You run a series like Build-Outs of Summer for four years, and eventually, it's going to touch your life in some unexpectedly close way. This particular Build-Out comes to us from not just Portland, but North Portland—indeed, from deep North Portland, all the way up on the border between the Portsmouth and St. John's neighborhoods. Most visitors and tourists never get to this part of the city, unless they happen to be invited to a backyard barbecue dinner at my house because I live roughly two blocks away from this new cafe.
I had no idea this project was happening—I found out while writing this intro. Such is the power of Build-Outs of Summer, that it has the capacity to surprise and inform those who are tasked with its stewardship. Stoked to have you in the neighborhood, Convivium Coffee! See you at the New Seasons. — JM
As told to Sprudge by Jordan Andlovec of Convivium Coffee.
For those who aren't familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Convivium Coffee is a new project I'm undertaking after working outside the coffee industry for the last couple of years. Some close friends who run an independent bookstore pitched the idea of having a coffee space in their new location in north Portland, and so the last six months have been me solidifying ideas for the kind of coffee shop I would be proud to own, one I would want to hang out in. As a former barista, manager, and trainer, I never thought I would have my own company, but I have really enjoyed the hard work of combining excellence in coffee with a warm, inclusive environment to the neighborhood. The name, which refers to a friendly gathering or hearty banquet, is a nod towards a personal favorite of coffee's many mystifying effects: the ability to bring people together. The Portsmouth neighborhood is really lacking in any sort of “third places”, and so of my two major goals, becoming a welcoming spot for neighbors to gather will hopefully fulfill one (the other being serving exceptional coffees).
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
The new space will occupy the first room of Windows Booksellers, a humanities-focused bookstore in north Portland. The relationship between coffee and books has a rich and lasting history, from the Muslim philosophers fueled by thick cups of qahwa to the penny universities of London and Oxford, and I hope Convivium continues this legacy while also bringing the virtues of specialty coffee to an underserved neighborhood. The space is a mere 135 square feet, and so simplicity will be the guiding principle, from the menu down to the design aesthetic. Inside will be an espresso bar with a standing bar and a table for two, while outside there will be tables under the window awnings and bench seating along the southern wall. We're hoping to incorporate books into the space as well, but with limited space that is yet to be determined.
What's your approach to coffee?
My approach to coffee holds two things in tension: excellence and accessibility. In the ever growing and changing world of specialty coffee I am constantly looking for better practices, better equipment, and better coffees, and I don't stop until I get it just right. But on the other hand, nobody is going to want to buy coffee from you if you're a jerk or snob (especially in a blue-collar neighborhood like mine). So in that vein of thought I am working with some absolutely stellar roasters (Portland's Roseline, Bespoken Roasters from Corvallis, Oregon, and Mast Coffee Company, from Sacramento, California), and my goal is to introduce coffee of their caliber to a neighborhood that maybe hasn't experienced it yet. So I suppose my approach to coffee is being a showcaser/cheerleader for all the people who brought their craft to the coffee before it got to me (the producers and roasters) while building an environment where coffee can lead to neighborliness and conviviality. For me coffee is a means to an end, but the means should always be delicious.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
Plans are to run the espresso game off a La Marzocco Linea Mini and a Mahlkönig K30 Twin, and for now drip coffee will all be manual pour-overs until more plumbing work can be done, at which point I'll be putting in a batch brewer of some kind. As I mentioned above, we are working with some outstanding roasters, and the goal will be to shuffle through one espresso blend and one single origin every couple of weeks.
What's your hopeful target opening date/month?
So we hope to do a soft opening in mid-September with pour-overs, cold brew, and possibly a coffee soda, with a full opening, espresso drinks and all in the ensuing weeks.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you'd like to mention?
This has really been a collaborative effort between some amazing Portland craftspeople and creatives. Build-out is being done by Andrew Caplinger of Reconstruct PDX, my demitasse are being made by Rabbit Rabbit Ceramics (@rabbitrabbitceramics), and furniture will be made by Salt & Grain Manufacturing. We will also have a big painted sign on the side of the building that says “Coffee & Books” that will be done by J&S Signs, and we're super proud to work with them.
Photos courtesy of Jordan Andlovec.