I've been trying to figure out the New York City coffee paradox for some years now. I don't understand why, in a city with a not-at-all-unjustified reputation as a caffeine-fueled madhouse, there's no coffee culture to speak of. A Starbucks on every other block doesn't constitute a coffee culture; neither do the hundreds of coffee carts serving barely passable, often burnt (though laudably cheap) coffee. You can find a few scattered outposts of coffee worship—like Joe, 71 Irving, and the Mud Truck—but they're the exception. The point is that expecting, demanding, caring about great coffee is weirdly not part of the New York City lifestyle—not part of the city's self-image or its cultural dialogue.
Not so in Portland, which is where I am right now. I love that I can wake up in my room at the chic, comfy boutique Hotel Lucia downtown, and I can ignore the coffee maker in my room, skip room service, and walk a few blocks to the fabulous, homegrown Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Today Stumptown is brewing a Honduran variety; I like its acidic bite and long, mellow finish. The soaring, brick-walled cafe is packed with people lingering over their mugs, luxuriating in the coffeehouse smells and sounds.