Archive for March, 2012

World Cup Coffee & Tea



 World Cup Coffee & Tea 

 10th & Burnside St.

 ( inside Powell’s)

 Portland, OR

If you’re a reader in Portland, you probably know Powell’s Books. In fact, you may love Powell’s! And if you are a visitor to Portland, and also a reader—or a visitor of a reader, or traveling with a reader—you will probably be pointed towards Powell’s. It is truly a booklover’s paradise, with floor after floor of books: new books, rare books, used books, near-books, and not a whole lot else. Not much cutesy, some arty cards but very few calendars, and little pop-culture merchandising. More nerd culture, if anything. They do sell inflatable mooseheads for some PC style in your den, and a supply of  games like Settlers of Cataan. Best of all, Powell’s buys your books for credit or cold hard cash, which you can fritter away on coffee and goodies, should you choose to, in World Cup Coffee & Tea. Located within the store in the SE corner on street level, it is accessible only through the store, so you must experience a bit of Powell’s just to set foot inside it. Then you get more taste of Powell’s when in the coffee shop: high shelves of books provide decoration for the place, and you are allowed to take prospective purchases into the coffee shop to read. (Please don’t spill…) If you later decide they’re not your cup of tea, you can place them on a restock cart. Just a touch of old-fashioned trust in the café. A lot of old-fashioned reading goes on—surprise!—more reading than computing! I witnessed only one child being read to, but zero-zero!-playing something electronic.

The place was so jam-packed that we couldn’t find any chairs; I think this is one coffee house which, like its adjacent bookstore, has been discovered. It appears to have simply evolved, as if it were never really “decorated”.  Powell’s is in an old building, and so the coffee place is not fancy.  Signs (such as pick up here, put dishes there, set restock items on this) and posters, chalk and bulletin boards, and big, tall bookshelves are the most noticeable things. Well, maybe except for the people; people-watching is prime. Busy hip workers with body piercings scurry about preparing special drinks and keeping the readers fed and caffeinated, while customers greet friends, seek out new reading material or food, or relocate as spots open up. There are long tables for spreading out newspapers or study projects or new literary acquisitions. For people whose heads (many of them) are buried in books, they’re certainly wiggly! Or maybe I should say alive.  People share the tables;  life is good.

Fare: Tantalizing pastries beckon with a lot of choices. My World Cup Roasters coffee was $1.50, and I tried a tiny rolled-up pastry for $.75 to take the edge off my appetite.

Hours: open while the bookstore is open

Bathrooms: located somewhere else in Powell’s—yet a bit hard to find if you are unfamiliar with Powell’s layout. Fine once you get there, assuming you got there in time!

Clientele: everybody! Nerds, pulp readers, college students, babies, tourists, child bookworms, gays, oldsters, homeless, professionally-dressed, hippies, gamers, singles, immigrants, hipsters, families…you get the idea. Actually these were made up; I have no idea how to describe them, really.

Rating: 5 (of 5) coffee beans, because you are allowed so much freedom: to stay indefinitely, to spread out & move things around, to read company books. And it tastes good, too.


True Brew Coffeehouse

True Brew Coffeehouse

True Brew Coffeehouse

3370 SE Milwaukie Av.

Portland,  OR

It had to happen some time. Within the vast coffee mecca of Portland, I came across an actual True Brew Coffeehouse. No relationship whatsoever to my blog! Here I thought I had coined a cool, rhyming, unique name for the blog:  True Brew Coffee House Review. Now I really believe that there is nothing new under the sun; every so-called original thought or creative idea has already been thought or thought up. There is a faint possibility that I once traveled to Milwaukie and glanced at the café, only to file its name away (certainly not its memory) for future use should I ever decide to write a coffee blog. But I don’t think so. Once again, it was my own made-up name, and the blog has NOTHING to do with the innocent shop in Milwaukie, except for today, when I review it for me and you.

