Café, Coffee, Joe?

Mike MeyerDecember 1, 2014
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Coffee-Growing Regions
Coffee grows in the following three primary regions, which share a similar hot, humid climate conducive to growing the cherry-like fruit that encapsulates coffee beans. Defining characteristics of each coffee corridor, in broad strokes:

Central & South America: Big-bodied, chocolaty, nutty.

Africa: Savory and earthy à la Rwanda; fruity, floral and bright à la Ethiopia.

Pacific Rim: A mix, but in general tend to be earthy, vegetal and tobacco-y.


Coffee Talk: Terms to Know
First wave – first definable period of American coffee consumption in the 19th century, marked by the ubiquity of Folgers, Maxwell House, et al

Second wave – increased accessibility and popularity of “gourmet,” regionally labeled coffee and espresso drinks, starting with Peet’s in the 1960s and continuing to Starbucks’ world domination by the 1990s

Third wave – present day, with coffee viewed as an artisanal product with special attention to sourcing, unique flavors and local roasting

Direct trade – working directly with the farmer, often in five- to seven-year contracts, to ensure continued growth, sustainability and infrastructure for the farmers and continued commitment from the farmers and the coffee buyers; most direct trade farms are also fair trade, but some balk at the cost of fair trade certification

Drip – regular black coffee, prepared using various brewing methods

Immersion – brewing method wherein ground coffee is steeped in hot water and then the grounds are removed

Pour-over –brewing method wherein hot water is poured over ground coffee and the resulting liquid drips into a receptacle (flask, carafe, etc.)

Origin – where a coffee comes from; can be as general as a country to as specific as a single lot on a farm in said country

Single-origin – coffee coming from one farm in one country

Brew bar – an establishment that grinds and brews coffee to order; can take 5-10 minutes for each cup

Cold brew/cold press – brewing method wherein coffee is steeped in cold or room temperature water; lower acidity; also known as toddy

Espresso – concentrated form of coffee, brewed with pressure; most espresso at specialty coffee shops is a house blend to allow for balance of the distinct flavors emphasized by the concentration

Fair trade – government-regulated certification that ensures farmers are paid a specific dollar amount over what it costs them to produce the coffee

Latte – espresso and milk; creamy body; less foam than a cappuccino; served at 140-150 degrees

Americano – espresso and water, with espresso poured on top of the water

Macchiato – 2 1/2 to 3 oz. espresso and milk, close to equal parts; on the foamier side

Cappuccino – espresso and milk; marshmallow body; more foam than a latte, but the foam should be integrated (typically smaller because of this); served between 135-140 degrees

Mocha – a latte with chocolate flavoring


5 Must-Try Drinks
If black coffee isn’t your bag, try one of these carefully crafted Valley coffee drinks with varying sweetness and creaminess.

Cappuccino at Press Coffee Roasters – The holy grail of coffee drinks for Arizona Coffee’s Chris Tingom (see page 116). Order it to see if a coffee shop is worth its salt – er, espresso. Press’ version is smooth and creamy – liquid paradise.

Cortado at Royal Coffee Bar – A cortado is a petite cousin to the cappuccino. Cortados are usually served in Gibraltar glasses at 110 degrees, which is why most shops only serve them in house. Royal serves its cortado the traditional way, with a glass of sparkling water to cleanse the palate.

Ca PhÉ at Liberty Market – Liberty Market kicks Vietnamese iced coffee up several notches with this insanely good iteration. It intensifies both the strength of the coffee and the sweetness of the sweetened condensed milk for a dynamite drink.

Chicory coffee at the French Grocery – For a Cajun-French experience, order the French Market Coffee and Chicory blend, an herbal and bitter-in-a-good-way brew that balances the sweetness of the shop’s beignets, French doughnuts covered in a blanket of powdered sugar.


