When it comes to events that draw interesting, creative people together, having an appropriately interesting, creative coffee service is increasingly de rigueur. Whether that’s global thinkers drinking coffee from a veritable army of top baristas at TED, or food and beverage luminaries sampling the pinnacles of Nordic coffee curation at MAD Symposium, or all manner of art-world folk enjoying Intelligentsia’s long-running NADA and Frieze Art Fair coffee bars. Add to that list XOXO Festival, a gathering of people focused on “disruptive creativity” across a wide range of disciplines being held for the third time this weekend in Portland, OR. As befits this experimental festival founded off the back of a Kickstarter campaign, the coffee service is provided by Roseline Coffee, a tiny, cutting-edge coffee roasting operation started two years ago in Portland.
This is the second year that Roseline has made coffee at XOXO–the first year, the fledgling company built an attractive wood espresso cart for service, and managed to pay for their La Marzocco Linea espresso machine by selling coffee to all the thirsty attendees. They now use that espresso setup to conduct trainings and build their roasting business, and for this year’s XOXO, they’ve added a second Linea, paired with four fancy Mahlkonig K30 Air grinders to handle all the volume. Mobile and web-payment company Stripe has sponsored all of the coffee this year, and Roseline owner-operator Marty Lopes is excited to be able to provide a “way more conversational and personal” style of service without the delays of payment.
Roseline first got hooked up with XOXO when the festival was held at Yale Union, a sprawling event space and collection of studios for artists and artisans in an old industrial laundry building in SE Portland. Roseline roasts their coffee at Yale Union on a Proaster–a esoteric, high-tech roaster from Korea. But good coffee at XOXO is not just a happy accident: the festival was co-founded by Andy McMillan, the creator of Belfast’s Build Conference and an avowed coffee lover. According to Lopes, working with McMillan and his co-founder Andy Bao has been great: “I love their vibe, they can geek out that I geek out on coffee.” Lopes says that reception from attendees at last year’s event was phenomenal since overall “the tech crowd geeks out HARD on coffee”–something we’ve definitely observed ourselves.
This year, attendance at XOXO has grown from 750 to 1000, and Lopes has enlisted the help of seasoned barista-competitors Sam and Nick Purvis of the still-mostly-under-wraps Good Coffee, as well as David Tran of Either/Or (who will be competing this year with Roseline coffee) and Tom Pikaart of American Barista & Coffee School to staff the two espresso setups. Roseline will also be keeping the coffee rolling with an onsite Fetco batch-brewer, and plenty of cold-brew.
The coffee menu is simple and approachable, and Lopes plans to rotate through all of Roseline’s single-origin coffees, as well as offering their seasonal Catapult blend, to keep things interesting for attendees. Lopes also has a special coffee lined up for the event: a lot of Bourbon and Caturra varieties from Finca Rosma from Guatemala, which Lopes picked up on a recent buying trip to Guatemala, shortly before the farm’s strong showing at the 2014 Cup of Excellence competition. For XOXO attendees looking for a sweet indulgence, Roseline has partnered with their neighbors at Yale Union, chocolate-maker Cocanú, to offer a mocha made with a specially developed syrup based on Cocanú’s new Cloudforest line.
In their opening remarks, McMillan and Bao talked about how much they loved Portland, OR, and how its independent, entrepreneurial spirit is integral to the feel of XOXO. They’ve gathered together some of Portland’s best food carts to cover meals at XOXO, and in working with Roseline for their coffee, they’ve found just the right coffee roaster: small, passionate, creative, and somewhat off the beaten path.