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Limestone Coffee Co. and Stim Coffee

The third-wave coffee movement, which took Portland by force in the last decade, has at last swept through Southern Oregon.

This movement to produce high-quality, artisan coffee is characterized by micro-roasting, latte art, direct-trade and single-origin coffee beans and the use of alternative methods of preparing coffee. Of course, I want to acknowledge that this is not a new concept to our valley but one that has become more pronounced in the last few years.

Meet Limestone Coffee Co. and Stim Coffee — two new local cafes that have turned making coffee into a culinary art form.

Limestone Coffee Co. opened nearly three months ago at 217 E. Main St., near Vogel Plaza in downtown Medford. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In 2011, owner Clint Orchuk ran an organic espresso bar at the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters markets, where he developed a loyal following that encouraged him to find a permanent location that didn't run on propane.

After deciding on the location, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, Orchuk consulted with Nora LaBrocca of Downtown Market Co. on the decor.

When I stopped in recently, I was struck by the cafe's Portlandness. The long, narrow room features high ceilings and exposed brick walls with a loft in the back. There are chrome tables with industrial-style seating, as well as a cozy sitting area with a rug, couch and festive, red armchair. The cafe's bar is topped with 150-year-old, reclaimed timbers, salvaged from a Chicago mill that was built in 1865.

Limestone sources from several domestic roasters and, in order to emphasize and retain the coffee's subtler notes, prepares each 12-ounce cup of coffee ($3) individually using the pour-over method.

"Flavors exist inherently in all the coffees we bring in," Orchuk says. "The roasters try to bring out those flavors in the same way a vintner tries to bring out the flavors in the grapes."

For this reason, there are no flavored syrups available. The mocha ($4.25), made with an organic dark chocolate from a Portland vendor, is the only sweetened drink.

As "my usual" at other local coffee shops is a vanilla latte, I was forced out of my rut and ordered a regular latte ($3.75) "for here." My mom, who accompanied me on my Limestone debut, ordered a decaf mocha, and we shared a slice of coffee cake ($2.50) from Buttercloud Bakery. (Although the cafe has only a minimal selection of baked goods, they are always made locally, and the menu changes frequently.)

Our beverages were served in cheery red cups and both had a pretty leaf design in the thick foam on top.

The espresso roast that day was the Blue Jaguar blend by Montana's Red Bird Coffee. Although Orchuk says the variety has a chocolatey base and a sweet almond finish, I tasted more fruity, acidic notes. The milk was steamed the way I like it, dense but not too pillowy.

If you have questions about any of the coffee varieties or beverages, ask the barista. Ours proved very knowledgeable on all things coffee.

Stim Coffee in Jacksonville operates out of a trendy but small space at 310 E. California St. I've visited Stim about three times since it opened in July but, as there are only three bistro tables and a short counter, have always ordered my coffee to go.

The coffee shop served exclusively Stumptown Coffee until this week, when it added two other elite Portland-based roasters, Coava Coffee and Nossa Familia Coffee.

Owner James Collins also encourages customers to go flavorless and appreciate the coffee for its nuances, but he offers four flavorings (vanilla, caramel, hazelnut and a simple syrup) to accommodate those who don't.

On past Stim stops, I've ordered a regular latte, which is made with Stumptown's sweet, velvety Hair Bender blend. However, I recently learned that Stim also has a second, single-origin espresso variety available upon request.

Other milk-based beverages — cappuccinos, macchiatos and mochas — are available, as well as drip, French press and pour-over coffees.

Jacksonville chef Kristen Lyon prepares the cafe's organic quiches and soups and also keeps its miniature deli case stocked with organic scones, muffins and cookies.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Expect to pay more at Stim and Limestone than you would at Starbucks, Human Bean or Dutch Bros. Remember, at these third-wave coffee companies, you're paying for quality, not just caffeine.

— Teresa Thomas

Limestone Coffee Co. lattes are made with organic milk. Whole, two percent, soy, hemp and almond milks are available. - Photo by Teresa Thomas