As my friend Norman Bodek likes to say, life has a funny way of giving you gifts. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised by small things that happen. Your day might be brightened by a kind stranger, for example, as was the case for me when I went to Blue Kangaroo Coffee Roasters, located in the deep Southeast PDX neighborhood of Sellwood.
The Blue Kangaroo café is a friendly place. It is fairly open, with several comfortable chairs and an area for the kids by one of the front windows. It would be a good place to take kids, or even better, it would be a good place to go after you dropped your kids off somewhere, say, at preschool. As you can see from the picture below, the café has its own splash of PDX weird—a flying pink pig hanging from the ceiling.
Flo, the co-owner of the Blue Kangaroo, was working the bar the day I was in there, and she told me the story behind the Blue Kangaroo.
She got excited about coffee during college, when she went to work for a roaster up in Alaska. It was there that she learned how much better fresh-roasted coffee tastes. Like she said, once you know what fresh coffee tastes like, it’s hard to go back to old coffee. When Flo came back to Portland, she and Cindy, the other co-owner, began roasting coffee outside in a pan over a propane stove on Sauvie Island about six years ago.
It wasn’t long before their hobby turned into a business. The two shared some of their freshly-roasted beans with their friends, who were impressed and offered to buy the coffee. They quickly gained a reputation for roasting good coffee and sales grew.
To keep up with the increasing demand, Cindy and Flo bought a 1950s-model Probat roaster. The roaster had been through a fire and needed to be completely refurbished, but it was a big improvement over roasting in a pot on a fire. They later bought at newer Diedrich model and used the roasters side by side. For several years they had mostly wholesale accounts, but they also wanted to open a café so that customers had a place to try their coffee.
When they moved into the Sellwood café, in 2008, they brought both roasters with them. The Probat currently sits in the café as a decoration, and the Diedrich is in the back room, roasting coffee almost every day. Eventually they plan to hook up the exhaust system to the Probat too in order to do some roasting out in the café.
The espresso Flo gave me was a multi-region blend that consists of five different beans—two from Africa, two from Latin America and one from Southeast Asia. For an espresso, I thought it was fairly sweet and smooth, a bit nutty (kind of like your writer) and had a slight drying effect on the tongue (if anyone reading would like to explain where that drying effect comes from, I would appreciate it. If not, I’ll remember to ask a roaster one of these days).
While I was there, I sat for a while in the front window of the café, taking notes and trying to figure out how to run my camera. Next to me, two people were having a meeting about something. When I needed a break from the camera, I went back to the bar to order another espresso. While I was waiting, the woman who had been sitting at the table nearby came up to me.
She stopped and looked at me for a moment, closely scrutinizing my face. She had that look on her face that people get when they think they might have seen you somewhere before.
“I just wanted to tell you,” she started slowly, “ I was sitting over there next to you and saw you working with your camera. From the side, your profile looks exactly like the star in the Italian movie I was watching last night.”
“Really?” I laughed. The man who was had been meeting with her laughed too. “What was his name?” I wanted to know which one, of course.
“I can’t remember exactly who the actor was. It was a drama series from Italian television—very good. I really enjoyed it. You ought to see it. It was Two Brothers, or something like that. Your profile looks just like the actor in it!”
To be honest, she didn’t think the rest of my face looked so much like the actor’s, but who’s complaining? I mean, when was the last time anyone thought I looked like an Italian actor? Come to think of it, it might have been the last time I saw pigs fly. I gave her my card so that she could send me the name of the show later.
If you’re looking for a place in Sellwood to try some freshly-roasted coffee, the Blue Kangaroo is a welcoming place that places a premium on having the freshest beans available. I enjoyed my trip there. I got some good coffee, tried my first Cuban and a stranger brightened my day when she told me I looked like an Italian movie star. . . How could I not recommend a place like that?
Address: 7901 SE 13th Ave Portland, OR 97202 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30am-6pm
Coffee: Blue Kangaroo
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Recommend it? Yes
Post-Script: The name of the movie was The Best of Youth (La meglio gioventù). I assume that she was referring to Luigi Lo Cascio, but I’m not sure. I’m going to watch it later this week.
Post-Script Script: Thanks, Wendy!