Cartel Coffee Lab sits in a cozy little cove behind East Side Records in Tempe, and the ambiance of the place is half the fun. Comfy couches, second-hand art tables, and black and white drawings adorn the walls, along with a plethora of handmade signs that say things like "Hang up your cell phone while ordering or we'll call in The Raptors!"
The coffee selection is pretty cool, too -- patrons can pick from coffees made with beans from El Salvador and Guatemala to fresh-brewed Brazilian-bean Black Market Espresso and Costa Rican peaberry blends. Naturally, we asked for Cartel's most caffeinated coffee. We got the Iced Toddy.
Cartel Coffee Lab: Iced Toddy
225 W. University Drive, Suite 101, Tempe
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Take some fresh South American coffee beans, grind them, soak them in cold water for 24 hours, filter, and serve with a smile. That's Cartel Coffee Lab's recipe for their Iced Toddy. The result of this cold-brew process is a concentrated coffee that's less bitter than its traditionally-brewed counterpart because it's lower in acidity. According to the barista at Cartel, who was very educated and enthusiastic about their Toddy, the process also leaves a potent amount of caffeine in the drink. The flavor was indeed very mild and semi-sweet, even before we added sugar and syrup. And with an estimated 100-120 mg of caffeine, the Iced Toddy provided a substantial pick-me-up. The caffeine kick wasn't overwhelming, but it was steady and subtle enough to make us avoid more caffeinated drinks for the rest of the day.