The startling thing about the TrueBrew is its size: very spacious, yet not at all cavernous. It has those horrid MadMenesque (60’s) windows all around, like a glassed-in box, but it seems cozy. Windows are greatly improved with etched leaves and awnings, but most of the warmth radiates from an interior brick wall. Distinct areas define the coffee shop: a comfy couch nook has its back to a room divider so that the cold windows are not visible, and there’s another couch in the light for those who don’t have the Oregon Early Spring Squint. Tables are open and breezy; I understand that some people prefer that even in the depths of winter. During our visit a group was having a lengthy discussion rather privately, because the table seemed far away. Elsewhere, an over-sized IKEA mirror, a book-binding press (no idea why), and a life-size wooden dog who slept leisurely nearby, added comfort and interest. Enough room even for dogs (No real tail-waggers inside, however; just the carved one)!

One area had simple tables and was the information site. It featured stained-glass and other art and artifacts (coffee roasting equipment-perhaps, urns, and a picture of a lady smoking–a real no-no nowadays). Someone had made a stained glass TrueBrew window which I’d probably have swiped had it said “coffee” instead of “espresso”, and, naturally, if this blog were not virtual—lucky for them!  “Espresso” is a rather dated term. I wondered if the nameplates in stained glass were salvaged from two of the coffeehouse’s former lives? Maybe the place “grew up” with coffee just like I did!

Fare: Coffee was a mere $1.25, and mocha was on special for $2. I had a tasty breakfast burrito, but food selection was limited.

Clientele & Service: A steady trickle of customers; nobody stood out. WIFI was password-protected.

Bathroom: In keeping with the oddball décor, the bathroom had a bright green bench inside. Its presence reminded me of a train (except for its vivid color), with its ladies’ room seating. Maybe this bench was for diaper changes.

Rating: 4 (of 5) coffee beans, because it seemed original in its ambience. Maybe I’m just biased….

After the green is taken down

There are special promotions out there, to sober you up after all the green beer, maybe? Maybe it’s coincidence. McDonald’s is giving away free cups of coffee, and so is Burgerville (I’ve had ’em both, and they suffice).  Can’t say the exact dates, but you don’t have to buy anything to get your brew!

And speaking of McDonald’s, they regularly offer a senior coffee for anything from 50 cents to one dollar, depending upon the store’s management  (Helps us stay awake when we’re on the road and feeling frugal).  Just don’t fall for the fast food, like I have done.  Shopping? Join IKEA and indulge in a free cup every time you come in.

Note:  These coffees are not all gourmet, but what true caffeine-lover can always hold out for that?  No snobs here

Extracto Coffee

Extracto Coffee

1465 NE Prescott, Portland

Extracto Coffee is a unique little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. Not only does it make “your own” cup of coffee as you wait, but it also has original décor. Watching my java drip was akin to watching my home pot fill up—except I rush it, wishing it’d hurry up, maybe daring to swipe some of the ultra-strong stuff despite the possibility of short-changing the rest of the pot.  Here, of course, I waited patiently, and my coffee was brought to me as in an elegant restaurant. And it was brewed Just Right. Because they have no pots sitting on a burner or chilling in vacuum pots, they could also offer 4 coffee varieties instead of just 2 or 3, and they were fresh.

Now about the decorations:  A huge, odd picture of a monkey riding a dragon seemed to cover most of one wall, and other patterned cloths were hung around the room. Bags of coffee for sale were perched upon glass cake platters on a table, and a church pew provided seating directly under the dragon (Hope he keeps his hot breath to himself!). Other disparate items included the blond-wood and metal school chairs. Plain concrete floors had 3-D diamonds painted at each seam or intersection. In contrast to the “homegrown” furnishings, the main counter was a striking wood and steel creation. This seemed fitting; the spiffy counter augmented the unique (for Portland) brewing system.

The shop had an unpretentious, friendly, neighborhood feel to it.

Fare: At $2 per cup, coffee was higher than average, but then, it was special! They had day-old eats at half-price. I had a bran muffin, mouth-watering despite being day-old and cold: Pleasantly surprising! Assuming the bran muffin might be slightly stale, I asked about a microwave, but I guess “no nukes is good news” in Portland.

Bathroom: This was a sort of storage-closet hybrid, complete with brooms and umbrellas, but it had a regular sink and was clean.

Clientele: Ordinary people, maybe some hipsters (as if I knew one when I saw one, at my uncool age!). Neighborhood place along Prescott. No provisions for kids.

Rating: 4 coffee beans (out of 5) for doing a lot with a little.