Portland and Seattle are sometimes seen as the big coffee cities, the former being the original home of Stumptown and the latter claiming Starbucks, but Corvallis does not disappoint. What the world does not know is that Corvallis is its own mecca of really great coffee.
It is actually hard to find a bad cup of coffee here in C-Town. I looked, and my search was fruitless. And here is how I came to that conclusion. I went to every coffee shop in town and tried not one of their coffees, but two: a cup of black coff ee and a mocha. You might say that I am quite well-caffeinated now, definitely ready for anything that comes my way.
The Monroe location was super busy, and loud. Some top 40 remix blared through the cafe and it was hard to think.
Coffee, Black: It smelled like sweet, dark chocolate and dark roasted beans, a nice respite from the sheer volume of the place. But, it had no flavor; it was watery.
Mocha: I’ve got a sweet tooth and this satisfies the hell out of it. Good, silky foam and hot, but not scorching. It smelled like a nice blend of coffee and chocolate milk. Espresso hides under the chocolate milk, but it’s “guaranteed to satisfy” if you’re looking for a sweet drink that will get you caffeinated without tasting like coffee. It’s like sneak attack caffeine.
A well-known “fiercely independent” local roaster’s location on SW 2nd has ample seating, beautiful exposed brick, and a lever espresso machine! So cute.
Coffee, Black: I went with the medium roast. Slight notes of fruit, a touch of dried blueberries. There’s a whisper of chocolate as the coffee coats my palate, but it disappears all too soon.
Mocha: The semisweet, 12-ounce mocha is made with a double shot of espresso and 2% milk. I tasted high cacao, likely 70-80%. Despite a high level of quality, chocolate is a little bitter at that level, and it was almost overwhelming.
b>Tried and True
These are the new kids on the block. Their cozy SW Madison shop is filled with small indoor plants and an adorable hexagonal shelf.<
Coffee, Black: Aroma of jasmine; floral and sweet, the only bright coffee in the bunch. Light in body, almost tea-like, but drinkable and delicious.
Mocha: The mocha had intricate latte art, and was so damn good. Drinkable temperature, but not tepid. The elements of the drink—chocolate, milk, espresso—were uniform throughout, even as it cooled. They use a rich, high-quality chocolate that doesn’t overpower the espresso flavor, but enhances its natural sweetness.
If this were an ambiance contest, Imagine Coffee could win. Faux exposed brick, ample seating, Indie music circa 2009 playing on the “radio,” it’s a coffee shop junkie’s dream.
Coffee, Black: Self-serve and you have a choice of five. I chose the Jumpstart Blend, a blend made up of African, Indonesian, and Central American coffees, roasted by Longbottom Coffee. Aroma of cherry and a hint of vanilla, and earthy dark chocolate flavors coat the palate nicely.
Mocha: A 12-ounce with a little latte art on top. A lovely mélange of milk, coffee, and chocolate with good foam. A skilled barista, but I tasted mostly milk, and it was on the hot side. I am disappointed that the flavors got so lost in the milk because they were good. Even in a sweet, milk-based mocha, I want to taste all elements of the drink at once.
They have four locations in Corvallis and all serve homemade pastries and their own home-roasted coffee.
Coffee, Black: A medium-bodied, 12-ounce cup of well-made coffee. Their house blend tastes like chocolate, and sweet berries. The finish is sweet and rich and lingers for the perfect amount of time. This coffee is drinkable all day, and delicious without being pretentious.
Mocha: The chocolate is a little too sweet for my taste. I prefer a higher cacao content, but I can taste the espresso through the perfectly steamed milk and chocolate, which isn’t always the case.
New Morning Bakery
Serving Kobos Coffee and all kinds of food items, from quiche to lasagna.
Coffee, Black: I chose their Guatemala medium roast from the self-serve selection. It’s a solid cup of coffee, but relatively unremarkable. Hints of peach and light body make it easy to enjoy, but hard to fall in love with.
Mocha: The mocha is definitely on the sweet side, but not overwhelmingly so. If you’re looking for a sweet drink, but not liquid candy, this is a great choice. It tastes like a good ratio of coffee to espresso to milk. Balanced flavors and a good temperature.
This is the go-to cafe for health-conscious coffee lovers. They serve local, organic Pacifica coffee and have a variety of interesting lattes and food choices.
Coffee, Black: Self-serve drip coffee is popular in this town. I chose the Bali Blue Moon, classic Indonesian earthiness complemented by cacao and a slight cherry sweetness. It was light in body and finish, which means I could drink it all day and not get overwhelmed.
Mocha: Ghirardelli chocolate! It was yummy, but the coffee got a little lost. If I would have ordered a double, the espresso would have been the star. They’ll make your drink with as many shots as you want, so feel free to learn from my mistake.
We are lucky to have so many options for high-quality specialty coffee in Corvallis. Whether you prefer black coffee, straight espresso, or milk-based sweet drinks, you can find it at one of the several local cafes and roasteries. There is something for everyone, and a cup to suit anyone’s tastes.
By Diane Pinestone