For the coffee-loving couple Susan and Jason Thomas everything is figureoutable. The founders of Cascadia Coffee Roasters have applied that spirit to the two Portland-based coffee shops they own and operate, the cold brew they’ve branded and bottle, the coffee bean roastery they run, and their most recent innovation — Instant Adventure.
With Instant Adventure, Cascadia is upending people’s expectations around instant coffee. “The feedback has been amazing. The only criticism so far is that the jar is too small,” Jason laughed, referring to their bulk option, which is in addition to the individual instant coffee packages they offer.
“We hope it becomes the solution for adventurers who want café quality coffee wherever their adventure takes them,” Jason said.
The seeds for Cascadia Coffee Roasters were planted back in the early 2000s, when Jason was having fun roasting his own coffee beans; first in a small popcorn maker, then later in a mini roaster in his garage. Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where decent coffee is found aplenty, Jason lived in places with sub-par coffee.
“That’s when I decided to just roast my own,” he said. “I loved roasting coffee. The practice was quite cathartic.”
While Jason was satisfying his coffee roasting hobby, Susan grinding out 90-hour work weeks as a manager at a coffee shop. She soon recognized that if she was going to work that much, she might as well work for herself.
The couple bought a historic coffee shop in NW Portland, and it was through this business venture they grew Jason’s coffee roasting hobby into Cascadia Coffee Roasters.
A few years after growing their coffee bean brand, adding the cold brew business, and opening up a second café, Cascadia Coffee Pub, the Thomas’ set out to fix another unrealized need: quality coffee in the backcountry that won’t weigh you down.
When it comes to backpacking, one of Jason’s ‘can’t live without’ luxury items is a great cup of coffee. (The other is his beloved, lightweight camping chair.)
“My favorite part of every trip is waking up early, brewing a cup of coffee, and sitting facing an amazing view while the grey tones of early morning give way to the warm light of day.”
To create this poetic vision, Jason has packed (and carried) just about every brewing system imaginable: pour overs, French presses, and even an AeroPress. “My determination to have great coffee outstripped my desire to keep my weight down!” he said.
But, at some point, the scales tipped for Jason, and he went in search of a way to have his cake and eat it too — or in this case, have his coffee and minimal pack weight too. And, he found himself testing instant coffee samples from all over the world.
“We kept bumping into these stuck points,” he said. “Everything I tested tasted like every other instant!”
That’s when the Thomas’ connected with a Portland coffee-extraction expert. Or, as Jason calls him, “the mad scientist of coffee.”
“We knew what we wanted, but our solution was finding another partner so we could get exactly what we wanted,” Jason said. “For us, we have a lot of relationships that start across the counters, and it turns into across the table. That’s the best.”
Through these collaborative efforts, using their own roasted blends, Cascadia’s latest offspring was perfected, and Instant Adventure hit the shelves in 2019. Offering light, medium, dark, and decaf roasts, there’s something for every pallet.
“Now I don’t have to choose,” Jason said. “I can have amazing coffee that is super packable without making weight sacrifices.”
Jason joked that Cascadia’s Instant Adventure coffee has ruined his morning ritual. “I don’t even want to make a pour over anymore,” he laughed.
In addition to lots and lots of coffee, Susan and Jason’s creative thinking drives them forward.
“Both of us are dreamers. We’re both visionary. If we figure out one thing, we can create a job, and then start dreaming of another thing. That’s how we create. We grab an idea and run with it. We’re wired to keep pushing, to keep moving. We both get so excited about business,” he chuckled, “sometimes we have to stop.”