Dank-Dank at Songbird – Barista Mariah DeRaet created this cheeky charmer, which employs honey, cinnamon and hazelnut syrup to give the milk and Cortez Coffee espresso a sweet, slightly spicy and nutty dance of flavors.
photography by Brad Reed; Songbird Coffee & Tea House
PHM1214 COFF4 Royal Coffee Bar – Noted Valley architect Hayes McNeil moonlights as a coffee roaster at his shops, which in addition to serving great coffee are havens for design and decor aficionados. Heritage Square is the home base and site of the roaster, but there are two locations at the Biltmore (one at the UNION) and one in Tempe, with one slated to open by the end of this year at Taliesin West in Scottsdale – a perfect spot for a McNeil-owned shop if ever there was one. 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix,

Liberty Market – The restaurant’s E61 Espresso Bar morphed into the Strada Bar this fall, with a snazzy new La Marzocco espresso machine. 230 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-892-1900, PHM1214 COFF5

Find Great Coffee in Your Area

As with fine dining, craft beer and wine, the latest buzzword in coffee is “local.” Does that mean the beans are locally grown? Not unless you live near the equator. When we say “local coffee,” we mean coffee that is roasted, prepared and sold by local, independently owned coffee roasters and shops.

Fair Trade Cafe – The name says it all about their sourcing practices, but they also have a respectable vegan and vegetarian menu. Two locations in Downtown Phoenix. 424 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-253-6912,  

Giant Coffee – Matt and Ernie Pool’s shop has serious coffee community cred, using beans from San Francisco’s Four Barrel. We can’t resist the sweet honey-vanilla latte. 1437 N. First St., Phoenix, 602-396-7215,

Greater Than Coffee – A happening spot inside the CO+HOOTS co-working space, this shop is chockablock with techies and creatives. 1027 E. Washington St., Phoenix, 602-688-2825,

Grinders Coffee Company – A Valley classic, with a group of regulars affectionately dubbed the “geezerados.” Need we say more? 17 E. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix, 602-678-0078,

Jobot – Great coffee, crêpes and hipster vibes abound at this Roosevelt Row hotspot. 918 N. Fifth St., Phoenix, 602-501-9076,

Lola – Freshly roasted coffee and an in-house bakery (try the chocolate croissants) make this Euro-chic spot a must in Downtown Phoenix. 1001 N. Third Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-2265,

Lux – A full-service hangout, Lux attracts a varied crowd for its varied fare, from mac and cheese to gluten-free cake. We go for the rich, warming coffee. 4400 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-327-1396,

Songbird Coffee & Tea House – Perhaps the cutest shop in town, with Scrabble-like letters spelling out the menu, Belgian liege waffles on Saturdays, and well-crafted coffee, espresso and tea drinks. They’ll be at their current location until March 2015. 214 E. Roosevelt St., 602-374-4192,

Altitude Coffee Lab – Its industrial-chic aesthetic provides urbane cool, which it backs up with premium in-house roasting. 8320 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-878-5611,

Echo Coffee – An open, airy space sets the scene for great coffee and co-working. 2902 N. 68th St., Scottsdale, 480-422-4081,

Press Coffee Roasters – The PHOENIX magazine go-to, for its excellent quality, service and proximity – it’s just downstairs from our office. Lucky us. A Tempe location is scheduled to open by the end of this year and they have another location at Sky Harbor. 15147 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-718-9762,

Sip Coffee & Beer House – Travis and Tida Radevski’s cute, cozy spot is the breakout star of 2014, with people from around the Valley flocking to its great coffee, craft beer selection and delish nibbles like bacon waffles and tamales. 3617 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-625-3878,

Village Coffee Roastery – One of the oldest independent coffee houses in Arizona, Village also has major roasting savvy. 8120 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-905-0881,

Bergies – Owned by two brothers, this roaster and shop won “Readers’ Choice” in this year’s Best of the Valley. 309 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-497-3913,

