Best Neighborhood Coffee House, Tempe - 2008
Cartel Coffee Lab
Looking for coffee in all the wrong Tempe places? Get your bean-loving butt to Cartel. Walk through its cheerful black-and-white tiled foyer into the mellow-but-hip high-ceilinged space, and you will swear you've died and gone to coffee heaven. And that's before you taste the espresso, which, in our humble opinion, is among the best in the Valley. Want a cup of regular coffee? They'll make it for you on the Clover 1S machine, which has five customizable options and brews one cup of coffee at a time.
Open since January and tucked into the same complex on University that houses several other local independent businesses, including Wet Paint, this gem of a shop is owned and run by husband-and-wife team Jason and Amy Silberschlag. The Silberschlags are both native Arizonans — he's from Tucson, she hails from Wickenburg — and both coffee freaks with a conscience. Their business model was coffee roaster with espresso bar, which still applies; they roast small "hand-crafted" batches of beans purchased from just two places in South America, including a family-run farm in Guatemala, and distribute them wholesale around the Valley. But the espresso bar has taken on a life of its own. There's a steady stream of customers, changing art on the walls and a regular event on Final Friday — usually live music. "It's become the neighborhood living room," Amy says.
Just like our living room — if it were way cooler and served coffee so good you wake up the next morning craving it.