A visionary team is building vegan coffee culture in PDX. (Get ready for one hell of a pour-over.)
In an era when coffeehouses are more flash than substance, finding one that treats coffee with respect can be difficult. Enter Oracle Coffee Company. Located in Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood, the interior may look straight out of Dwell Magazine, but—lo and behold!—is actually the brainchild of three dudes from the Midwest. Opened in October 2017 by Wil McCarthy, Travis Bennin and Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley, Oracle is one of the only vegan coffeehouses in the city—a proud plant-based dream. It’s inspired by the trio’s favorite coffee shops worldwide, seamlessly fusing a classy, refined aesthetic with speedy pop-punk tunes. There is no imposing line or shouting barista. There are only giant glass windows that face the street, gentle lighting above and a few potted plants.
While the plant-based milks (almond, soy, coconut and oat) are beloved staples, the coffee is the real star of the show. Multiple roasters are showcased at any given time. When I visit, the focus is on Terrain Coffee Project, a local Portland roaster, as well as Oklahoma-based Cirque Coffee and Revelator Coffee Company (representing the South).
“There’s a lot of great coffee out in the world, and we wanted to bring that coffee to Portland,” says Bennin.
I watch one of the baristas do a pour-over with the kind of artistry that comes from a genuine appreciation for the bean. It’s the Columbia Monteblanco Pink Bourbon by Cirque, and while the initial sip is bitter, it finishes with a bright, acidic grapefruit flavor.
This is proof of why Oracle is so great. Everything here is well balanced. No drink is too sweet or bitter—they’re all just right.
“We like to think that we bring a lot of new people who wouldn’t normally come to this part of Portland,” says Bennin.
From the pastries by Shoofly Vegan Bakery to the carrageenan-free almond milk, everything here is sourced—and made—with the greatest care imaginable.
Case in point: a striking jade green matcha latte made with almond milk arrives. It’s smooth and lightly spicy with a hint of floral notes, and it lacks the grittiness found in cheaper brands. I don’t normally like matcha, but this concoction by way of The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company makes me a believer.
“We want to keep our customers interested and to keep introducing them to new things,” says Bennin.
One sip of Oracle’s mocha and I can see why. The oat milk is velvety smooth, slightly sweet and utterly delicious. The chocolate isn’t any old cocoa powder, either: it’s from Kali, a company that specializes in premium drinking chocolate. Swoon.
Even the food has me under its spell. The cashew cream cheese is bright and citrusy, and it doesn’t make my stomach rumble like dairy-based cream cheese would. I feel fresh, energetic and happy.
The kindness of the staff is unparalleled. When Bennin notices I’ve consumed one too many coffees, he steps in with two pots of tea to counteract the caffeine. One is a “feel better” blend made with chamomile and ginger; the other, a calming GABA tea. Each has a timer that goes off when the tea is ready. A wave of zen washes over me.
Oracle reminds me just how important it is to keep your mind open to new possibilities.
“We get a few people that will be upset that we don’t carry dairy,” says Bennin, “but almost all of them leave here pleasantly surprised after they try our coffee.”
We asked the baristas at Oracle which plant-based milks pair best with our favorite pick-me-ups.