Cartel Coffee Lab – The undisputed king of specialty coffee in the Valley (and perhaps Arizona at large) right now, Cartel has grown from a shoebox-size sliver in Tempe to locations in Downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sky Harbor and two in Tucson. They roast their own beans and now even brew their own beer. 225 W. University Dr., Tempe, 480-432-8237,

Crêpe Bar –  Not strictly a coffee shop (though one is on the horizon), but Chef Jeff Kraus and his superstar baristas (check out #cbfaces on Instagram) serve incredible coffee and espresso drinks using Portland’s Heart coffee. 7520 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-247-8012,

Lo Fi – Downtown Mesa’s premier roaster and coffee shop, with a name inspired by vinyl records – fitting, since it’s in the same building as music venue The Nile Theater. 105 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-444-4444,

The Coffee Shop – Its location in a rose garden at the Agritopia urban farm sets this shop apart, as do its Cupcake Wars-winning cupcakes. 3000 E. Ray Rd., Gilbert, 480-279-3144,


Colados Coffee & Crêpes

Colados Coffee & Crêpes – This family-owned joint opened this year and is jazzing up an Avondale strip mall with its coffee and espresso drinks, sweet and savory crêpes and fried ice cream. 10685 W. Indian School Rd., Avondale, 623-215-3826,

Ground Control – Litchfield Park’s multihyphenate foodie destination boasts a tiny but reliable espresso bar with fun and classic concoctions. 4860 N. Litchfield Rd., Litchfield Park, 623-535-9066,

Verrado Coffee Company – Opened this year, VCC brings a touch of cosmopolitan sophistication to the way-out West Valley. 1829 N. Verrado Way, Buckeye, 623-215-6000,

The Grotto – Fun, kitschy décor and great coffee make this a must-stop in Cave Creek. 6501 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-499-0140,

Janey’s Coffee Co. & Bodega – Weekly live music and deli specialties boost this coffee shop and cafe’s fun factor. 6602 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-575-6885,

Local Jonny’s – Cave Creek’s newest addition is owned by a couple with their own new addition – a one-year-old daughter. They use beans from Northern Arizona’s Firecreek Coffee, which is all we need to know. 6033 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-488-5261,

Superstition Coffee – Family-owned shop roasting and selling within the Queen Creek Olive Mill complex. 25062 S. Meridian Rd., Queen Creek, 480-544-1332,

Third Place Cup Coffee and Community – A unique, nonprofit coffee concept: Baristas volunteer their services and proceeds benefit the adjacent church and community outreach efforts. It’s a bit hard to find – look for the numeral 3, their lone outside sign. 21805 S. Ellsworth Rd., Queen Creek, 480-882-1177,


Roaster Recommendations
These local roasters are our coffee sources’ top choices. For a complete list of Arizona roasters, visit

Cartel Coffee Lab: Supplies coffee to Sip Coffee & Beer House, Phoenix Public Market and St. Francis.

Cortez Coffee Company: Supplies coffee to Songbird Coffee & Tea House, Mamma Toledo’s The Pie Hole and Solo Cafe.

Nom de Plume Roasters: Supplies coffee to Tom’s Thumb Fresh Market and brews coffee on Saturdays at the Market at Singh Farms.

Press Coffee Roasters: Supplies coffee to The Canyons, The Four Seasons, Binkley’s and Luci’s Healthy Marketplace.

Roastery of Cave Creek: Specializes in fine dining. Supplies coffee to Steak 44, FnB, Pizzeria Bianco, Matt’s Big Breakfast, Posh and The  Vig.

Passport Coffee & Tea: Supplies coffee to XV (The Henry’s coffee bar), Chloe’s Corner, C3 Kitchen, True Food Kitchen and Pita Jungle.


Coffee A-Go-Go
Two mobile coffee concepts currently zip around the Valley:

Chilly B’s Flavor Station, a pushcart that offers cold brew iced coffee, iced tea and Italian sodas.

