Balancing passion & purpose at Upper Left

Upper Left Roasters is that sublime trifecta of coffee, design, and food. Started in 2015 by Katherine Harris, and her father Jim Harris, you can feel the attention to detail when you walk into the breezy, original, Ladd’s Addition location, and the new, mid century modern-esque outpost in Portland’s Meier & Frank building. We chatted with Katherine about the vision behind ULR, coffee and food made with intention and connection, and how she starts and ends her perfect Oregon day.

How did you come up with the idea/feel for Upper Left? 

I pictured ULR in my head for years before moving forward with the project. I envisioned a space that was detail oriented from the design to the food menu. There was a reason behind every decision and the coffee, food, and design would be cohesive and intentional. The goal was to bring something fresh, new, and bold to the Portland coffee scene through thoughtful design, high quality food, and a unique coffee roasting style.

What came first — the coffee or the food? Both seem equally important/popular at your cafes! 

Food elevates coffee and vice versa. The only thing better than an expertly brewed cup of coffee is that cup with a bite of something thoughtful and delicious. The food program at ULR was always a major component of the project from the beginning. The goal was to make as many products in-house and source local ingredients as often as possible. We didn’t choose toast because it was a trend, but because it’s delicious and I enjoy eating it for breakfast. I grew up with my dad making cinnamon and sugar toast, and I remember he would melt a big slab of butter and sprinkle the sugar on first so it melts into the toast, followed by the cinnamon. It was magic.

The passion has to come through in the product, and I believe people see that we truly have a love for good food.

 

Do you have a favorite dish on the current food menu? What coffee would you pair it with? 

This is a tough one! Depends on what I’m craving, but you can’t go wrong with the Turkish eggs. The combination of the creamy yogurt mixed with the yolk of the soft poached eggs pairs perfectly with a comforting cup of the Rutas Del Inca.

What inspired the opening of, and location for the second cafe? Do you plan to expand further, or do you have a vision of where you want to take Upper Left? 

I started this company because of my passion for food and coffee. My commitment to providing a high quality product hasn’t changed, but my purpose has changed. We ultimately want to create careers for the coffee professionals on our team. In order to do that, we need to grow and expand. The growth can be either additional cafes or wholesale and we are actively pursuing both. We are aligning ourselves with wholesale partners that take quality and customer service as seriously as we do. As for additional locations, we have our sites on opening another location by 2020.

Do you have a morning coffee routine? 

I enjoy filtered coffee every morning. More recently, I am brewing with the Ratio 8 and loving the pour over method without pouring myself . Also, the product is not only functional but aesthetically stunning. Perfect for showcasing on my kitchen countertop!

 

 

What does your perfect day look like?

A perfect day begins at a leisure pace on a warm, August day. I live several blocks from ULR so strolling down for a cup of coffee before driving to Trillium Lake and arriving before the crowds. Paddle boarding on the lake while the water is still glass. Jumping back in my car and heading north on Highway 35 to pick pears and apples at the orchards. Ending the day with the windows down, driving west on I-84, playing Florence and the Machine, and stopping at Sugar Pine Drive-in for their grilled cheese waffle sandwich (add kimchi) and one of their epic Sundaes.

 

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