Coffee + Bakery

  • 742 Congress Street
  • Portland, Maine 04102
  • (207) 760-4440

Cafe + Roastery

  • 122 Anderson Street
  • Portland, Maine 04101
  • (207) 760-4440

Our Story

Workin' On It


Where to Buy



Online Ordering

  • Same Day Pickup
  • Available Wed-Mon
  • 7:45am-10:15am

Special Orders

  • Future, Bulk Orders
  • Great for events with 20 people or more

Workin On It

Portland Maine Skyline
Portland Maine Skyline Mobile

What is this page?

In the vast world of online commerce, sustainability pages are a common sight, where even industry giants tout their environmental bona fides. Our friendly web strategy company suggested we do one as well. Yet, the admittedly inessential existence of Tandem itself raises environmental questions. Nonetheless, we offer a candid account of our attempts at taking the sting out of running a for-profit business this day in age. We cannot guarantee the efficacy of any of this. All we can guarantee is that we’re workin’ on it.

Two people, one holding a folder, standing in front of a red brick building with a classical design, featuring symmetrical windows and a central door.

How we started

Foundations since 2012 :
Milk: We get all of our milk for both cafes from Hatchland in glass bottles that get returned and re-used.

Composting: Having come from Blue Bottle, composting was a no brainer when we first opened Tandem. Luckily a couple of curbside composting companies had just started up around the time that Tandem opened. We are currently using AgriCycle & Garbage to Garden

Reusable Cup Discount: 25¢ discount for reusable cups - While this was a nice idea it did not do much to entice people to bring their own cups. Back in 2012 - even with the 25¢ discount - we were still serving 70% of our drinks in single-use cups. What a bummer.

2015 - Compostable Cups

We wanted to open Tandem with compostable cups but we could not shoulder the price tag at the time. After a few years and the business becoming a little more stable, we decided it was time to invest in the matter. We’ve been serving all of our to-go drinks in compostable cups ever since. The jury is still out on whether this is really a net good or if it is just more greenwashing theater. The truth is, if you dispose of the cup at our cafe, where we have a separate waste bin for composting, then you should have used one of our ceramic mugs. If you leave the cafe - as one should - with the compostable single use cup, then the likelihood of that cup ending up in trash is much higher than it ending up in the compost. At that point, what’s the point? Like I said, jury is still out.
A white disposable coffee cup with the text "workin' on it" and an eco-friendly message on a marble table against a wooden panel background.
A brick building with a sign reading "tandem coffee roasters" and a bicycle symbol, with a blue car parked in front.

2018 - Installed a car charger at the Roastery

We sure did. And if you work here you can charge all you want for free. So, get an electric car and a job here. Highly recommended. Better yet, just ride a bike.

2018 - Got rid of plastic straws

Recall, if you will, the year 2018. There was a short period of outrage where plastic straws became the ire of humanity. “Know what really makes me mad?” they asked. “All the plastic straws in the ocean!” Well that also made us mad! We jumped right on that bandwagon. So long, plastic straws. That was easy! However, while we were in the midst of patting ourselves on the back for a job well done we started taking a good look around and realizing our work had only just begun.
Three metal straws—two silver, one black—in a clear glass against a soft blue background, casting elongated shadows.
A person pours coffee into a dark blue travel mug branded with "tandem coffee" featuring a bicycle logo, held in a tattooed hand. only the person's torso and arms are visible.

2019 - Single Use Cup Charge

Tandem has always given 25¢ off when someone brings in their own reusable cup. Unfortunately, that incentive has never really had much of an impact so we’ve decided to turn that policy on its head. On April 2, 2019 we dropped all of our drink prices by 25¢ at both of our cafes. At the same time, we also started charging 25¢ for single-use compostable cups and asking customers, "Did you bring your cup today?" Customers who need single-use cups will be charged in total the same price as before. All that’s changed is the expectation. By building the cost of the cup into the price, Tandem has been expected to provide the cup. By pulling the cost of the cup out of the price of the drink, the customer will now be expected to bring the cup...or so the thinking goes.
This graph shows the percentage of drinks served in single use cups across both Tandem locations. The red line represents the percentage of single use cups used between the beginning of the initiative and March 2020 when we had to pause the use of reusable cups because of Covid. The blue line represents the percentage after it was deemed safe to use reusable cups again up to the present. We're still not doing quite as well as we were before Covid but overall better than the 70% before we started the initiative.
Line graph titled "percentage of drink servings in god awful round 1 (2019-2020) and round 2 (2022-2023)," displaying fluctuating percentages over months with icons of a cup and bicycle.
Stacks of grainpro bags and a box labeled "ecotact" in a warehouse setting, used for storing agricultural products to preserve freshness and prevent spoilage.