Mama’s Cold Brew, which specializes in organic cold brew iced coffee and craft creamers.


Home Brewing
“For busy people, automatic brewers aren’t bad,” says Alex Mason, GM of Press Coffee Roasters. “The issue with things like K-Cups [Keurig] is they brew so fast. You want to make sure your brew time is at least three minutes. If you’re brewing faster than that, you’re not getting out of the coffee what you really want. Use the right water, grind fresh and grind correctly.” A few more tips:

Rule of thumb: 60 grams of coffee per liter of water.

Change grind size: If coffee’s not strong enough, tighten your grind. If it’s too strong, coarsen it up.

Beyond traditional automatic brewers (i.e. Mr. Coffee), there are a range of brewing systems:
– A cone brewer made of medical-grade plastic; hot water is poured over the ground coffee to brew before being released into a single-serving cup.

Chemex – Narrow-waist glass flask with a wooden “collar” and tie; hot water is poured over the ground coffee, which percolates into the flask; makes two to three cups and requires the brewer to be active during the whole process.

Kalita Wave – Ceramic, glass or stainless steel with flat-bottomed brew beds for even extraction; hot water is poured over ground coffee in a similar fashion to the Chemex; less consistent if you’re not skilled.

Aeropress – Tubular copolyester chamber that sits atop a cup; ground coffee and hot water are combined and then gently pressed until coffee is released into the cup; faster, but makes a smaller amount of coffee.

Espresso machines – Vary greatly in quality and price; “You want dual boilers,” Mason says. “You want constant pressure and temperature.”

For more information and how-to videos, check out or ask your barista for a quick tutorial – most are happy to oblige.



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As a tasting is to wine, so a cupping is to coffee. Roasters do cuppings regularly – sometimes up to three times a week – for production and quality control. Most are open to the public, so call your local roaster and ask if you can come to their next cupping to try new coffees, discuss them with pros and continue developing your palate with the help of the coffee flavor wheel, a handy visual that breaks down broad flavor descriptors into more specific components. The best part: They’re usually free.

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Cupping at Press Coffee Roastery

Press Coffee Roasters owner Steve Kraus, general manager Alex Mason and roaster Nanda Ibanez walk us through a cupping at their roastery.

Step 1: GRIND. Grind coffee beans and place the ground coffee in cups.
Step 2: SMELL. Do a “dry smell” – waft the ground coffee and inhale the aroma.
Step 3: BREW. Pour hot water up to the brim of the cup and brew for four minutes.
Step 4: BREAK. Use a spoon to break the surface tension of the cup, which slows down the brewing so it’s not actively extracting as much from the coffee. Breathe in the scent that is released.
Step 5: SKIM. Use a spoon to remove the film from the top of the coffee.
Step 6: TASTE. “Get a little bit of coffee on your spoon,” Mason says. “Bring in air [through your nose] with the liquid that’ll help you taste with your nose, which is such a key part of tasting.” The snarfling and initial choking is normal, Kraus says. “Don’t feel uncomfortable about this. It’s very weird,” he says. “Everyone coughs a little bit.”
Step 7: ANALYZE. “Whenever we cup, we’re looking for, broadly, four components: body, flavor, brightness and aftertaste,” Mason says. “Brightness is perceived acidity. The easiest way to think about that is the pinch on the back of your tongue when you eat sour candy.”  
Step 8: TALK. Tell the roasters/baristas what you taste and ask them questions about what they taste. “It’s the same way if you go wine tasting,” Kraus says. “They’re going to help you figure it out.”
Step 9: DRINK. “Continue to drink different coffee all the time,” Kraus says. Ibanez says it’s key to developing your palate. “Not just specialty coffee – try Dunkin’ Donuts, try Starbucks, try gas station coffee,” she says. “That will help you develop your palate even more as to what you like and don’t like.”


