Where’s the coffee?

Searching for artisan cafes on campus

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Park Avenue Cafe, located on the corner of Market Street and Park Avenue. Stella Crabtree/PSU Vanguard

To say I love coffee would be an understatement. Like many college students, coffee is the fuel that keeps me running. Not only do I need coffee to function, but I need a lot of it. And I need it to be exceptional. This is Portland, after all.

Just hook me up to an IV drip.

When I get ready to settle down for a long study session, it’s essential to be close to the source. I want the scent of the dark elixir to fill my nose with its rich aroma, the redolence swirling in my head, feeding the words and ideas growing there.

Writing an extensive paper or diving into a mountainous stack of reading can be easier at a coffee shop than at home, where you’re away from the distraction of dirty dishes and Netflix binging. The problem is that places to study on campus while consuming copious amounts of high-quality caffeine are seriously lacking!

Portland is a coffee town. With an independent roaster always within sprinting distance, we are all used to the good stuff. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that coffee factors into the choice to attend Portland State, but part of our reputation comes from the local crafted goods that draw people to our fair city.

That’s why I am so baffled that the south side of downtown is deficient in hip coffee houses and independent roasters. If we want to study at a comfortable place where we can keep a close eye on our favorite barista, our choices are pretty much limited to Starbucks (gasp!) or the Metro if you can find it, neither of which encompass the ideas of artisan coffee, local roasters, or craft coffee brewing.

I realize I sound like a coffee snob and I’ll own that. I understand that this is a completely Portland issue, not really important in light of some of the more political, global and economic concerns the world is currently facing. That said, this greatly affects my personal daily world.

The PSU community is in desperate need of local coffee roasters on campus.
Our university is a prominent fixture in the center of this beautiful city, sharing a core value of sustainability and community. We tout ethical practices like shopping locally. We host the Farmers Market in the center of our campus where you can get an amazing locally roasted cup from Spunky Monkey’s cart. Yet the coffee served at the kiosks in the Brandford Price Millar Library and Smith Memorial Student Union both are both run by Aramark.

We are lucky enough to have an Olé Latte Coffee cart on SW 5th and Harrison, sourcing only local, small-batch products. They are awesome, friendly people focusing on sustainability, giving back with their Suspended Coffee board, a pay-it-forward system that anyone is free to use. But being a cart, this is not a place to get comfortable.

Since last year’s closing of the art-themed coffee shop on 5th, there is simply no decent coffee house at which to study on campus.

Sure, there is Park Avenue Cafe on SW Park and Market with decent food and plenty of tables, serving Illy coffee, which is drinkable but not that special and definitely not local.

On the next block down on Clay and Market there is the Energy Bar, where you can get a great smoothie but sub-par coffee. This bar also has sub-par seating.

Next to Eastside Deli there is another Starbucks.

Venturing further from campus, one would find Case Study by the main library, which is exceptional but expensive and not directly part of campus.

I fantasize of the day someone decides to open a local coffee roaster at PSU, where I could sip my artisan cappuccino while admiring the reflections of hipsters in the brass of the corner roaster, the caramel smell of hot fresh beans wafting through the air.

If only Water Avenue Coffee or, dare I suggest it, Coava would figure out how lucrative it would be to drop a shop in our end of downtown.

A girl can dream.

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