Even in the food and coffee Valhalla of the Pacific Northwest, it’s rare to find a cup of good drip coffee at a restaurant or a mouthwateringly good meal at a coffee shop. You might be able to find a decent sandwich or a good croissant, but so-good-you-tell-your-friends-about-it food and coffee from the same establishment? Not likely. Coffee Plant Roaster (CPR) is trying to change that.
Established in 2015, CPR quickly developed a reputation for some of Eugene’s finest and freshest coffee, notable for its complex flavor and consistent quality. In fact, the coffee had such a good reputation that the shop’s emerging food program was upstaged. But in the past two years, CPR has worked to define itself as “more than just a coffee shop.”
Their goal is to offer something tasty for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions, and the menu has plenty of tasty vegan and gluten-free options. But CPR’s cooks really excel at creative yet approachable interpretations of classic dishes. Take their exceptionally executed eggs Benedict: house-baked English muffins with crust and crumb in perfect harmony, thick-sliced smoked pork loin, soft-poached farm-fresh eggs covered in a silky hollandaise sauce, offset by a salad of farm-fresh greens and vegetables tossed in a sherry vinaigrette.
The menu is built on two rules: make stuff from scratch and use fresh, organic ingredients. The shop’s bakery provides homemade bread, muffins, croissants, cookies, tarts, cakes, and that rare gem: a truly good scone. The kitchen is committed to sourcing from local farms, such as Camas Swale Farm and Long Table Farm, and vendors like Long’s Meat Market.
This attention to sourcing grew from the original vision of founder Austin Weiner, who wanted to bring a big-city coffee shop vibe to our mid-size city. To this end, he called upon Ed Leebrick of Seattle’s Lighthouse Roasters.
“They have an amazing company and were a big inspiration for us,” Weiner says. “Learning the basics from a pioneer of the industry was a real blessing and provided a wealth of knowledge on how to set ourselves apart from the many coffee companies in town.”
Weiner started with finding the best green coffee beans, which meant establishing ongoing and real relationships with farmers around the world. Coffee Plant Roaster only buys directly from small farms that produce single-origin micro-lots. “We want to make sure they’re getting a substantial price for their hard work, which also helps ensure that they’ll set the best product aside for us,” Weiner says.
This attention to detail extends to the shop itself. “Our baristas play a very important role in the final experience because they’re precise about every aspect of the process: the amount of ground coffee, the temperature, how it’s tamped and poured through the espresso machine,” Weiner says, adding that all coffee served at CPR has been roasted within the previous 12 days.
The roasting program is helmed by Dave Schwanke, whose devotion to perfect coffee compelled him to leave a successful career in marketing to pursue his dream. Eight years later, he presides over the shop’s Dutch-built Giesen W15A, a state-of-the-art roasting machine that allows for a great deal of precision. His goal is to enhance the unique flavors of quality green coffee beans to create a balanced end product. Schwanke sees roasting as a craft forged of science and creativity, a practice that appeals to both his inner artist and his inner nerd.
“Roasting pushes all the buttons for me,” he says. “When I get it exactly right—and that’s a bigger challenge than many would have you believe—the result is extremely rewarding. Not only the flavor and experience of drinking that coffee but also the look on people’s faces when they taste it. A great cup of coffee or espresso will change a person’s day from ‘meh’ to ‘awesome’ in the blink of an eye. The smile that comes with that is my reward.”
Coffee Plant Roaster | 2836 W 11th Ave. | 541/359-1505