Meet Stumptown Coffee, bastion of the "third wave" of American caffeine, wherein we chuck our totally corporate Starbucks cups and switch to independent cafes and underground dripperies that all buy their beans from the same snobby supplier.
Portland, Oregon's Stumptown Coffee Roasters is rapidly taking over the caffeinated elite, but they're skipping the retail side and sticking to sourcing, roasting, and distributing beans, which is recession-friendly: Less overhead, humble and politically correct, avoids a spate of dicey retail-related risks. (Property management, employee management, appeasing customers.) Stumptown opened a roasting factory in Brooklyn two summers ago, and began taking over New York's foodiesphere. Every time a cafe got Stumptown, coffee aficionados freaked out and business boomed.
Stumptown's schtick is treating coffee like wine and giving detailed descriptions with every bag they sell ("...sparkling flavor that may range from berry and citrus to mango, papaya and peach. A very distinct bergamot-like finish..."). This emphasizes variety, thereby lashing back against Starbucks' omnipresent super-dark roast. It also taps into the "know everything about your food's origins" trend. Finally and most importantly, it facilitates snobbery. Oh, and it's yummy and generally cheaper than mocha frappaginas. (Disclosure! I totally purchased a cup of Stumptown today. But I stumbled and spilled most of its "sparkling flavor" down the sleeve of my jacket, a scalding reminder that finery is wasted on most of us.)
Now Time is calling Stumptown "the new Starbucks" and christening its dominance a "third wave" of caffeine evangelism. (First was when we were all ignoramuses drinking bilgewater from delis. Second was The Great Starbucks Enlightenment, which made everyone want fancy coffee but also sowed the seeds of corporate mistrust.) So we've got two, three months tops before Stumptown gets too big for its britches and/or starts distributing to un-hip places like your mom's favorite diner in a suburb of Kansas City. Then we'll have to find something new. Unlike Starbucks, though, you'll never have to hide a Stumptown logo in shame, so they've got that going for them. [Time] [Pic via Odalaigh's Flickr]