Tin Pan Alley plays host to all kinds of people. Every day this unassuming alley off of Minnesota Avenue downtown acts as a makeshift Ellis Island to tourists, locals, and everyone in between. Three businesses are tucked into the backside of the old Bend Hardware building (whose front side hosts Bond Street Market, Azura, Noi, and others). When you walk into the alley, first up is The Wine Shop, a relaxed yet swanky libations space, next is Tin Pan Theater, a 28-seat movie house, and finally, Lone Pine Coffee Roasters.
While it's hard to call Lone Pine one of Bend's best kept secrets, as many people know about its existence, there still is hardly a day where the employees don't get a few new people just stumbling across the space for the first time. The first time I walked into Lone Pine, the initial thing that I noticed was the smell. All of the coffee is roasted in the modestly sized space and it simultaneously does two wonderful things: It makes Lone Pine always smell like fresh, deliciously roasted coffee; and it snows the roasted coffee flakes into the alley in a downright magical display.
Owner and Chief Roaster Extraordinaire Scott Witham had a specific vision for what he wanted to do with his coffee.
"Years ago, I started experimenting and really getting into what coffee could be," says Witham. "I was getting excited about different origins and the roasting process. Realizing that, even at home, I could have a better product than anything I could find in Central Oregon at the time. Granted, this was before Thump opened or Backporch opened. We all had the same idea. We looked at the Bend coffee scene and there were some innovators, but there was a big hole when it came to Third Wave coffee, as it came to be known."
Third Wave coffee is focused on farm level coffee and single origin beans, basically the next logical progression when it comes to the coffee scene in America. The first wave being Folgers-style mass produced coffee and the second being Starbucks bringing the Americanized, Italian coffee culture to our shores.
Witham started primarily as a roaster in Madras, selling to stores around Central Oregon for years before opening up the coffee house proper downtown. The space feels so instantly warm and inviting, it's easy to see it as a reflection of pulling away from the popular industrial and modern style of coffee houses at the time. But regardless of how comfortable the space is, none of it would work if Witham didn't have a strong vision for how he wanted to roast his coffee.
"I really used to focus on the end of the roast. Now I'm really focused on the whole roast," he says. "I try to develop the coffee and the sweetness. I have always chased the sweetness. I love really sweet coffees. I don't think coffee should be sour. It's like adding acid to a dish at the end if you're a chef."
Lone Pine is special not just because their coffee is excellent with a huge range of flavor profiles, but also because everything they sell in the store has a handmade timelessness to its quality. Witham and his team care deeply about your experience and work hard to make it memorable. Aside from all of the excellent baked goods from Sparrow, Fearless, and Foxtail, Lone Pine hand makes in house their own syrups, the bourbon caramel for the lattes, as well as hand whipping the cream and melting the chocolate.
"We're buying our own Oregon hazelnut butter and adding organic sugar to that. We're hand making our own waffles every morning using European-style butter, a nice organic flour, pearl sugar and then it's yeasted overnight. We make our own chai," Witham explains. "Everywhere we can we are using organic, high quality ingredients."
But again, even with all of the high quality ingredients and delicious food, even with the unmatched coffee, none if it would matter if the key ingredient were missing. Witham puts it best.
"You come into Lone Pine and you're treated like family. Almost like you're coming into someone's house. You're welcomed," he says. "Everything is just really carefully crafted and we serve the best things we can to you."
Lone Pine Coffee Roasters
845 Tin Pan Alley
Monday-Friday 7 am-5 pm. Saturday & Sunday 8 am-4 pm.