Tandem Coffee to expand to Portland's West End
PORTLAND — Everything Will and Kathleen Pratt have been brewing in East Bayside will soon be wafting uphill to the West End.
The owners of Tandem Coffee Roasters, which opened two years ago, are preparing a new bakery and cafe at 742 Congress St. It is expected to open this month.
"We knew we wanted to grow, but in a different way," Kathleen Pratt said Aug. 1. “We have a dear friend, Briana Holt, and she is an amazing baker."
The Pratts were not the first to cast an eye on the Congress Street property, formerly a car repair business and laundry. Jay Villani, owner of Local 188, Sonny's and Salvage BBQ, planned to open a bakery there last summer.
Will Pratt said the couple and Holt met Villani last winter. Holt had baked pies for an event at Bunker Brewing, adjacent to Tandem on Anderson Street. Pratt said Villani wanted to hire Holt, but she said she was already planning to work with the Pratts.
"So we started brainstorming. It seemed impossible, but it all worked out," Pratt said Tuesday.
A carpenter who helped convert the current Tandem site, Pratt said he had hoped to work more on Congress Street renovations.
"I started working the first day of framing, and I thought 'great, I'm back into it.' I just haven't had the time to do much,” he said.
The Pratts, who have lived in Boston, San Francisco and New York, opened Tandem at 122 Anderson St. two years ago, selling coffee by the cup and shipping their roasts around the country.
"We found Portland had all these aspects of the other places we lived, all in one,” Kathleen said. "We have lived in all these places and worked in coffee for a while, and we knew we could sell coffee online."
Will Pratt estimated 75 percent of company sales are wholesale.
The couple keeps its process transparent. Customers are invited to see the imported beans, watch the roasting and join in "cuppings" each Friday at noon.
"It is the standardized method the industry uses to taste and evaluate product. When we do it for work, it is pretty rigid and formal," Tandem business partner Vien Dobui told father-and-son customers Armond and Damian Barneschi on Aug. 1.
In town on vacation and ready to attend the Beer Camp Across America festival that night, the Barneschis said they were less confident as coffee connoisseurs, but ready to explore with Dobui and his colleagues, Dustin Graham and Blair Rabun.
Each took in the aromas of five types of beans from Africa and South America, roasted at Tandem and other companies from around the country. Then they observed the colors and characteristic of the brewed coffee before tasting repeatedly to measure how the aromas matched against taste.
“If you want to spit, you can, it's a lot of caffeine,” Rabun said before tasting began.
Kathleen Pratt said the Tandem trademark is a lighter roasting style than might be found at other city coffee houses. The taste will be mixed with an approach promoting contact.
“We are just trying to create this environment for people to engage and meet," she said.
That means no Wi-Fi.
"The no Wi-Fi thing is important," Pratt said. "People are in here talking and meeting people they would not have met otherwise."
Tandem currently offer five varieties of roasts with African, and Central and South American beans. Pratt said the couple plans a late-summer trip to Colombia, have visited Panama, and would like to go to Africa.
"It's kind of the best part of the job," she said, "getting to travel to all these amazing places."
The West End expansion will put Tandem in a more residential neighborhood, between Carleton and Neal streets. Even after two years on Anderson Street, she said they, and Bayside, are still a bit undiscovered.
"We are excited to have a West End presence," she said. "People are always trying to find their own coffee shop, there is something for everybody."