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Meet a Barista: Leah Newsom
She has tattoos and blunt bangs, but make no mistake – Royal Coffee Bar barista Leah Newsom is far from the coolly dismissive hipster stereotype that often plagues baristas at specialty coffee shops.

“We made a joke that for all the pretentious coffee snobs in the world we were going to make our flavor profiles things that you could get at Circle K – ‘with notes of strawberry ICEE…’” she says with a laugh. “Granted, there are a lot of really well-developed palates, especially in Tempe – there’s a crazy coffee nerd scene in Tempe, probably just from Cartel being right there. [But] if you actually look at a coffee wheel – some of them [flavor descriptors] are ridiculous. To me there’s just a few simple ways – there’s fruity coffees, there’s earthy coffees, there’s chocolaty coffees.”

Newsom says Royal strikes a balance between coffee-snob purism and mainstream accessibility. “Our drinks very specifically focus on coffee – what coffee should taste like. We don’t want to hide it,” she says. “If someone wants a caramel macchiato, we’re not going to say no, because that’s kind of pretentious and we know that the majority of our clientele are not coffee snobs. We definitely try and encourage them in really drinking coffee as opposed to just drinking milk and sugar. But we’re not jerks about it – we offer milk, we offer sugar, we offer caramel lattes.”

Coffee appreciation is an ever-evolving thing, Newsom says. “I’ve seen people that have gone from drinking just white mochas to actually caring about what origin their coffee is. It depends on if the barista is educating them while they’re making their drink,” Newsom says. “If somebody’s ordering black coffee and you hand them a black coffee, it’s going to taste like black coffee. But if you hand them something that you call an Ethiopian yirgacheffe with hints of blueberry in it, they’re going to taste blueberry coffee.”

It takes openness on the barista’s and the customer’s part. “Ask the barista questions. For the most part, baristas are pretty well-educated about what they’re serving,” Newsom says. “If you taste something that you like, ask what it is that’s different about it. They’re coffee nerds. They want to talk about coffee.”


Coffee Klatch with Arizona Coffee’s Chris Tingom
When he’s not designing and developing websites and apps, Chris Tingom is drinking and blogging about local coffee. His site,, is an indispensible guide for coffee junkies and industry folk alike, with encyclopedic records of every coffee bar and roaster in Arizona along with reviews, news and interviews with Valley coffee luminaries like Cartel founder Jason Silberschlag and roaster Ron Cortez of Cortez Coffee Company. His Instagram and Twitter follower counts don’t lie (3,185 and 10,200, respectively, as of press time) – Tingom is talking coffee, and people are listening. We asked him a few questions about the coffee scene, starter drinks and that website of his, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2015.

Q – What’s the most fun part of maintaining your site? What’s the most challenging?
A – The best part is getting to meet local coffee shop owners and baristas. There are some excellent people in coffee in Arizona. It’s easy to say Starbucks is the biggest challenge. People go to Starbucks and get sugary drinks and then after doing that for a few years they start to realize, hey, this local coffee shop has a good cappuccino. Maybe part of my goal with the site is to switch people from Starbucks to a nice local coffee shop.

Q – What trends have you seen in Arizona coffee in the last 10 years?
A – The recent trend is for coffee shops to serve beer. I like that trend, honestly, because I don’t really know a lot about beer. I like going down to Sip now, and a couple of other places, and having a beer. I think that [more] coffee shops like to roast their own coffee [now]. I’d say coffee shops are less afraid to admit [when] they don’t roast their own coffee, and they’re proud to say who roasts for them. Some of the local coffee roasters have done such a good job of branding themselves.

Q – How do you assess a new coffee shop?
A – I typically order a cappuccino. That is the one drink that if you order it consistently, you’ll get a really good taste of how different shops around town make a cappuccino. A lot of them don’t have any idea how to make a good cappuccino, and then you’ll go to someplace like Press Coffee or Cartel Coffee and you’ll be blown away at how amazing it is, how it’s not bitter, how it’s smooth and creamy. If you go to a coffee shop that doesn’t know how to make a cappuccino, you’ll find that the milk that they froth is really bubbly. But if you’re coming straight from Starbucks, order what you want. If you want a mocha, there are some amazing mochas around town. If you want something sweet, switch to [local] mochas.

