Portland’s green coffee bean scene was featured in Oregon Business magazine, one of the most vibrant in the country.

My comments, below:

Andrew Hetzel, a coffee consultant based in Kona, Hawaii, says the added cost of shipping to Portland is offset by the low cost of doing business here.

“If I were a trading company looking for a warehouse location in the Pacific Northwest, I wouldn’t be surprised if I picked Portland,” says Hetzel. “There’s a low cost to do business in Portland and there’s the advantage of being convenient to major industry players.”

“In Portland you have a coffee culture,” he [Bruno Souza] says. “People drink coffee here even in the summer, and the cafes are small and friendly.”

Consultant Andrew Hetzel argues that the four importers who currently operate in Oregon chose the location more for lifestyle and potential profit margins than any coffee reputation. One of Portland’s highest profile importers — Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers — has become one of the world’s largest importers of sustainable, specialty coffee — but doesn’t bring large amounts of beans through Portland. But the company still profits by being based locally even though it supplies beans to mostly non-Oregon companies, says owner David Griswold, who relocated the company to Portland’s Ecotrust Building from the Bay Area in 2000. “Stepping into Portland allowed us to join a community of like-minded people who are interested in food systems,” he says.

Portland’s largest roasters work with such high volumes of coffee, they never worry about small-batch shipping costs and local bean storage.

For example, Portland-based Coffee Bean International (CBI), a specialty wholesale roaster that sells beans to large corporate retailers, including Nordstrom and Noah’s Bagels, as well as 1,000 independent coffee houses around the country, roasts 15 million pounds of green specialty coffee beans annually. At any given time, the company is processing 2 to 3 million pounds of beans in its 130,000-square-foot, silver LEED-certified facility close to the airport. But despite CBI’s numbers (its 2008 revenue exceeded $60 million) and a 37-year history in Portland, the company doesn’t have much name recognition with local consumers, says president and CEO Patrick Criteser.

“Most people haven’t heard of us because we private label roast,” he says. “We work to promote our clients’ names, not our own.”

But within the green bean industry, CBI holds plenty of sway.

“CBI has greater potential influence on coffee trends as a result of its large volume of operations,” says Andrew Hetzel. “Therefore buying decisions made by roast master Paul Thornton have a greater impact on the industry than smaller specialty roasters.”

Read the full article at Oregon Business