Author's note: Small-but-mighty coffee roasters are popping up all over the country lately, and many of them are cookin' up batches of beans that are totally worthy of your wake-up cups. If you've got a roaster you'd like us to look into, e-mail Meister at firstname.lastname@example.org
As far as coffee's concerned, until recently there's really only been one Portland, and it's on the West Coast. But Maine's getting in on the action, too, with the emergence of small, plucky specialty roasters like Tandem. We checked out a couple of Tandem's latest offerings to bring you the inside (coffee) scoop.
Owners Will and Kathleen Pratt opened their roastery-cafe in an off-the-beaten-path Portland neighborhood last year, and since then they've been quietly caffeinating this Notheastern coastal city the right way: Fresh cup by fresh cup. The Tandem team hosts free, open-to-the-public cupping every noon, which gives neighbors and locals plenty of opportunity to learn about coffee and to taste whatever's the latest out of the roasting machines on-site.
The tasting notes on Tandem's Harewa Garria from Jimma, Ethiopia suggest that the coffee is perfect for a snow day, which is exactly when I brewed up a cup—and it turned out to be spot on. One of the most floral and perfumey coffees I've experience in a while, it makes a super clean, grapefruity cup with a slightly dry and very graceful finish.
Another wild ride is Tandem's Wahana Natural from Sumatra—yes, a naturally processed coffee from Sumatra ($11 for 8 ounces whole bean). My mind was also pretty blown. I was expecting something funky and mushroomy, but was greeted instead by a big whiff of tart cherries and a mouthful of cherry cordial. It's definitely an intense cup, especially when contrasted with the bright, punchy acidity of Yara AA from Kenya's Kiambu East District, with its sun-dried tomato pop, sweetly tropical finish, and juicy mouthfeel ($11 for 8 ounces whole bean).
Be aware when ordering that Tandem roasts on Mondays and Thursdays, and all coffees ship out the following business day. (This means you'll have to strategize a little if you're buying a weekend pick-me-up.)
A seasonal selection of whole-bean coffees are available for purchase from Tandem's website.
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.