Arizona’s largest city has long been linked with golf, spas, and desert hikes. Coffee took a backseat as cities like Seattle and Portland enticed folks to sip pour-over, single-origin brew. Now, with a cluster of new indie cafés, Phoenix is poised to be the coffee capital of the Southwest. Inside these new spots, terms like seed-to-cup and fair trade are tossed around as often as sports scores or talk about the weather. And the epicenter of this scene is downtown, where baristas run a long shift roasting beans at dawn and stay open late, catering to artists, students, and downtown dwellers. With a new light rail line from the airport, a new Arizona State University campus, and a mix of condos and apartments popping up at a frantic pace, caffeine is in demand. In town on the first Friday of the month? Check out First Fridays art walks and—on any day—pop by the David Bowie mural (at McDowell Road and Seventh Street). A fab place to check into for the night is Found:Re, a year-old boutique hotel with its own art gallery and a farm-to-table restaurant called Match, where coffee from Press (a local roaster) is brewed and served.
David Bowie mural at McDowell Road and Seventh Street.
In fact, Press Coffee recently opened a location at the Muse (an apartment building in midtown Phoenix), which goes beyond the typical café model. Staff will teach customers how to re-create the perfect cup of Press Coffee at home: Home barista classes are hosted in the roaster’s training facility, and the public is invited to attend cuppings (a special tasting technique used by coffee buyers to evaluate coffee).
Another newcomer is from the Phoenix area’s beloved local coffee roaster, Cartel Coffee Lab—akin to Chicago’s Intelligentsia or Portland’s Stumptown. Its new downtown café opened last summer, next to its old space. Walk into the 400-square-foot café on North First Street and you’re greeted with white-and-black decor that’s intentionally sparse. Growlers can be filled with cold-brew coffee to go, while Chemexes lined up on the counter fill customers’ pour-over orders.
Espresso Tamping at Press
Inside DeSoto Central Market, a two-year-old food hall in downtown Phoenix, one of the vendors is Tea & Toast Co., which, despite its name, offers a great cup of coffee as well. And, true to its name, the rotating menu of toast (everything from avocado to bacon jam and a sunny-side up farm egg) is worth ordering.
DeSoto Central Market’s patio
But while these spots are all great ways to start the morning, John Sagasta, owner of Jobot Coffee, saw an opportunity to cater to night owls when opening in a new location on Roosevelt Row. “We thought the nightlife was the way to go . . . to pick up on students and artists,” he says. But this is way more fun than staying open late—on weekends that means 4:00 a.m. DJs spin tunes and live music acts take the stage in the evening.
Cartel Coffee Lab’s signature blend for Jobot Coffee is a drier espresso. “A lot of people will say they taste nut and grapefruit,” explains Sagasta. Late-night eats like yellow chicken curry and biscuits and gravy are a welcome departure from coffee shops’ scones (although Jobot is known for its bakery items, too), and the Espresso Sunrise is a popular drink order. It’s fresh orange juice with a shot of espresso poured over the top. “It’s almost the same profile as a Cadbury Creme Egg,” says Sagasta.
Cartel Coffee Lab
Look for a bright orange exterior on North 3rd Avenue and you’ll find Lola Coffee Bar. Drawn in cursive lettering above the bar, the menu includes standards like espresso, drip coffee, and cappuccino—and the baristas really like to show off their latte art, too. And be sure to order a bite, such as morning buns baked with orange zest, rum-raisin muffins, or savory pop tarts and scones (red pepper–spinach and oregano, for instance).
Over at Songbird Coffee & Tea House—open since 2015 in its current location, an historic bungalow dating back to 1904—the vibe is quaint and cozy. Order a nitro or a pour-over made with coffee from Cortez Coffee Roasters in nearby Tempe, sit on the porch swing, and maybe even pet the shop cat named Jesus. If you’re a bit hungry, order vegan pastries provided by local spot Treehouse Bakery.