Bikes, Brakes and Culinary Liberties

If someone created a list of signs that Portland is starting to grow on you, one of them would have to be, “You spend more time on your bike than in your car.” That describes me, at least when the weather is good (true Portlandians commute by bike in the rain, but I’m not there yet). Portland prides itself as a bike-friendly city, with lots of trails and designated biking streets (complete with sharrows!) that fill up with bicycles during the morning and afternoon commutes.An aspiring bike commuter

Traveling around Portland by bike is invigorating. Similar to walking, when you’re on a bike, you get to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the city at a much more intimate level than you would if you were in a car (a good thing, until you get stuck behind a garbage truck). Riding in traffic provides an adrenaline rush because you are moving pretty fast without much to protect you. Lurking in the back of your mind, especially when you’re riding fast, is that you could crash at any time, and hitting the pavement hurts. Believe me.

Since I started biking in Portland two years ago, I’ve wrecked twice. The first time, I was hit by a car (yeah, that was fun). Riding up Naito toward the Hawthorne Bridge in the bike lane, a driver forgot to check her blind spot before pulling into a parking space, and unbeknownst to her, she had to go through me to get there. Fortunately, the crash was more of a sideswipe than a full-on collision. Plowing through her right side mirror, I bounced up onto the curb and landed on my side. We were both lucky, as I came away with nothing more than a few scratches on my foot, and she came away with no insurance claims from me. She seemed more traumatized by the collision than I was.

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The Portland Coffee Book

For the last few months, the frequency of posts on Caffeinated PDX has been kind of slow, because I have been putting my energies into writing a book (working title: Are You Serious? It’s Just Coffee…Right?  Why Portland’s Third Wave Coffee Scene is Way More than ‘Just Coffee’). I am happy to report that I finished the manuscript in the middle of August, and am now working with Indigo Editing and Publications to get it ready for publishing. It is exciting to have someone to collaborate with on the project, and I am looking forward to releasing the book early next year.

Originally, the plan was to publish it just before Christmas, but in the book industry, the two main seasons for book releases are spring and fall. To have the book ready for November would compromise quality, so I decided to wait instead of rushing out a poor-quality book.Today's post fueled by shots of espresso at Albina Press Hawthorne

Despite the wait, I am excited to share the book with you. Part guidebook, part history of Portland coffee, and part personal memoir, Are You Serious? includes many profiles of the people and companies that make Portland’s coffee special. Inside, I give a brief history of coffee, then delve into the Portland coffee story, putting it in context with what has happened in the specialty coffee industry over the last decade and a half. Mixed in are several personal stories of how I became a coffee nerd. Some the stories included are edited versions of past blog posts, but most of the information is new. Over the last year, I interviewed a wide variety of coffee roasters, café owners, baristas, and other coffee people around the area, to hear their stories and discover why Portland coffee is so highly regarded around the country.

The specialty coffee industry is exploding, with new roasters and cafés popping up every day in cities all over the U.S. The entire coffee industry has undergone some big changes over the last fifteen years, and while every city is unique, we can better understand these changes by taking a look at what has happened in Portland. I especially recommend Are You Serious? for anyone who wants to understand specialty coffee and for people who want to know Portland better. If you like Portland or its coffee, the book should be a treat to read.

Why did I decide to write a book? I’ve asked myself that question more than once. Overall, though, the writing experience has been a good one. Once I learned a little bit about coffee—peeked behind the curtain, so to speak—I found it interesting enough to keep learning a little more, which led to more discoveries, and so on. Soon, coffee was nearly an obsession. (I say ‘nearly’ because I’m still mostly on the sidelines of the industry—the people who actually work in coffee are the ones obsessed with coffee. I just tried to capture their passion and help others understand it.) In addition, writing a book fits my personality. I enjoy delving deeply into things and focusing on them. The subject of coffee provides many avenues to do that. Finally, I admit that part of the reason I’m publishing the book is for the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

Over the next few months I will keep you up to date on the book’s progress. When it’s ready to go, I’ll be sure to let you know that too. If you are interested in helping spread the word about the book, drop me a line and we’ll talk more about how you can do that.

Also, you will soon see some changes to the Caffeinated PDX website, to make it more reader-friendly and better organized. I may broaden the scope of topics a bit too, while keeping coffee as the primary subject. Since the bulk of work on the book is finished, I plan to post here more frequently—generally twice a week, as long as I can find interesting things to write about. (I am always looking for article ideas, so feel free to send them in.) September’s articles will include a post about a cupping Guatemalan coffees at Water Avenue, as well as the story of Nossa Familia extending the ‘familia’ into countries besides Brazil.

To get those stories out, I must get back to writing. Happy Monday.