Today, I officially released my new book, Caffeinated PDX: How Portland Became the Best Coffee City in America.
Caffeinated PDX tells the stories of the people and companies that pushed Portland to the forefront of the specialty coffee scene. The introduction starts with how I became interested in coffee and describes some of the stories surrounding coffee’s origins. It talks about how many of Portland’s coffee leaders got their start in the industry, letting their voices come through wherever possible. Along the way, I explain what is known as the “third wave” of coffee, a movement to improve coffee worldwide, and also give an insider’s look at barista competitions, seen from a judge’s perspective.
While the book is very Portland-centered, its topics are broad enough that it should be interesting anyone who drinks coffee, anyone who enjoys good a good story, or anyone who wants to get to know the Rose City a little better. Read More
Experiencing the weather is kind of like drinking coffee, in that it is such a universal human experience (if you think the analogy is a stretch, consider the fact that people drink more than 700 billion cups of coffee each year). Growing up in a farming family, the weather was always a topic of conversation at meal times, at the hardware store, on Sundays in church—pretty much everywhere you went. Even though we couldn’t do anything to control the weather, life revolved around it. Weather dictated what you could do in the fields each day, and was the most important factor in how the crops would turn out. If it rained too little or too much, was too hot, too cold, or too windy (it’s hard to keep farmers happy), stress levels around our house would go up. When a late spring shower broke a long stretch of drought, it was grounds for celebration. Perhaps that’s why I still pay so much attention to the weather. Old habits die hard. –WH
If you’ve lived on the East Coast or in the Midwest, you might jeer at the fuss Portlanders make over a couple inches of snow. A Nor’easter in Boston that dumps a foot of snow overnight causes less disruption than the few inches we’ve received over three days (though as I write this, a third wave of storm is really starting to pile up the snow outside). Portland just doesn’t have a lot of equipment dedicated to clearing the streets. Seeing a snowplow in Portland is kind of like seeing a bobcat in Eastern Washington. You know they exist, but they’re rare enough that you might spend your whole life there and never see one. As infrequently as it snows, why should the city spend much money on snow equipment? Especially since it has already dedicated so much funding to paving roadways and putting in sidewalks in Southeast Portland (oh, wait….)
When you visit somewhere new for the first time, one of the best ways to get a feel for your new surroundings is to find a local guide. Whether you are looking for museums, restaurants, or other attractions that don’t always make it into the guidebooks (or to the top of the Google search rankings), a good guide can make your experience much better.
The same holds true if you are looking for good coffee. Portland’s reputation for coffee is well-known around the world, yet it can still be a challenge for tourists (or even locals) to choose where to go when they want to explore the city’s coffee scene (granted, one of the challenges is that there are so many options). A new company, Third Wave Coffee Tours, owned and operated by Lora Woodruff, is making it more convenient to find good coffee, whether you are making your first trip to Portland or have lived here all your life. Read More
The reason I went to Seoul in the first place was to judge the Angel-in-us Barista World Grand Prix (ABWG). From first moment after I cleared customs in Seoul, Angel-in-us (sounds like “Angelina’s”) made me feel welcome. Despite the fact that my plane was nearly two hours late in arriving (we had a late start and some strong headwinds), my greeter met me with a smile at the airport. He did not complain (at least to me) when it took us two hours to get from the airport to downtown in rush hour traffic. (Travel note: My trip was long, but I had it much easier than some of the other participants. One of the baristas traveled more than 37 hours, from Chile to Seoul, via Atlanta. Two judges, traveling from Europe, spent an unplanned night in a hotel in Istanbul.)
When we finally did make it into Seoul, we skipped the hotel and went directly to the welcome dinner (most of which I missed), where the gathered judges and baristas went over the competition rules. The baristas also drew lots for the presentation order. After dinner, a short walk through Seoul’s Gangnam district to the hotel felt good, despite the cold weather. Seoul’s nighttime brilliance dulled the chill in the air.
The next morning, after a short sleep and a hearty breakfast, we reported to the massive Coex exhibition hall for a short calibration session prior to the start of the competition. Read More