the best crops that year, and be sure our partnered farmers are stoked to work with heart.
All our coffee is secured to be roasted during the peak time of the year—this approach is referred to as “seasonal and fresh crop buying.” All our coffees are high-grade; heart does not purchase or use cheap ‘filler’ coffee. All our roasts are extensively examined with our data-driven quality control methods, and nothing goes out our door that doesn’t meet our standards. Anything that doesn’t meet our standards for quality is donated to the local food bank.
What does Portland’s coffee culture look like and mean to you?
Portland’s coffee culture is a representation of Portland’s DIY ethos. We have a lot of roasters here, and it seems like there’s a new roaster popping up every month. What does that mean to me? It means Heart must never rest and must continue to uphold standards within the growing industry.
In your opinion, what is it about the PNW that has helped foster such a strong coffee culture?
The coffee community—despite its awkwardness—is generally a very welcoming and social group of people. A lot of us have history working together at different cafés and roasters.
What’s your favorite method of brewing coffee and why?
Drip coffee on a heart-modified Fetco brewer. The cup quality is sweet, juicy and complex.
Any particular blends or single origins that Heart has been roasting lately that you’re excited about?
Right now—late July—heart’s fresh crop Ethiopia & Kenya coffees have been arriving. My two current favorites are Ethiopia Jipat & Kenya Gachuiro AB.
Are there any coffee memories or moments that really stand out to you in your life?
I feel fortunate to be part many new cafes’ opening day. Witnessing the first customers order their beverages and then seeing their expressions when they taste it brings me great joy.