Tempe-based Blue House Coffee might be the best coffee you haven't tasted yet. The company has been pedaling its coffee around ASU's campus since 2012. No, we didn't spell that wrong -- someone actually rides a cart around on a bicycle. We stopped by to check it out, and oh, boy, was it an adventure!
Visiting Blue House is like laying eyes on a unicorn. You have to be in exactly the right place at the right time -- and if you are, you won't regret it.
A friend told us about the spot. When we tried to find it, we learned that the map on Blue House's website is not 100 percent accurate. We first wound up wandering aimlessly around ASU's campus, feeling about a thousand years old and looking very, very lost. Hot tip right here, courtesy of Chow Bella: Blue House parks at College and University. Just go to College and University. Don't bother with the map.
Another word to the wise: If it's any day except for Tuesday or Thursday, don't bother. If it's after 3 p.m, don't bother. Blue House is parked at the northwest corner of College and University from 7:30 am to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That's it. Blue House does sell its small-batch roasted beans online, but if you want the brewed stuff, you've got to play a little game of hide and seek with Blue House.
The baristas at Blue House are friendly and seem genuinely thrilled by what they do. Our barista, Sean, was like the Mr. Hooper of College Avenue. He knew every passerby, greeted regulars by name, and generally seemed to be interested in all the people he met during our visits.
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The menu at Blue House is simple: hot coffee, cold coffee, doughnuts by Welcome Chicken + Donuts. That's all. The cold-brewed iced coffee is stored in pony kegs (what would Tempe be without kegs?). The hot coffee is brewed to order on plastic Hario V60 pourover drippers, so in the event that you do find Blue House, expect a small wait for the hot stuff. It offers cream, sugar, and flavored syrups for anyone who is interested, but the coffee is great in its unadulterated form.
Cold-brewing coffee has a lot of merits, but it's all about striking a balance. Proponents of the method like to brag about the end result's reduced acidity and full-flavor. But there's a catch here that no one really likes to talk about: cold-brewing coffee produces a very strong coffee concentrate that must be properly diluted in order to not taste like butt. Dilution requires human involvement, which results in a big margin of error, because some humans just prefer to drink gross stuff. Balance is critical to producing a good cup of iced coffee, and finding the proper dilution ratio is integral to balance.
This is all to say that Blue House's iced coffee is consistently great. The batch we tried was a peaberry bean from northern El Salvador. The drink was flavorful without being overpowering. It was smooth without being bland. It was sweet but clean, and it had just enough acidity to make it sparkle. Considering that the cafe has wheels instead of walls, we were impressed.