The college academic year has begun – a time of learning, exploring strange new words, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going… to class. Well guess what junior – college isn’t for any of that crap. It’s for banging hot people and drinking coffee; not necessarily in that order.
Now in this case maybe you’re a Portland State University student or just a random person wandering the hybridized sprawl that is Downtown Portland and PSU Campus. It’s inevitable that two things will occur: (1) you’ll be in a position where traffic is so bad you may as well park somewhere and get a cup of coffee OR (2) you just want a cup of coffee. Well you’re in luck – apparently students and teachers alike love their liquid caffeine. I say that because there is literally a place to get coffee on every block (I’m including the free coffee in Wells Fargo, the Chase building, and the various buildings considered part of “campus”).
Portland State is somewhat unique in the sense that it’s not always clear where PSU begins and the city ends; realistically speaking the distinction is pretty meaningless as there are many non-school affiliated buildings scattered throughout the area that can loosely be called “PSU campus”. Coffee drinkers – regardless of their status as students – can check out the Meetro on SW 11th (Portland Roasting Company beans), Park Ave Cafe on Park & Market (Illy Beans), the PSU Library in the Park Blocks (Stumptown beans), Manny’s on 5th & Hall (formally Contrary Coffee, but still they serve Oblique beans), and last but not least is Ole Latte.
Ryan and I used to disagree about the quality of Contrary Coffee (now Manny’s), but we never disagreed about Ole Latte being a sort of diamond in the rough in the 16 square blocks that is Portland State territory.
The Gear: La Marzocco Linea (which two baristas effectively call “Frankenstein”) and a Mazzer SJ
The Beans: Ye Ol’ Latt roasts used to roast at Case Study (different blend obviously, they just used Case Study’s equipment). Despite what the lovely folks at Ole used to say, I’m almost positive the cast iron roasting has a seasoning process and you could occasionally taste hints of Case Study’s Deviation in the espresso blend that Ole was featuring that season. Nowadays they – like so many others – are apparently renting out roasting space elsewhere… Mr. Greenbeens is the likely culprit, though on separate occasions I’ve been told they still use Case Study roasting space. Either way, something has indeed changed and while I wouldn’t say the quality of their Corazón del Toro has gone down it certainly has altered a bit both in terms of roasting style and bean variety.
They change out blends frequently enough that this info might be outdated by the time this review is published. As it stands though, the Corazón del Toro of dry process Ethiopia, Columbia, and Mexico (both wet process), all roasted in P-Town. It’s like the UN or some medium for sweet delicious racial harmony. They offer several other types of beans (check them out here), but del Toro is there go-to for all things espresso.
The Shots: The chipper crowd here knows what they’re doing; they pull a ‘true’ double (1:2 grounds to coffee ratio, usually equaling out to be 32 grams of liquid) and will break down the blend for you if you ask. Order your espresso “bar side” and all will be well for both parties (there version of “here” and they’ll give you a cute little jar of bubbly water).
If you’ve read this far then you’ve undoubtedly noticed I’m the type of tool you see staring intently at his coffee as if I’m trying portents in the crema , holding it up to the sunlight, and secretly masturbating over the fact that I can tell the difference between Sepia and Copper coloration. Indeed, one of the standards I hold Ole too is their excellent rich crema, which is both aesthetically pleasing and adds awesome texture to their espresso. They have yet to disappoint. The del Toro crema typically has a frothy dark rich color (and yes, it’s Sepia by the way).
The Nose: This was lovely – hints of carob, florals, and a little bit of spice. The more fruity and floral nose is likely the Ethiopia – hard to pick out the Columbia or Mexico but the wet processing definitely shows up in nice crisp aroma.
The Mouth: Raisin and cinnamon – it was almost like eating those weird English muffins your mom used to buy you once she determined you were old enough to make your own breakfast. Ryan said molasses, and I’ll totally buy into that – I think you catch it right on the back end of the sip. It mixes nicely with the low acidity and dark chocolate notes you’ll get near the bottom of the cup. The other nifty thing is you’ll get that bright crispness with the dried fruit taste due in no small part to the wet and dry process blend. More recently I’ve noticed some more intense fruit cake notes, but as I’ve been hinting at this whole time: things have been a wee bit inconsistent lately.
Ole?: All-in-all this place is top notch for espresso – hands down the best place on campus. It’d be tough to wander down to Case Study or Behind the Museum and make it back in between classes, so rather than drinking icky stuff that seems to be the go-to for poor PSU students, drink good coffee here. One caveat to consider is that Ole has been adding in a few new folks to their roster. While some change is good, some of these people are clearly new to the game, and new to the nuances of the Ole beans and gear. The problem is that espresso shots have been occasionally inconsistent these past couple of months. They might turn it around, but just be aware that – on occasion – you might not get a top notch shot unless one of the veterans is working.