Q – What are your favorite coffee drinks? Any fun drinks that are unique to certain coffee shops?
A – I always get a cappuccino at Press Coffee or Cartel Coffee. My wife loves the mocha at Cartel. She says it’s probably the best in the Valley. I don’t get chai very often, but one of the only places in Arizona that actually makes their own chai with spices and everything is Liberty Market. I wish it was closer to my house. Village Coffee has a coffee of the month. Their baristas came up with a new one every month; I thought that was cool. [At] Lux coffeehouse they make a Dr Pepper with espresso and whipped cream – they call it the Dr Lux. They make their own little whipped cream that goes on top. I really do like a good iced toddy. The thing you want to look for in an iced toddy is does it have low acidity. All the ones I’ve had at Press Coffee have very low acidity. The better ones are not as bitter.

Q – Are there any shops that you think are underrated? Any hidden gems?
A – Sip Coffee is one of the ones that people don’t know about as much. A good one is Demi Coffee on 16th Street and just off of Oak. They have excellent coffee. It’s always my stop when I’m driving home from the airport. It’s a really small place, but you can sit there at the bar, have drinks and chat with the barista.


Coffee & What?
Curious coffee concepts that hit the Valley in 2014.

Coffee and Steak: Well, not exactly, but Steak 44 does have an impressive coffee setup, thanks to manager Frank Schneider’s coffee obsession. Trained baristas hand-pull shots from a Victoria Arduino espresso machine and the coffee is a custom blend from the Roastery of Cave Creek. Bonus: Coffee grounds make an excellent steak rub.

Coffee and Cigars:  Espresso and stogies, together at last at Smoke and Joe in Cave Creek. Pilot Bill Niederer opened this manly – and no doubt aromatic – joint in The Shops at Tatum Ranch to satisfy his dual passions: caffeine and tobacco.    

Coffee and Bikinis: Mochas come with exposed midriffs and more at Bikini Beans Espresso, where the barely-covered baristas brew coffee and “C cup chai lattes,” according to their Facebook page.


Coffee Mythbusters
Separate your coffee fact from coffee fiction.

Myth 1:
A caramel macchiato is a legitimate beverage in the coffee world.
FALSE. A macchiato is a traditional drink (see Coffee Talk, page 108), but a caramel macchiato is a Starbucks invention. Ask for it in a specialty coffee shop and they’ll make you a caramel latte.

Myth 2:
Storing coffee in the fridge or freezer prolongs its shelf life.
FALSE. Coffee should be stored in an airtight, cool but not cold, dark space, like a pantry. The lower temperatures of a fridge or freezer adversely affect the coffee by breaking down its oils and stripping its flavor. Plus, coffee beans are very porous and easily absorb other flavors, like the takeout and seafood chilling in your fridge.

Myth 3:
Dark roast coffee has more caffeine.
FALSE. The opposite is true: Lighter roasts have more, because more caffeine compounds are burned off during the longer roasting time of darker roasts. Darker roasts do have a stronger taste and do go through the system faster, but it’s not because of their caffeine content.


Continued Education
For coffee connoisseurs eager to learn more, our experts recommend attending a cupping. For specialized instruction at any level, the man to call is Perry Czopp, aka “The Coffee Chop,” a self-taught coffee expert, roaster and barista with a degree from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Coffee shops tap Czopp to train their baristas, but he can also customize a class or educational course for coffee plebes, on everything from basic home brewing to mastering latte art. Czopp’s passion for coffee is infectious, and he urges people to “continue caring about what they purchase and what they choose to consume” and to not be intimidated by baristas’ skills. “Coffee’s a competition with yourself,” he says.

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