After much anticipation, Stumptown Coffee Roasters opened in the Arts District of Downtown this week, a 7,000-square-foot space that houses a roastery, a training facility, a huge back area for wholesale operations and, last but certainly not least, a cafe.
Stumptown's first shop opened in Portland in 1999 and was one of the early pioneers of specialty coffee; today, Stumptown and other specialty coffee shops dot Portland similar to the way bánh mì shops proliferate the San Gabriel Valley: You really can't go more than a block or so without passing at least one. As Stumptown Vice-President Matt Lounsbury notes, few, if any, neighborhoods in L.A. have that same critical mass of specialty coffee shops, though we'd say Stumptown's arrival does add quite a big dot to its section of Downtown.
Stumptown's Downtown space is located just a stone's throw from Bread Lounge and Bestia, and Lounsbury says they were attracted to this industrial part of Downtown in part because of logistics -- a roastery was always part of the company's plans, and the area is one of the few parts of town zoned for activities like coffee roasting -- and in part because of the beautiful, older buildings that are rare elsewhere in town. The challenge, he says, was to mix that industrial wear with modern accents.
From the looks of it, they largely succeeded. There's lots of natural wood, plenty of natural light, exposed white brick, a high ceiling. The menu's offerings include espresso-based drinks, your choice of French press- or Chemex-brewed coffee, and cold brew on tap. You can also take home a bottle or growler of the cold brew, which, given the expected heat wave this weekend, you might want to do immediately. Non-dairy milk alternatives include soy milk and almond milk, and you can add a shot of vanilla if you so desire. Pastries come courtesy of Sugarbloom Bakery, which also supplies Taza, a specialty coffee shop in Arcadia, on the weekends.
Next to the cafe is the roasting room, where a 60-kilo Probat roaster is fully viewable and serves as a backdrop of sorts to the cafe. The roaster has been the object of some fascination over the last few days, and understandably so. Outfitted with an afterburner, it looks something like a rocket ready to launch. While it's not yet operational, Lounsbury says it will soon be roasting coffee (precisely how soon depends on the vicissitudes of the city's permitting and inspections process). Or, if you prefer to look out rather than in, you can hang out at the long standing bar facing the window and watch the traffic on Santa Fe. Eventually, there will be seating in the patio area in front of the shop.
This Arts District cafe will be Stumptown's only L.A. location, at least for now. The company opened another shop in New York earlier this year, and opening two locations in one year, Lounsbury says, "is a lot for us."
What we can look forward to, perhaps, are developments on a larger scale. Lounsbury, who has been with Stumptown for 10 years, anticipates that the industry as a whole will begin to focus on emphasizing hospitality, so that in both theory and practice, the concept of specialty coffee will be less intimidating and more approachable. Because at the end of the day, as Lounsbury says, "We know people just want a good cup of coffee."
Stumptown Coffee Roasters is now open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.