I wish I had good reason to visit Portland, Oregon more frequently. Rain aside, it has the perfect mix of scenery, creativity and independent spirit – and the best coffee in the world, no question. Which is why I rejoiced when Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters came to New York last year, opening up within the Manhattan outpost of the Ace Hotel.
While I’d prefer a branch in, say, London’s Shoreditch, so I could imbibe every day, at least I know I can get my fix on my regular work-related jaunts to midtown. It’s the same low-key counter-service operation as Portland, with identikit baristas – tattooed, trilby-wearing and bearded – and the same fantastic coffee. I can’t think of a better, richer, smoother, more perfect latte ($3.30-$4.10). The company’s founder, Duane Sorenson, is renowned for forging long-standing relationships with farmers, and paying well over the odds for the perfect beans, while the Stumptown roasting process is a fine art, using vintage cast-iron German Probat machines.
I’m not really a coffee snob (I draw the line at an in-flight pour but I’m still partial to something from Starbucks that comes “venti with a sugar free vanilla shot”), but Stumptown really takes the biscotti when it comes to caffeine superlatives. The queue outside the Ace hotel on a workday morning tells you everything you need to know. Within the space of a year, the café has become such a phenomenon that they now have a tasting room in Brooklyn (open Friday-Sunday, 10am-3pm at 219 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook), where they teach you the best way to make coffee with their beans at home. I’ve tried repeatedly, but I’ve never come close to recreating that perfect latte.