COFFEE: PHX, AZ
I have been fortunate enough to get to fly to the valley of the sun twice within the same quarter this year, and both times I have been pleasantly surprised by the rapid growth of coffee culture there. Phoenix is like a young apprentice who just discovered his passion for coffee, where everything is full of wonder and awe. Everyone I met down there was so passionate about the craft. It made me remember what I love about coffee.
My first trip down to Phoenix I went down for just a few days in March with my girlfriend, Sarah, for her 21st birthday. We have a friend who moved to Phoenix for school back in 2015, and we decided to go visit her, and get some sun for ourselves. Her name is Katy and she actually works at one of my favorite coffee shops in Phoenix called Kream. Make sure to go visit her there! Tell her Cade sent you. Our whole trip consisted of us eating food, drinking coffee, and talking all day.
The second trip I took was in mid June with one of my bands, McKinney Dawson. We were playing a couple of Christian camps in Prescott, AZ. Later in the week we went down to Chandler to play music at a church plant. This trip was about a week long and incredibly hot. They had record temperatures of 123 degrees while we were there. The sun would set and it'd still be 110 degrees at 10PM at night.
Now that you have a little back story, I can tell you about all the great coffee adventures that happened there.
The first coffee shop I went to was Futuro. This place sent you into another world instantly. You go from the the hot sun outside to a cooled, all white, stripped down room. The design of this place is amazing, mostly because there is not much to it. It's a very clean, and simplistic lay out. I later learned that the owner is a designer who spends his time between LA and Phoenix, and that he'll do a show in the shop every now and then. This place was fabulous so I do not doubt that claim. I got an amazing gibraltar with some espresso from the PNW's own 49th Parallel. I sat down and I see a hair studio in the back of the shop. (WHAT!?) This place is a shared space. Two different businesses shared the same building and supported each other. I love that ideology. I quickly learned that many business do this in Arizona, more specifically the Phoenix region. What an awesome community.
Another shop that stuck out to me when I visited Arizona for the second time was Peixoto, I love those guys. Chandler, which is a little ways away from Phoenix, is worth the drive for the coffee at Peixoto. I walked in and was instantly welcomed, everything was clean and in order. I had a friendly conversation with the barista, Eric, and we shared our passions for coffee together. This guy was a very fun person to talk to and he really knew his stuff. I got an espresso of their panorama blend form Brazil, and it was delicious. It was like a cherry just exploded in my mouth. It was very sweet and fruity for a Brazilian coffee, so that took me by surprise. Eric told me that the tree from which they harvested these specific beans from had just died of frost a week after harvest. RIP PANORAMA BLEND. Of course I had to buy a bag for home after hearing that. I might never taste this amazing espresso, ever again. I've been brewing it at home on a V60 for the past couple weeks and it still doesn't disappoint.
Cartel seems to be the most known shop in Phoenix. They had multiple locations all across the Phoenix suburbs, and most other local shops seemed to serve them as well. Now don't get me or my rating of the shop here wrong, but I rated it based on my own experience. I've had other Cartel beans before and they were pretty darn good. The experience I had at the Tempe location of Cartel was not the worst, but definitely not the best. There was maybe a few people in line ahead of me and it took fifteen minutes just to get to the front of the line. Once I was at the front of the line I was waiting another five minutes for anyone to say anything, and once someone finally did they said, "It'll be another minute." They weren't necessarily slammed with people, so I didn't understand what the hold up was. I ordered one of their pour overs and my friend, Matt, did the same. Matt ordered after me and got his first, but it was another ten minute wait. Mine came five minutes later, but it was cold, watery, and nothing close to what the tasting note description had been. That was the entirity of my unfortunate experience at Cartel. Although I did love their branding, I thought they had done very well with that. I also have had their beans before and it was pretty tasty. For now, I am waiting on Cartel to do something redeeming of this off-day experience. If you're in Phoenix, you still gotta stop by one of their locations and try them out for yourself.
