Catching Up with Coava Coffee Roasters

Coava's Portland Brew Bar on Southeast Grand Avenue.

I have such fond memories of that sunny, fun-filled week in Portland in 2012 when the Specialty Coffee Association of America hosted its annual conference here, which resulted in the most popular SCAA of all time. Beginning a few days before the show, and lasting long after, baristas and cafe owners from around the world descended on Portland’s amazing array of world-class specialty coffee roasters. They knew about the longtime legends of this fair city, but there were a host of newcomers ”at least, since a lot of these folks had last been here ”and they wanted to visit them all. I took loads of out-of-town friends on a tour of what I consider the best of Portland’s cafes and microroasters, and one of the favorites, for a whole lot of reasons, was always Coava Coffee Roasters.

Coava roasters Brian Freire and Justin Swanson cup out a day's roasts.
Coava roasters Brian Freire and Justin Swanson cup out a day’s roasts.

Everyone’s first favorite thing about Coava was the space: Coava’s Brew Bar is located within the Bamboo Revolution showroom, and the natural woods, antique drafting tables, industrial backdrop, and minimalist bar couldn’t be more synergistic. The friends I brought to Coava would wander around the space for a bit before ambling up to the bar, where they delighted in the simple menu ”usually a few options for Chemex, and one or two espressos, with producer and processing notes ”and the friendly service. And then they were swooning; then they were there for the coffee.

Coava's Portland Brew Bar on Southeast Grand Avenue.
Coava’s Portland Brew Bar on Southeast Grand Avenue.

It’s been a little over a year since then, and Coava has only grown nearer and dearer to the hearts of its fans. The company is legit ”wholesale boss Matt Brown tells me Coava has just secured space for a new espresso bar in Southeast Portland this winter ”and what was once a teeny-tiny operation running out of owner Matt Higgins’ garage is now full steam ahead, with ever-growing numbers of wholesale accounts, a remarkable track record at barista competitions and brewers cup events, and a lot more.

Like how about some fly new packaging? These puppies launch August 2.

As part of Coava's celebration of its lovely new packaging, Barista in Portland will put its multi-roaster program on hold for the first week of August and feature only Coava coffees.
As part of Coava’s celebration of its lovely new packaging, Barista in Portland will put its multi-roaster program on hold for the first week of August and feature only Coava coffees.

“Besides our excitement about having entirely recyclable bags that are durable and gorgeous, we’re also completely honored to be sharing the launch with our extended family at Barista,” says Matt Brown. “For the first time ever they’re going to put their multi-roaster program on hold to exclusively feature Coava during the first week of August. As part of the event they’re going to be the first ones to offer three delicious new harvest coffees that we’ve been dying to share with everybody.”

Coava owner Matt Higgins travels around the world sourcing coffees for his company.
Coava owner Matt Higgins travels around the world sourcing coffees for his company.

And that’s not the only way the company’s celebrating: All day on August 2, Coava will be drawing for prizes every hour. And the superduper grand prize? At the end of the day, all names that were drawn will be entered to win a bag of coffee every week for a year ”for a freakin YEAR! ”that can be shipped anywhere!

One more way they’re celebrating? Coava is donating the prize for tomorrow’s Humpday Giveaway! And again, they’re willing to ship it anywhere in the world! Come back tomorrow to find out what’s included in this stellar prize pack from Coava!

This Coava Zeppelin T (modeled by DevChap) is part of tomorrow's Humpday Giveaway prize pack from Coava Coffee Roasters! And there's more!
This Coava Zeppelin T (modeled by DevChap) is part of tomorrow’s Humpday Giveaway prize pack from Coava Coffee Roasters! And there’s more!

After he’d told me all about the new packaging, I had a few other questions for Matt about how Coava Coffee Roasters is doing and what they’ve up to. Check it out:

Sarah Allen: How’s the summer been for you guys? Doing anything fun?

Matt Brown: Summer is always great for us. We just celebrated the three year anniversary of the Coava Brew Bar and our five years as a company. As always, we threw a massive party. DJ SNAX’X (aka Devin Chapman) kept everyone dancing, Sizzle Pie and Olympic Provisions fed us, and some of our bartending friends made cocktails in giant punch bowls.

DJ SNAX'X at Coava's 3rd anniversary party.
DJ SNAX’X at Coava’s 3rd anniversary party.

SA: Coava’s such an important company in our industry, from the awesome coffees you guys source, to your terrific staff, which includes 2x NW Regional Barista Champ Devin Chapman. How do you guys stay so focused on the important stuff?

MB: Wow, thank you for saying that. I think you nailed it by mentioning our staff. Our crew is built around folks who not only care deeply about coffee and the industry that surrounds it, but they also really want to invite others into it. These elements of craft and hospitality hold us together and push us forward.

Coava's Matt Brown sippin on Coava staffers' second fa
Coava’s Matt Brown sippin on Coava staffers’ second fa

SA:  Anything super exciting coming up this year, like yummy new coffees, special events, etc.?

MB: So many rad things are on the horizon. We’ve got some of the best coffees we’ve ever offered coming out in August and even more in November. Some of our tried and true coffee producing partners have had their best harvests ever as well as we have new partners that we can’t wait to introduce to the world.

We’re always looking forward to see what Devin’s going to do at competition. The rumor is that he’s going to tackle both brewer’s cup and the barista competition again.

We also just added the legendary trainer Jon Felix-Lund to our crew to head up Coffee Education. If you haven’t met this guy, you’re truly missing out on one of the best teachers in our industry.

Brian chillin in the roastery.
Brian chillin in the roastery.

SA: Coava’s located in Portland, but your coffee is featured at cafes around the country, right? Can you tell me some really great accounts you have outside of the Portland area, so folks reading this blog post will know where to find your awesome coffee?

MB: We’ve been deeply honored by the incredible partners we have all around the United States. I’d say Broadway Coffeehouse in Salem, Ore., is one of the best shops holistically in the world. Top to bottom their crew takes care of people while making excellent drinks. WTF Coffee Bar in New York City is always striving to expand our industries knowledge of what coffee can be. Perq Coffee Bar in Sarasota, Fla., is absolutely killing it in every way. Love those guys. Houndstooth down in Texas are at the heights of excellence in craft, and of course our boys at Coffee Commissary in LA are constantly growing due to their immense hospitality and quality. I could spend all day singing the praises of all the great shops, but I’ll stop there.

SA: Anything more to add about Coava in general here?

MB: We’re truly thankful for everyone who has supported us during the last few years. If you’re ever in Portland hit us up.



About Sarah 932 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.