Back in January 2014, when I was starting to realize my obsession for sherry, I met Lora Woodruff on one of her Third Wave Coffee Tours. Naturally, I wanted to know more about Portland’s artisan coffee scene, but I mostly wanted to pick her brain about how to lead local food/drink tours. That day I came away with more than an interview and a caffeine rush; I made a new friend. That’s why I was so excited and honored when she invited me to join other lifestyle writers for her launch of her Artisanal Donut & Specialty Coffee Tour!
In the late 1990’s, Portland’s coffee and donut scene was put on the map with the help of Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Voodoo Doughnut. Several years later, other third-wave coffee roasters and artisanal donut makers came on board. In a city that prides itself on the artistry of food and drink, it was quickly apparent that Lora’s tour is not just about grabbing a traditional donut with a fancy cup of joe – it is about meeting the coffee and donut artists perfectly pairing the two to bring out the best flavor profiles in each other.
Today’s launch began at 10 a.m. inside Coco Donuts on SW 17th near Providence Park. Lora joked that her daughter claims they are a “Coco-family” when it comes to donuts. We had the pleasure of meeting Ian and Marissa to hear about their home-roasted coffee paired to a variety of donuts.
The Peruvian coffee went best with their buttermilk bar, and the Rwanda was paired with their old fashioned glaze. What I enjoyed most was not only the lightness of their donuts, but they weren’t overly sweet! The Rwandan coffee was not too sour or fruity when paired with the glaze. My favorite was their lavender glazed donut, a very fluffy traditional glazed donut with just a hint of lavender. Even after several bites of each, I did not feel weighed down or sugar-high. Coco Donuts currently has three locations in the metro area. With the quality they provide, it wouldn’t surprise me if they keep expanding.
The tour continued onto Sterling Coffee Roasters on NW 21st between Flanders and Glisan. If you ever take Third Wave Coffee Tour in NW Portland, this will be a favorite stop! They have the best drinking chocolate around! Of course, we also had a shot of their espresso served in beautiful sniffer glasses. We were fortunate for good weather. It was a nice break to sit outside in the sun and get to know my fellow tour-guests.
We took the scenic route around northwest Portland to arrive at Local Roasting Co. on 19th and NW Lovejoy. They actually pull their shots! Today we tried their homemade hazelnut milk latte. They did make substitutes for anyone with nut or milk allergies. It was a perfect balance of creamy texture without losing the coffee flavor.
The tour followed back up to NW 23rd to the newest location of Blue Star Donuts. This is a donut-for-grownups shop putting the spotlight on creative flavor profiles. What sets Blue Star apart is their brioche dough that takes 15 hours to proof, and the use of top quality ingredients when it comes to butter, whole milk and cage-free eggs. Our visit wasn’t long – we just grabbed a box for the road.
The fifth stop on the walk was also on NW 23rd at Barista. This was the perfect place to grab a glass of iced cold-brew! Barista serves highlighted coffee from some of the best roasters around the country and Canada. They have three different espressos on the bar at anytime. This is their fourth location in the Portland area that opened about 18 months ago. Our cold-brew was the Columbian roast from Kuma. It was the smoothest coffee to drink on its own! Very refreshing after walking around on a warm day smothered in my wool base-layers, because the morning looked like rain…Portland spring – go figure.
Our sixth and final stop on the tour was at the Portland location for Seattle Coffee Gear. Joe was captivating as he told us the history of the company and the art of making a really good cup of coffee. (Side note: I personally bought my Jura espresso maker months ago because Joe gave me an honest review of the best product to meet my expectations for a home espresso maker. He’s on YouTube – check him out!)
He prepared for us two pour-over chemex coffee to pair with our Blue Star Donuts. Joe is a classically trained pastry chef. His love of raspberry and cinnamon came to mind when pairing the lighter, fruitier Black Cat Classic blend from Intelligentsia to go with our sugar and cinnamon donuts. The other was a richer, earthier Mathildes blend from Nossa Familia to go with our chocolate and custard donut. Both coffees complemented the donut and vice versa. Oddly enough, drinking the lighter coffee with the heavier donut made the coffee almost taste like weak black tea. So – trust Joe, he knows.
Each of Lora’s Third Wave Coffee Tours has a unique experience based on which roasters and areas of Portland she visits. This combination of artisanal donuts and coffee was a wonderful way to see the city with fresh eyes and a satisfied stomach!