My quest to find good coffee took me outside the city limits the other day. I traveled up the I-5 corridor from a city who’s catchphrase is “Keep Portland weird!” to a city that likes to say “Keep Vancouver normal.” While the cultures of the two cities are very different, one thing they share (besides the rain) is good coffee. Before any Portlanders reading this get upset, I want to make it clear that I’m not implying the two are coffee equals. So far, Portland has a clear lead. In fact, until the other day I didn’t even know that Vancouver was competitive.
However, yesterday a friend of mine from Vancouver, Tim Downing, introduced me to Nor’West Coffee and I found that there are a few coffee experts in the state to our north as well. Nor’West is a café that has been around for nearly three years. After roasting his own coffee for about seven years, Mike McGinness, the owner, began roasting commercially three years ago under the name Compass Coffee. The company has three retail outlets—one in downtown Vancouver (Compass Coffee), one in North Vancouver (Nor’West) and one in Beaverton (Java Nation) that it acquired three months ago.