Teaspressa, you might guess what it is. It's tea espresso. That's right. It's crushed tea leaf blend run through an espresso machine. This spot was truly a gem in Phoenix. It was actually on an episode of shark tank. When I was there, it was just a table in a shared space in the Arcadia area of Phoenix, inside of the Camelback Flower Shop. I met a girl named Bailey there, who was the raddest hipster model you ever did meet. She made us all some bomb teaspresso lattes with rose syrup. They had their own black teas blend that was insanely tasty. It's an indescribable experience. Teaspressa is like nothing you've ever tasted before because it is exactly that, a brand new thing that I was stoked to see and got to experience. You have got to try it for yourself. They used a custom espresso machine to have just the right temperature and pressure for the sensitive teas that ran through the machine. They had pre-ground the teas to perfection, just like you would coffee beans. They even made house-made syrups to compliment the teas, they really had thought of everything for this experience. I look forward to visiting their new shop when they get a permanent location.
I met a man by the name of Jensen on my last trip to AZ. He was a great and hilarious guy who knew a lot about coffee and the culture it brings. He is currently working with Ben Carpenter of Kream to open up a brand new multi-roaster coffee shop in downtown Scottsdale. I'm stoked out of my mind to see this shop come to life! The plans he was speaking about sounded fantastic. Keep an eye out for that shop!
As I went on to go try several other coffee shops around the Phoenix area, I found a few commonalities, and one major thing. The major thing I found in the Phoenix coffee shops was they either served Cartel roasted beans or PNW roasters. I also learned that shared business spaces were a lot more common down there then what I thought.
In conclusion: AZ is a great state for coffee lovers. As surprising as that sounds, it's true. I'm still shocked when I think about it. It'd be the last place on earth I would think of to get hot coffee when everyday during the summer it's 110 degrees. Coming into the coffee culture of the state, I didn't have much in terms of expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the coffee scene there. The culture is alive and thriving. New stuff is happening all the time, and since it is such a small and new community, everyone knows each other and things get around fast. When I say new, I mean in a decade or two, that things have only started to really get into high gear there.
One thing I would love to see from Arizona is more local roasters, not just someone out of their house, but in-state people that are killing it. There are enough knowledgable people down there who know what they're doing that I'm sure they could start their own roasters or shops and make them even greater. Peixoto is a shining example of this. A small shop in downtown Chandler that roasts in-house with a little roaster, and they serve those freshly roasted beans straight out of shop. They are crushing the game down there.
I'll always be excited to go to AZ knowing that good coffee abounds everywhere I go. I love Arizona.
Mentionable Arizona Coffee Shops:
SHOP NAME / LOCATION / RATING / ROASTER and/or COFFEE BEANS USED
Futuro - Phoenix 8/10 (49th Parellel Coffee)
4til4 - Scottsdale 9/10 (Four Barrel Coffee)
Regroup Coffee & Bicycles - Scottsdale 10/10 (Multi Roaster)
Kream- Phoenix 10/10 (Multi Roaster)
Giant Coffee - Phoenix 7/10 (Four Barrel Coffee Roasters)
Cartel- Tempe 6/10 (Cartel Coffee Roasters)
Peixoto - Chandler 10/10 (Peixoto Coffee Roaster)
Wild Iris - Prescott 6/10 (Rococo Coffee Roasters)
Gurly Street Coffee - Prescott 5/10 (Prescott Coffee Roasters)
Fillmore Coffee - Phoenix 6/10 (Street Coffee Roasters)
REGROUP Coffee & Bicycles - Scottsdale 10/10 (Presta Coffee Roasters)
Town Coffee - Scottsdale - To Be Opened! (Multi Roaster)
Presta - Tucson - To Be Tried! (Presta Coffee Roasters)
Union Coffee - Peoria - To Be Tried! (Union Coffee Co.)
BONUS: Teaspressa - Phoenix (Location TBD, Currently in Phoenix) 10/10 (Teaspressa Teas)
-Cade C. Legat, Seattle, WA, USA-