Meet the Portland Coffee Roaster Making Blends Cool Again

Dear Francis, a coffee roaster and pop-up in Portland, is focusing on inclusivity and making coffee more accessible. The couple, Jason Wahlberg and Lauren Alameda-Reddell, come from San Francisco, where they owned Matching Half cafe from 2010 to 2020. Their new project, Dear Francis, has won awards, including the Specialty Coffee Design award for best branding. They aim to make high-end coffee accessible to everyone, regardless of their knowledge or interest level.

Dear Francis offers four standard blends, with one priced at over $20 for a 10-and-a-half ounce bag. They also release limited-edition offerings, such as rare Guatemalan coffees and sampler flights of three for heady drinkers. Many purported authorities in specialty coffee consider blends less desirable than single-origin coffees, but there are historical and geographical reasons why biases in craft coffee are unfair and often harmful.

Dear Francis’s coffees are delivery-only outside of pop-ups held at various partners, including Eater Award-winner Xiao Ye, made to cater to the boom of homebrewers born in 2020. The pandemic has changed the game for many coffee drinkers, with consumers being geared toward home brewing and visiting coffee pop-ups as a trendy way to sip outside of their neighborhood coffee shop. Dear Francis is evolving to reflect that new era of consumption by leaning into subscriptions and hosting pop-ups at neighbors’ shops to meet the market more intimately while avoiding high rent costs.

The couple moved to Portland in 2020, during a time when police were tear-gassing protestors and wildfires tore through Southern Oregon. As the coffee industry addresses its political history and impacts on Indigenous groups and agricultural communities, it also has to respond to modern consumer trends, including taking that quality into folks’ homes and familiar locations. In the end, Dear Francis wants Portlanders to know it’s okay to drink high-quality coffees, even blends, that they can enjoy simply.

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