Earlier this fall, the owners of Cortez Coffee in Tempe and Songbird coffee shop in Central Phoenix teamed up to announce a new venture that will mix social media and coffee community-building with guidance and consulting for new coffee shop owners. Called 1912 Coffee, the venture comes from Ron Cortez of Cortez Coffee and Jonathan Carroll, co-owner of Songbird, and aims to bring more attention to the Arizona coffee scene by helping individual coffee shop owners improve their marketing.
"We’ve created 1912 Coffee with the idea of bringing mass exposure to Arizona coffee,” Carroll says.
The project went live online this fall, and so far the site is building a strong directory of Arizona coffeehouses. Cortez and Carroll say they're already working with a handful of local shop owners to help them plan their business models, execute their social media presences, learn more about sourcing and roasting coffee, and ensure their baristas are up to speed. 1912 will also offer videography services through Carroll’s associate Mike McClellan.
One of the more public functions of the 1912 Coffee project will be regularly planned cappuccino art and espresso craft competitions, which the duo hopes will become a forum for building coffee communities, not only in Phoenix, but also throughout the state.
“It’s a big part of building coffee communities in Arizona," Carroll says. "Our goal is to eventually get people from the Phoenix metro [area] to travel to Tucson when we have one of these, or travel to Prescott or Bisbee. Or to Jerome.”
“It’s like a big party for baristas,” Cortez adds.
The pair plan to host competitions monthly, on every third Saturday of the month. Maya Tea of Tucson will sponsor the January 2016 cappuccino throw-down, and this summer a Midwestern company, Handgrind, which is working on a prototype hand grinder, will sponsor an event in June.
Cortez and Carroll have a total of 30 years industry experience between them, and say they hope to use their experience and connections to help other small business owners. Most of Cortez’s experience comes from roasting and distributing beans; he owns stakes in coffee plantations in Cameroon and Costa Rica, and says he believes in the direct-source market and cultivating close relationships with farmers.
Carroll has been establishing connections in the Valley for the last several years since opening Songbird Coffee about three years ago. Since his coffee shop moved to its new location at 812 North Third Street, Carroll says he's shifted his attitude about competition and abandoned his former, cutthroat business approach.
“[Initially] I wanted to be the greatest coffee and tea house of all time in Arizona,” Carroll says. “I wanted nobody else around me succeed.”
Now he says he's embracing a new, friendly-neighbor attitude. Carroll says he’s done an about-face, and he and Cortez want to put energy into being positive and building community.
“I am dead-set on the idea that the best coffee in the world is produced here,” Cortez says.
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The next 1912 Coffee coffee throw-down of the year will be Saturday, January 30 at Exo Roast Co., 403 N 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705. 1912 Coffee will judge finished espresso drinks on criteria such as symmetry, use of space, difficulty and more.
Admission is free to the public and $5 for baristas who wish to participate. For more information check the 1912 Coffee website.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated from its original version.