I like to support local businesses, but at the same time I maintain certain standards. Stumptown Coffee Roasters, doesn’t always meet them (and I know that puts me in the minority here in Portland).
It’s clear from Ethan Epstein’s New York Press article Totally Stumped, that he’s not a huge fan of Stumptown either. But for him it’s not just about the french press coffee. He begins:
Wake up, New York! You’re supposed to be the city that doesn’t take any bullshit, the city that chews up the phonies and spits ‘em out! Are you really going to be bamboozled by a bunch of pseudo-hipsters from Portland, Oregon? Are you really going to fall for Stumptown Coffee?
In the article he takes on several aspects of Stumptown’s mythology, including an insightful look at the company’s professed hatred of Starbucks:
Stumptown shouldn’t be mistaken for the bohemian paradise that its owner and his legions of promoters and sycophants would have you believe. Like Starbucks, the company it professes to abhor, Stumptown provides a ready-made, generic bohemianism, one where people know exactly what to expect. Stumptown’s current strategy is essentially a retread of Starbucks’ corporate model from more than a decade ago.
The article’s description of Portland’s geography and demographics is laughably wrong (or intentionally exaggerated?), and like the rest of the article it’s delivered rather flippantly.
Arguments, only partly convincing, are made about Free Trade. The piece also investigates whether Stumptown’s coffee is really as good as advertised.
In any case the article is entertaining and thought provoking, even if you don’t agree with half of what it says.
Update – a couple more perspectives:
New York Magazine weighs in on the article: Has the Stumptown Backlash Begun?
Portland Mercury Blogtown too: A Little Bitterness with Your Coffee?
I like to fancy myself as a coffee connoisseur but then I read something by an actual coffee connoisseur and I realize that I’m only a wanna-be. Someday I’ll be able to recognize the difference between Stumptown and Starbucks coffees! LOL
Kevin – I hear you; I’m no “super taster” myself, nor do I have much of a taste memory. But I do know that I don’t enjoy Stumptown’s french press coffee!
Mary Sue says
Oooh, I’m totally excited! Because today when I get home I will have one of THESE waiting for me.
What does this have to do with Stumptown or the NY Times? Nothing, really, I’m making a trip up to NoPo to get some Blue Gardenia to break in my new toy.
Mary Sue – This very morning I prepared my coffee (Peet’s Garuda blend ground on the #4 setting) with an Aeropress – they kick ass!
And blue Gardenia has awesome cinnamon rolls!
Epstein’s article reminds me of so many I read these days (many of them are written by Matt Davis of the Mercury). It seems that many people who move here eventually get upset that Portland isn’t all that they hoped it would be. Then the incessant complaining, whining, and social critiquing begins. They are the ones you typically see drinking french press at Stumptown with their fixie parked outside one day, then write a scathing anti-stumptown article the next. As a native, I don’t understand what all the hubbub is about. I have always thought Portland is a fantastic little city, far from perfect, but a great place to live none-the-less.
I write this as I eat a cinnamon roll at Blue Gardenia.
Brent – I agree. Incessant complaining, whining, and social critiquing becomes tiresome. However, the occasional complaint, whine, or social critique can serve a useful purpose – like warning people that Stumptown’s french press coffee is horrible!
But at least we can all agree on Blue Gardenia’s cinnamon roll – as long as there are no vegans reading this! 😉
Mary Sue, the aeropress is a fabulous little device. Been using one for years. An aeropress americano puts other esspresso coffee drinks to shame. SHAME, I SAY!