April 15th, 2015

Letter from Portland, Oregon – BARISTA COFFEE SHOP in the Pearl District.

Portland Above

If it’s historic old warehouses, great street life and a funky, cool atmosphere that attracts you, then look no further than the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon.  Centrally located and adjacent to Downtown, what was once a decaying area of derelict warehouses, light industry and railroad yards has been transformed into the most hip urban area in Portland, an attractive and interesting neighborhood of upbeat style and commerce.  Beginning in the 1980’s, the change was gradual, morphing into a neighborhood of warehouse loft conversions, galleries, stylish boutiques, restaurants, design stores, a collection of craft breweries and coffee shops with an eclectic mix of unique merchants.

Portland Above 2

Barista, is a small chain of three coffee shops in Portland.  One of their stores is located in The Gadsbury Building in the Pearl District and is as unique and original as its neighborhood.   The creative force behind the company is Billy Wilson,  himself a multiple winner in national and international Barista Competitions.   He is a coffee aficionado, with a passion for his product and its craft.  Barista does not have a roastery,  but  curates coffee beans from the best roasters in the country.

Each month, three new coffees are featured, their names written up on a black board and the Baristas  (or Baristi !!)  are trained to know everything there is to know about each variety.

Carefully selected Tea is also served, but the star  of the “show” is coffee  and the  aroma is tantalizing as one enters the space.   Mostly the drinks are espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes that are prepared either with  a La Marzocco Espresso Machine or counter top glass  vacuum pots using a siphon brewing method.   Barista is turning out the best pure, smooth, delicious coffee –  not ersatz concoctions, with Italianate names, topped with swirls of cream.   Has anyone noticed  in the last few years, the new reverential adjectives being used when discussing coffee,  such as: fruity overtones, complex flavors of cherry, tangerine or almond, tart, tangy , piquant, mellow –  smooth talk previously reserved for fine wine. Not only are these Baristas  trained in the art of making and serving great coffee,  but they also have a fund of coffee information and can chat confidently and at ease while preparing the orders, incorporating some of the above “new”terminology.

The design of the coffee shop has an industrial feel , aged wooden floors and  huge windows letting in the light with a  view of the street and the passing parade.  Most of the interior is taken up with the coffee preparation and ordering.   There is some seating inside and in the lobby, but the main seating section is outside, an attractive area, great for meeting friends and people watching.

Barista is a coffee shop where the art and preparation of coffee has been elevated to the top rung of the ladder.  The Baristas  “perform” like Iron Chefs, well trained and polished in their technique, knowledge and presentation.   To quote from the Barista website: “Serving exceptional Coffee from the world’s finest roasters prepared by the most skilled Baristas”.

Everything is visually attractive and the coffee is flawless.   If you are interested  in “the best of”,  it does not get better than this……………….

Barista  –  Pearl District.

593  NW  13th Avenue

Portland, OR 97217.

Tel. 503/274-1211


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