Q&A with Mike Schwartz and Casey Jones of Black Rose Coffee
If you’ve ever taken a midmorning stroll down SE 34th Avenue south of Stark Street, you might have noticed a distinctive aroma permeating the air—something between popcorn, malt, and not-quite-burnt toast. It’s the smell of roasting coffee rising over the fence line of a homegrown Sunnyside small business. Mike Schwartz is an award-winning coffee roaster who roasts small batches of coffee for neighbors far and wide. He is proud to specialize in decaf and half-caff blends; he will walk roasted beans to your door (delivery is free) the same day it is roasted. His wife, Casey, handles marketing and design for Black Rose Coffee, and runs her own business advising students on college and graduate school decision-making.
How long have you lived in Sunnyside?
We bought our house on 34th in December 2011 and it immediately felt like home. When we moved to Portland, it was basically love at first sight. We both grew up in places [Southern California and New Jersey] that never felt like home.
Tell me about Black Rose.
I call it “roaster direct.” I’m the roaster. I source the beans, I roast them, and I deliver them to you. We have a small roastery set up at our house. I roast about 8 oz at a time—very small batch—on a little roaster called a Hot Top. When I get interested in something, my curiosity starts to run deep, and then I naturally gravitate towards the question, “What are people not looking at?”
So what are people not looking at?
Decaf! Portland is so passionate about food and quality and flavor, but I still get laughed at when I say I specialize in decaf. I really, really care about decaf and bringing the full artisan coffee experience to decaf. I’ve won two medals for it. Most people treat decaf almost as a joke—”death before decaf” or whatever. But that also gives me power. I can bring you the full Portland coffee experience with decaf, and you won’t even know it. I have a full menu of decafs, labeled with the origin and the farm—it’s amazing coffee that just happens to be decaffeinated.
How long have you been roasting?
I’ve been roasting commercially for five years and roasting overall for about nine. But coffee has been woven into our life together from the beginning. We had a coffee wedding, actually. In 2011, we went to this coffee event at the World Forestry Center. There was a lecture where someone talked about the “four T’s” of a perfect cup of coffee: time, texture, temperature, and turbulence. That struck us as the perfect metaphor for a relationship. We got married at the Forestry Center a year later. We had a brunch wedding so that we could make the Timbers game that night. We made a pot of coffee together during the ceremony. Our moms brought us the water that we poured in, and we hand-ground the coffee beans.
Oh wow, that’s love! What about the name Black Rose—where does that come from?
It’s a few things. It’s a reference to Thin Lizzy, my favorite band. And I like to say coffee is the dark bloom, like the Black Rose. My last name is Schwartz, which means black. And we’re in Portland, the rose city.
Casey, are you involved in the business?
I do all of the design—the labels, the advertising, the photography. I love weaving a story. I create my own relationship with each coffee and try to tell people the story of where that coffee came from without pushing it too hard. In addition, I own my own business—I work with people to design their academic futures. I’m a STEM tutor and a college consultant, helping people figure out where to go to college and grad school.
Mike, what is the best part of your job?
My favorite thing is to put bags of roasted coffee in my backpack and walk it to people. You can order in the morning and I’ll have it to you by the afternoon.
What do you guys love about Sunnyside?
Oh, my goodness, so much. We love that Sunnyside is a composed neighborhood. I’ve joked about that—you could literally spend a weekend here, going out for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks and then go back to wherever you came from and say you had a great time in Portland. You have both established old places like this one [Paradox Café] and cool new places like Los Puñales Taqueria. I can pop down to the bodega and pick up a nice bag of pasta and a beer and come home and finish making dinner. I can walk everywhere; when the weather is nice, we walk to Blazer games and to Timbers and Thorns games. Sunnyside is also such a good mixed neighborhood—with apartments, quads, and single-family houses all on the same street. The creative spirit in this neighborhood is palpable. Sunnyside feels like a crossroads, but it also feels like a homey neighborhood. I have the privilege of delivering coffee all over the city and I’m always so happy to come home. I love a lot of neighborhoods in Portland, but Sunnyside is home.
What is one aspiration you have for Black Rose?
With respect to all the great coffee shops in the neighborhood, I want to be known as Sunnyside’s local coffee roaster.
Black Rose has a wide variety of bean options including:
• Light Roast – Single Origin India & • Single Origin Chiapas Mexico
• Medium Roast – Cameroon Mt. Oku & Haitian Blue Mountain
• Dark Roast – Sun Salutation Espresso, Single Origin India
• Afternoon Delight (Dark Roast)
• Clemmy’s (Dark Roast)
• Honduras Honey MWP
• Brazil MWP (Medium Roast)