When Kimhak Em and Eugenia Tai opened their brick-and-mortar coffee café, Pair Cupworks, in February 2020, they had no idea that three weeks later, they would be forced to close due to the pandemic. Rather than focusing on all the negative aspects surrounding the closure, Em turned it into a positive. During the shutdown, Em made in-person deliveries of whole coffee beans to customers in the area. “So when we reopened, we had already established a good relationship with the community,” he says.
Located inside Cider Corps, a Mesa taproom run by brothers Jason and Josh Duren, Pair Cupworks occupies the cidery in the morning before Cider Corps opens. The spacious taproom wasn’t being used during the day, so the brothers sought a tenant to utilize the space. “It was an interesting opportunity,” Em says. Pair reopened in July 2020.
Many of Pair Cupworks’ offerings reflect the duo’s Asian heritage, including some of their monthly specials, including September’s Vietnamese style latte and Houjicha tea latte. They also whip up espresso and pour-over coffee, cold brew coffee, premium loose-leaf tea and matcha drinks. The shop stocks pastries from Sugar Loaf Lane, a vegan bakery located in Chandler.
People come for the unique hand-crafted coffee and tea drinks, but Pair Cupworks is known for its whole, house-roasted beans, packaged in whimsical boxes designed by Tai. Currently, the duo offers 8-oz. batches from Kenya, Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia. “We’re pretty seasonal with our green coffee buying so we don’t keep anything for very long,” Em says.
The specialty coffee community in the Valley is a tight-knit group of people who help each other grow, according to Em. “If everybody is successful, more people will know about specialty coffee and we all grow together. But we don’t want to grow too fast and lose what we’re proud of.”
Pair Cupworks is located at 31 S. Robson Rd., Mesa, paircupworks.com