Time for a new brew at Coffee Time

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I started this blog because I frequent Portland’s coffeehouses and enjoy trying new blends and brews of independently roasted coffee. For the most part, I am a big fan of our city’s coffee scene and the variety of coffees available for consumption. But every once in a blue moon, there’s a cup of Joe that sticks out not because of how great it tastes, but rather the opposite .

Now being more of a coffee-drinking fan than an expert in the art of bean-roasting, I have to admit I don’t know if it’s the roasting or the brewing that ultimately results in a bad cup of coffee. But sadly, on a recent trip to Coffee Time, an-always-bustling coffeehouse that is one of the few, if not the only, cafes to stick around on NW 21st Ave., the coffee was bitter and burnt beyond drinking, an experience that’s not entirely atypical in the years I’ve been stopping by.

Notes on Coffee Time…

Location: Founded in 1994 and according to its website under new ownership since 2005, Coffee Time is located at 712 NW 21st, just a block away from Cinema 21. In fact, that’s how we came to know and love Coffee Time in the late 1990s. Without a TV, our entertainment consisted of the independent and foreign movies playing nightly at Cinema 21. Before or after a show, we’d grab a coffee, which even in those days wasn’t the best in the world but could get you through a late-night showing. Coffee Time is great for early birds and night owls, opening at 6:30 a.m. and closing at 2:30 a.m.

Coffee: In the old days of Coffee Time, I am not sure what brand they sold, but the cappuccinos they served always reminded me of the kind I used to get when teaching English in Eastern Europe — slightly bitter coffee topped with foam and a generous amount of cinnamon. On a visit at the beginning of the year, my coffee arrived so burnt-tasting, it had to be tossed. According to Coffee Time, they serve specially roasted light and dark roasts of the Panache blend, from Portland’s own Coffee Bean International, the folks behind the Public Coffee Domain coffeehouse that has gotten such great reviews and I’m hoping to visit soon. Not sure what’s gone wrong at Coffee Time, but it could be time to check the coffee machine, the beans or something.

Cool stuff: Despite the coffee, Coffee Time is an awesome place to hang out, chat, read and study. The place attracts loads of students, by the looks of the study groups that converge, as well as neighbors and passers-by. On a cool, damp day in Portland, there’s nothing better than getting a warm drink (preferably tea) and sitting outside on the sidewalk under the heated lamps. Or if you like the coziness of a cave, you can find a very private booth in the very private backroom.

Not so cool: ‘Nuff said.

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Portland’s tech-friendly cafes

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Apparently, New York indie cafes are cracking down on the “sprawl” of iPads, Kindles and other electronic devices, so reports the New York Times Magazine (“Table Disservice,” Feb. 11, 2011)¬†earlier this week.

Really? OK, I get that purists might want to preserve something of the coffeehouse culture of old, but look around, and most cafes are filled with a happy mix of people socializing, eating, working or reading.

If you believe Australian Futurist Ross Dawson, the small, flat, mobile media gadgets of today are predicted to replace most, if not all, traditional print media by the year 2020. Which would mean that to read a newspaper in the coffeehouse of the not-so-distant future, you’d be browsing your tiny tablet or phone rather than flipping pages of paper. Whether you believe the prediction or not, you can check out Dawson’s newspaper extinction timeline here. Even Starbucks has jumped on the digital bandwagon with the launch last fall of its own in-store digital network, which delivers specialized content to the computers of Starbucks customers who surf for free while gulping their Trenti 30-ounce drinks.

I’ve heard of no such electronics ban from Portland’s coffee world, and in fact, my friend Rick of Silicon Florist fame blogged about his top cafe picks for techies and telecommuters in his 2009 post, “Wifi, caffeine and coworking: 10+ Portland coffee shops for meeting up with Portland’s tech types.”

A few of the Silicon Florist’s top picks (and mine) include: Albina Press, Urban Grind and John James Cafe. If the other 10 or so tech-friendly cafes on the list are like any of the others in Portland, the analog world of humans, coffee and cake will continue to co-exist just fine with their digital companions.

“Portlandia” pokes fun at all things Portland

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“Portlandia,” the six-part mockumentary of our quirky city is yet a mere month away from debuting on cable (Jan. 21, 2011), and the PR is heating up. Portlanders are talking, anxiously awaiting — and already laughing — about the show by Carrie Brownstein, former Sleater-Kinney guitarist (and one-time trainer to my dog at Happy Go Lucky — I’ve got her autograph on my dog’s certificate to prove it), and SNL’s Fred Armisen.

Of course, if you’re making fun of Portland, you can’t let a joke about coffee go by. In the Portlandia trailer/music video on IFC, the cast sing and talk about Portland, where “young people go to retire” and “work at a coffee shop a couple hours a week,” “tattoo ink never runs dry” and “hot girls wear glasses.”¬†OregonLive.com reported in early December that to promote the show, potential reviewers were sent bags of Stumptown Hair Bender as pre-show swag and symbol of this town.

A summary of the six episodes online doesn’t appear to involve any local cafes. But if Brownstein and Armisen continue their Portlandia creative endeavor, here’s hoping a future episode might take place in one of our many great Portlandia-esque cafes, such as Stumptown on Belmont, Fresh Pot on Mississippi or Random Order on Alberta.