Stumped by Coffee Art.

I’m back in glorious Portland, armed with laptop and Zedd music to prepare a slew of blog posts. It’s been a wonderfully relaxing break–eating with family and friends, reading up storm of cheesy angsty teenage novels, and watching episodes of Cake Boss. And of course, I’ve hit up coffee hotspots just to gaze dreamily at latte art and relish the fact that I’m drinking a fantastic brew. I’m shuddering right now actually as I reminisce about servery coffee, that nasty stuff.

Coffee shops are the places where I like to hide. The smell of freshly ground coffee beans, the hiss of foaming milk, and the overall hubbub in the space always makes me feel at home.  There’s no need to pretend to look cool. I could sit cross legged and pore over The Oregonian with my glasses perched on the end of my nose, and no one would judge me. I like to read and write in coffee shops as well because the ambiance gives me a sound mind, and the feeling of holding a coffee cup in my hand is oddly empowering.

I looked up http://pdx.eater.com/ for good recommendations in coffee, and Either/Or and Stumptown Coffee Roasters both caught my eye.

Either/Or is a little shop located in Sellwood, which is a great area in SE Portland that has a laidback, family friendly vibe. Either/Or is actually quite tiny with only two little tables and a small couch, but the baristas were really friendly and waited patiently as I agonized over what to order. I’d read online before that Either/Or used housemade syrups, right from scratch. Legendary syrups, folks. Besides vanilla bean and caramel, there was one called orgeat, an almond-orange syrup, which sounded really intriguing so I decided to give it a go. A 12 oz orgeat latte, if you please.

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The latte art was seriously exquisite. Learning how to do coffee art is one of the things I’d put on my bucket list (which, by the way, also includes milking a cow and churning butter). It’s simply beautiful and oh so Instagram-worthy. Latte art probably has a whole dictionary of hashtags for itself (#hipster, #artsyfartsy, #Instagram-approved, #coffeesnob).

And make no mistake, the coffee flavor was deliciously smooth. No metallic flavors, no bitter tang—it seemed like the coffee, milk, and syrup all played a major role in perfecting the drink. They enhanced each other. I’ve always been used to adding milk and sugar to tone down the powerful coffee flavor, but I’d say that this orgeat latte combined all three elements in a masterful way that intertwined everything together. The almond orange taste was subtle though, laced within the dark roast, but it really brought out the coffee flavor as well. I savored each sip for as long as possible.

I also had a wonderful experience at Stumptown. Stumptown definitely presented a more bustling atmosphere than Either/Or—there was a long line of customers, and the shop had a wider space with high ceilings and wooden walls with earthy tones. More tables were available, and there was a small table for a vinyl player that boomed out Ludacris’ bold voice and swanky beats. To my delight, there was also a shelf of numerous vinyl records that the baristas could pick and choose from. Stumptown’s vinyl player redefined coffee shop music for me.

I decided to go for the mocha. Typical, right? I once heard that the mocha’s sort of like an adult drink that still makes you a bit of a kid, and it does make sense. There’s a nice dose of coffee in the drink, but the whole chocolate element makes the mocha appealing to all ages. Who can go wrong with chocolate? Still, Stumptown’s mocha was a bit different. I’ve drank mochas that use chocolate to sweeten the drink immensely, but Stumptown uses the chocolate to enhance the flavor of the coffee, not sweeten it. The dark chocolate seemed to border on a 70-80% cacao content because as I took the first sip the taste was initially bitter, but as the flavors lingered in my mouth afterwards it was a nicely sweet aftertaste. This drink was no mocha for kids. It was bold and powerful—the kind of coffee that someone would appreciate for its raw flavors and not because it packs enough chocolate that would comfort some teenage hormonal girl nursing a broken heart.

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Stumptown and Either/Or are just a few examples of Portland’s stellar coffee reputation. I can’t wait to skip off to more places! All I can say is…it’s good to be back, Portland. Yours truly.

http://stumptowncoffee.com/

https://www.facebook.com/EitherOrCafe

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