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Go Behind the Scenes at Stumptown Coffee's Headquarters

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Welcome back to Unfiltered, the column by Emily McIntyre that explores the new, the old, and the futuristic in one of the most dynamic coffee scenes in the world.

Emily McIntyre

The door to a growing coffee empire is hard to find, its weathered handle lost against the rich brown of the wood. Headquartered at 100 SE Salmon Street, Stumptown Coffee Roasters captures the essence of the bootstrapped American dream. The company started small, with founder Duane Sorenson sinking his life savings into his first shop on SE Division street in 1999, eventually shooting upwards to explode on an international scale with a sizable investment round that has established the buffalo brand among Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle in the public consciousness.

The brand has cafes, roasteries, and training facilities in Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York, with satellite facilities in Washington D.C. and Austin. Still, Stumptown began here in Portland, and here Stumptown continues to reign, with four cafes in Southeast and Southwest, and countless local shops taking advantage of not only the locally roasted coffee, but also the training and tech support that come with being a Stumptown account.

Any prominent brand swims in mystery, Stumptown no less. What happens behind that wooden door? Walk with me and find out.

Upon entering the Stumptown Annex, you're faced with a spacious presentation of coffee history juxtaposed with modern coffee prep at the brew bar, where you can taste any whole bean coffee before purchasing.

"We actually play ping pong here, all the time. Some of the folks are insanely good!" says Diane Aylsworth, Director of Cold Brew.

All new Stumptown baristas undergo a mandatory twelve-week training session. An advantage to Stumptown accounts is access to several tiers of free training — the first tier is mandatory. Along with training, the company also offers 24/7 equipment and technical support to its clients within the Portland area, and has a dedicated workshop/service department.

Every bag of Stumptown coffee is still scooped and packed by hand in the production area before making its way into mailing boxes and delivery vans. Once you pass through the production area you'll find the roastery, which is where the magic happens.

There's been a lot of speculation about the origin of the name of Stumptown's iconic espresso blend, Hair Bender. And the answer is simple: Sorenson opened his first store in a burnt-down hair salon by the same name. The original salon sign still hangs in the roastery, overlooking the 60- and 90-kilo Probat roasters that run seven days a week.

Usually, the upstairs offices are buzzing, but on this day they are quiet. Employees brainstorm in the break area, take notes at their desks. And, a few streets over in the cold brew facilities, stubby bottles are filled and stamped, packaged and delivered, while the Stumptown empire expands in a strategic blend of old-school charm and modern innovation.

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