July 14, 2013

Portland's Coffee By Design growing from the grounds up

Powered by a robust blend of passion and caffeine, the shop is poised to grow again, exemplifying the rare success story that manages to stay true to its 'humble beginnings.'

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

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Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann, the married couple who co-own Portland’s Coffee By Design, stand in the 40,000-square-foot warehouse on Diamond Street that they’re converting into a “playground for coffee geeks.” Their fifth retail site represents a major expansion, taking the company – and the local coffee culture – to a new level.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines


July 1, 1994 – Congress Street coffeehouse opens.

1996 – Monument Square coffeehouse opens.

1998 – India Street coffeehouse and roastery opens, CBD starts craft-roasting coffee beans.

2000 – Wins first Specialty Coffee Association of America’s TOPS Retailer Award

2002- Monument Square coffeehouse is sold to Zarra Hermann to create Zarra’s Coffeehouse

2003 – Washington Avenue single-origin coffee bar opens, roasting operation and offices are relocated here.

2008 – Freeport coffeehouse opens inside L.L.Bean flagship store, later moves from second floor location to Main Street storefront location.

September 2012 - CBD puts warehouse on Diamond Street in Portland under contract for a future expansion

2012 - CBD named one of Zagat’s Top Ten Coolest Coffee Shops in the U.S., with mentions in Forbes and Travel + Leisure’s hipster rankings.

March 2013 – Closes on purchase of 1-11 Diamond St.

June 2013 – Construction begins on Diamond Street.

September 2013 – Construction to be completed, two Loring Smart Roasters to arrive

October 2013 – CBD roastery, offices and warehouse to move from Washington Avenue to Diamond Street location

November 2013 – Diamond Street coffeehouse to open


1. Costa Rica Dota Finca La Pastora

2. Organic Guatemala Quiche Maya lxil Co-op

3. Sumatra Lintong Dolok Sangull Peaberry

4. Costa Rica Tarrazu Hacienda La Minita Cafe del Sol

5. Organic Ethiopia Sidamo Nura Korate


1. Zimbabwe Salimba Estate

2. Panama Boquete Geisha from the Esmeralda Estate

3. Costa Rica La Minita Estate

4. Guatemala Coban La Cascada Estate

5. Papua New Guinea Eastern Highlands Arokara Co-op


The diversity of its customer base could be seen on a recent afternoon at the Congress Street coffeehouse. Well-heeled business people waited in line next to colorful tourists and hipsters while the eccentric tattooed and pierced baristas made their drinks and served them with smiles.

People in chairs huddled over laptops or chatted in small groups, while an elderly man mumbled and sang to himself in the corner. Above them hung colorful reduction block prints of coffee pots and French presses by Anna O'Sullivan.

Spear said more and more people are looking to carry the CBD brand. Last year, the wholesale business grew by 25 percent, he said. That was up from an 18 percent growth in each of the preceding years.

The company now has nearly 300 wholesale customers, about 75 percent of which are in Maine.

Spear said the company currently offers 35 different coffees and blends, excluding flavored coffee, from 17 countries.

For the last five years, CBD staff members have participated in a blending competition, with the winner's blend being offered to customers.


Spear said the new facility on Diamond Street will be a "playground for coffee geeks."

The roasting operation will be moved from Washington Avenue, where the existing coffee shop will remain open and expand.

At Diamond Street, connoisseurs will be able to order limited-edition roasts at the coffee bar and choose the brewing technique, including pour-over, French press and espresso.

They can participate in a "cupping event," which Lindemann said is similar to a wine tasting. Participants can observe, smell and feel the freshly ground beans, and taste a variety of specialty coffees at different temperatures.

Housing the roasting operations on Diamond Street will allow CBD to quadruple its roasting capacity from 500,000 pounds a year to 2 million pounds. CBD will eventually feature cold-brewed coffees on tap.

Once the new facility opens later this year, Spear said that all coffee will still be roasted to order and mail orders will be shipped within 48 hours. There will be three assembly lines for packaging coffee -- single origin, blends and certified organic coffees, which must be stored, roasted and packaged in accordance with strict U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

Spear said he will also offer green coffee beans and home roasters to hobbyists.

Meanwhile, the flavoring of coffee will take place in a separate room, isolated by an airlock system to prevent cross-contamination.

The new facility will be large enough for guided tours of the roasting and blending operations. And it will function as a training center for Coffee by Design baristas and for wholesalers carrying the CBD brand.

Spear says the company has direct relationships with its coffee growers or co-ops, which have direct relationships to farmers from about 17 countries. The new facility will allow the farmers to come to Portland and give presentations to the company's wholesale clients and public.

"Even if it is the best coffee I have ever tasted, if it doesn't have traceability and a story, I won't buy it," Spear said.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:


Twitter: @randybillings

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Additional Photos

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Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Coffee By Design’s owners pose outside their first coffeehouse on Congress Street on July 1, 1994, the day it opened. Business has been booming ever since.

Contributed photo

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Patrons Brian King of Gorham and Clark Carter of Portland converse last week at Coffee By Design’s Washington Avenue location in Portland.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Asa Korsen roasts Peruvian coffee at Coffee By Design’s Washington Avenue facility on Thursday, Co-owner Alan Spear said the company currently offers 35 different coffees and blends, excluding flavored coffee, from 17 countries.

Shawn Patrick Ouelette/Staff Photographer

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Alan Spear

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Mary Allen Lindermann

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The roasting operation, currently taking place here at Washington Avenue, will move to Diamond Street when Coffee By Design completes its expansion, quadrupling its roasting capacity from 500,000 pounds a year to 2 million pounds.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


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