Maine Reflections Part 2: Portland Coffee Review

Okay, so my last blog post showed a little bit of the adventure side of my recent trip to Maine, but it wasn’t all about dripping sweat and counting steps. We were incredibly blessed to have beautiful, sunny weather for all but one day, so we decided to use the rainy skies as an excuse to get away from nature and step into the world of coffee.

The cabin that we stayed in had a few pamphlets that outlined the food & beverage scene in Portland. For the size of the city (~67,00 people), it seemed like its coffee shop game was pretty strong. We picked a few that had good reviews, and our personal coffee crawl was born. Portland was only 1.5 hours away from where we were staying, and it seemed like a crime not to see what was brewing there. To our surprise, we drove out of the rain, and we ended up having perfect weather while in the city.

Our first top was Tandem Coffee Roasters.

My first impression was, “Wow, this is a tiny place”; however, it was super cute. Noah got a cortado with an Ethopian espresso, and my goodness was that the best dang little cup of coffee. Noah worked in a specialty coffee shop for some time, so he has had his fair share of good coffee. Even with that, he said that it was the best espresso he has ever had. I was not disappointed in my pour-over, and I even had a surprise waiting for me at the bottom of my cup. Tandem roasts their own beans, and I wish I would’ve snagged a bag on our way out. The baristas were very personable and gave us some advice on other coffee shops to head to next. We were happy to know that they simply confirmed our choices that we had already picked out. Could it just be our good moods that made the coffee so good? The answer to that is no my friends, because after all of the coffee of our trip, Tandem coffee still reigns as the champion.

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Our second stop was Coffee By Design.

Well shoot. If Tandem was the best cup of coffee, then Coffee By Design was the best experience. It was the largest coffee shop that I had ever been in. The color scheme made the atmosphere homey, but yet the bar was spacious. The back wall of the shop was glass, and you could see directly into their roasting process. I stepped out of my comfort zone and got an almond flavored oat milk latte, and Noah got an espresso shot. Mine was delicious, and Noah said his was good but not as special as Tandem’s. I took his word for it, because I haven’t jumped aboard the “drink espresso straight” train. If that was all that our experience at Coffee by Design had to offer, then we would have left pleased; however, we were in for a great surprise.

Noah had to use the bathroom, and truthfully was in there for what I would call an extended period of time. I don’t know if the workers felt sorry for me twiddling my thumbs and slowly perusing their merchandise whilst waiting for Noah, but a man came up to us once reunited and started to chit chat. He asked if we wanted to have a quick tour and go back into the roasting area. I think our eyes lit up like kids in a candy store, and we jumped at the chance. He showed us the different stages of the process, starting with the green beans and ending with the final product.  I felt like I was in coffee heaven (hair net and all). I think he was the owner, and it was inspiring to see a place that was so proud and passionate about their work. We walked out of there completely in shock, asking “what just happened?” and “why us?”. If you ever get the chance to go to Portland, definitely give Coffee By Design a visit.

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By this point, we were already buzzing a bit. We took a breather at a book store, and walked around the area. We were having a wonderful time, but with all that liquid comes a need for a potty break (does everything we do revolve around the bathroom?). Regardless, we were ready for stop number 3: Bard Coffee.

Bard Coffee was a happening place with unique menu options. I got some sort of Cascara soda, and it was one of the weirder (but good) drinks I’ve had. It kind of tasted like a fizzy iced tea with a twang, but it was really made out of cascara, aka, the dried skins of coffee cherries. Noah had another cortado, and he said it was “good but not Tandem level”. We sat and enjoyed the natural light and the city vibes. Like the other two shops, the baristas were welcoming and helpful, especially since they had drinks on their menu that I wasn’t familiar with. If you want a cute shop right in the heart of Portland, I definitely recommend Bard Coffee (Tandem and Coffee by Design were a little drive to most of the action).

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Last but not least we wanted to hit Speckled Ax; a shop that advertises wood roasted coffees. Our Google Maps said it was a ~10 minute walk from where we were, and we had ~15 minutes left on our parking meter. To add more time or to not add more time was the question of the hour. We ended up briskly walking there to buy 2 bags of beans (one for each set of parents) and hustling our way back to the car. We trusted the reviews, and from what our parents said about the coffee, it lived up to the expectations. The shop had a warm and almost masculine atmosphere that was different to what we had just experienced at Bard. If we find ourselves back in Portland, I would definitely want to go back there to sip, sit, and stay for a while.

We left Portland with happy hearts that were pumping with a caffeine boost and memories to last a lifetime. As we drove back to Liberty, the clouds rolled in, and we drove right back into a rainy day. It was almost like Portland was our oasis, and it was hard to believe that 1.5 hours made such a difference.

I think that the coffee world is filled with some of the most genuine and passionate people I have ever met. From experience, baristas work much harder than you may think. I’ve said it before, but coffee has an incredible way of uniting people and making connections between people that would otherwise never meet. In a society where technology is king, there is something sweet about having a cup of coffee that was poured by a person that calls out your name with a smile. Dare I say, I miss being that person behind the bar.

Usually I try to pull in some sort of tip or lesson into my posts, but this time I wanted to tell a story if only just so I can look back and remember this day. Sometimes life is just sweet and meant to be enjoyed much like a good cup o’ joe.

Portland, thank you for making me fall in love with coffee even more. Thank you for making me appreciate the little things.

 

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