2019 - Recycling Grainpro and Ecotact bags

Not sure if you know this but any green coffee that is worth a damn is double bagged - burlap with a plastic liner on the inside. These plastic liners keep the coffee fresher for longer and are made by many brands - Grainpro, Ecotact and Maxibag just to name a few. For the first several years we were in business these bags were not recyclable and all ended up in our dumpster. Luckily, Grainpro and Ecotect have started offering direct recycling programs with companies like Terracycle. You can read more here and here. The liners that do not yet have a recycling program set up are now saved and used as trash bags around the roastery. They all get at least one more use. Need some bags? Reach out!

2020 - 1% for the Planet member

Since 2020 our Anderson St location, where the Roastery and Little T are located, have donated 1% of sales to environmental non profits. That's over $100,000 to date. Our main 1% non-profit partners thus far have been: Cultivating Community Upstream Bicycle Coalition of Maine The Water Project Carbon 180
An industrial warehouse with a garage door featuring a modern, geometric mural. in the foreground, there are burlap sacks and wooden crates. a logo reads "1% for the planet - member.
A poster reading "climate neutral certified" with a circular logo, mounted on a wooden bench painted with pastel stripes, against a backdrop of trees and a cloudy sky.

2022 - Climate Neutral Certification

In 2022 our Anderson St campus (the roastery and Little Tandem) became Climate Neutral Certified. Certification involves both buying carbon offsets and committing to an annual carbon reduction plan.

2022 - Compostable Retail Bags

In 2022, all of our retail bags became fully compostable (except for the tin tie). This seemed great but we weren't fully convinced that compostable packaging was truly a net good or if it just feels good. We went through many trials and tribulations after switching to compostable bags. They were not as sturdy or rugged as a regular coffee bag and many were breaking open in the mail. To offset this, we had to put more packing materials in each box when shipping. This seemed to defeat the purpose of trying to be more sustainable. And, like the compostable cups, these bags are only compostable if they end up in a proper compost pile or facility. If they end up in a landfill, they either emit methane or never break down at all. While this still felt like taking a step in the right direction, we continued to look into other options.
Several neatly arranged coffee bags from tandem coffee roasters, each with distinct labels like "el mirador," "la pirámide," "west end blues," and "nelson flores," featuring simple bicycle graphics.
Aerial view of a solar farm with rows of solar panels partially covered in snow, amidst a forested area displaying a wintry scene.

Route 32 Solar Farm China, Maine

2022 - Solar Power

In 2022, we began buying almost all of our electricity at all of our locations from a community solar farm in China, Maine through a company called PowerMarket. At one point, we had looked into installing solar panels on our buildings but our roofs were not large enough to offset the amount of power we would need to power our businesses. Luckily, community solar started to take off in Maine and we were able to accomplish what we were hoping to do.

2023 - Little T Refill Coffee

This one was a long time coming. You can now bring in any old reusable container and we will fill it with coffee. You also get a 20% discount for doing so. Thus far we are saving over 100 bags per month.
Person in a blue sweatshirt pouring coffee beans into a glass jar labeled "west end coffee blues" held in their hands against a white wall background.
Tandem New Retail Bags

2024 - Retail Packaging Update

Our never ending saga in search of the perfect packaging continues! Our latest update comes to our 12oz bags. Our long time goal has been to find bags that were made of recycled material right here in the USA. Well, man, we have finally found some! These new bags are no longer compostable but they are made from 43% recycled material right here in the USA - in Wisconsin to be exact. The shape of the bag has changed slightly as well. They are slightly wider and no longer rolled over at the top into tight little bricks. This change saves not only on sticker materials and tin ties, but also the hands of our production crew. Rolling the tops of all of those bags down day after day is one tedious task that they will no longer have to do. We're not claiming that we have found the perfect packaging. While we do think this is an improvement in many ways, we are already eyeing the future for even better solutions.

Better Packaging - the never ending battle

Where we are at 2024:
  • Most of our shipping boxes are made by a local company Lindenmeyr Munroe and made from 100% recycled content
  • Our polymailers are made by Grounded and also made from 100% recycled materials
  • Retail coffee bags made by ePac with 43% Recycled Materials in Wisconsin.
  • Packing paper from our beloved "paper barfer" is made from 100% recycled paper
Where we want to be:
  • All packaging made in USA from recycled materials
A top-down view of an open cardboard box filled with various neatly arranged packages and food products branded with bicycle logos, suggesting a delivery focused on cycling or environmental sustainability.

Still workin' on it

The journey obviously doesn't end here. We've still got so much to do. If all goes well we can continue to grow while shrinking our carbon footprint at the same time. That depends a lot on emerging technologies. As always we will continue to keep our ear to the ground and implement the best options as they come available.