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Stumptown's Duane Sorenson, the Coffee Connoisseur This innovator elevated coffee to a level of appreciation on par with gourmet food and fine wine. An inside look at how the company helped launch a culture of coffee aficionados.

By Jennifer Wang

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

That was November 1999, and Sorenson had just quit his head roasting job at Lighthouse Roasters Fine Coffees, bought a 5-kilo coffee roaster for $8,300 (emptying out his savings account) and set up a small roastery and café called Stumptown Coffee Roasters in a run-down area in Southeast Portland, Ore. It was, Sorenson felt, his duty.

"Coffee is as complex and beautiful as the finest wines in the world, but the majority of coffee being served and brewed is rubbish," he says. "It was the right thing to do, for coffee, my community, my customers and my employees."

But as much as those customers appreciated Sorenson's passion, they just couldn't see coffee as something that would fire up people's tastes and passions as much as food or wine--even in Portland.