Revolución Coffee House, a new coffee shop that opened in March on Southwest Clay and Sixth Avenue near the Portland State campus, offers authentic and traditional Mexican drinks and cuisine in an atmosphere which evokes the flavor and liveliness of Mexican life and culture.
In addition to the standard coffee shop fare of lattes and cappuccinos, Revolución offers Mexican beverages such as café de olla (coffee infused with cinnamon and piloncillo), atole (a drink made from corn masa, water and spices), champurrado (chocolate atole), and agua de jamaica (boiled hibiscus flowers). The cafe also offers delicious Mexican cuisine such as pan dulce (sweet Mexican bread), tamales, flan and bread stuffed with ingredients like potatoes, chorizo, cream cheese and jalapeños.
The shop serves fair-trade Cafe Mam coffee, roasted in Eugene, and is sustainably grown at cooperatives in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico by native Mam, Tzetzal and Mocha farmers. The growers are committed to supporting child welfare and education, sustainability and the defense of Native American groups in Central America.
Revolución’s owner Maria Garcia, spoke of the inspiration behind her shop, and her hope that it would provide a welcoming and open environment for anybody looking for a quick snack or coffee with an authentic Mexican twist on their trek through downtown.
The shop is decorated in vibrant colors which evoke the art and soul of Latin America. Garcia discussed her desire to recreate an authentic Mexican atmosphere for customers, and she spoke of the openness and support she has received from many customers since the shop opened, a large number of whom are Americans of non-Latino descent.
“They’ve been to Mexico and they come here and they like that. They remember. It brings back memories of the bread, the coffee, the atole. And a lot of them speak Spanish, so they like to come here and practice. The support that I have received from customers and people…it is really amazing.”
The cafe’s menu offers a unique selection of beverages which are ubiquitous in Mexico but are rarely found in the United States, despite the abundance of Mexican restaurants and the large Mexican-American communities found here.
A highlight and staple of Revolución’s menu, and of traditional Mexican life, is café de olla, a coffee beverage made with cinnamon and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar typically found in cone shaped wedges). The distinctive sweet flavors of piloncillo blend with the cinnamon and coffee in café de olla to create a delicious coffee drink which can be served black or with milk, and does not require any additional sweetening. It is an excellent replacement for the standard daily drip coffee or latte, and a perfectly all-natural and flavorful alternative to the sweetened double-frappa-mocha-ccinos which can be found at your typical American coffee shop.
Other drinks on the menu are equally flavorful and authentic, having their roots in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic culture. Atole is a beverage typically made with corn masa, water and various spices, which can include cinnamon and vanilla. When prepared with chocolate, the drink is called champurrado. Traditionally, atole could serve as a breakfast for entire native households. It is often served with tamales and is popular during the Christmas season; its warmth and flavors make it the perfect winter comfort food.
Revolución’s atole is flavored with pecan and is a perfect accompaniment for Portland’s days of chilly, overcast and rainy weather. Its champurrado inhabits the space somewhere between smooth, spiced oatmeal and hot chocolate, and is one of the shop’s most unique and delicious drinks.
Revolución’s prices and its unique menu offerings make the shop an excellent alternative to the many Starbucks found in the area surrounding the PSU campus. Its location and atmosphere make it a perfect stop for PSU students who are arriving downtown and looking for a place to read, to do homework, or to pick up a little bit of authentic Mexico on their way to class.