Until a few months ago you couldn't get Seven Cups tea, the finest nearly anywhere, in Metro Phoenix unless you ordered it online or knew a friend visiting from Tucson, willing to stop by the tea house on their way to Phoenix.
Things changed when Cartel got a Scottsdale location and wanted to step up their tea game to match the quality of their coffee. The old stuff was good, but now they carry a rotating roster of some of the best teas around, priced at $3.50 a cup. Your cup is even refill-friendly since Seven Cups leaves are meant to be steeped anywhere from 5 - 10 times, depending on the tea.
Not bad for a short afternoon stay worth of tea. They currently have only one black tea and three green teas, but in those options there's something for everyone.
The Imperial Huang Shan Mao Feng is a people-pleaser, lighter and sweeter than you've likely experienced out of a green tea (Seven Cups says you might taste apricot). The black tea option is bolder, with humble, earthy flavors like cedar. If you're not willing to go black, the Da Xue Shan is an aged green tea that wants to be an oolong black tea, but doesn't quite mimic the taste. It's rich, slightly sweet, and changes flavor with each cup across 7-10 steeps.
Innovations are seldom made in tea preparation because, like sushi, it's a craft that sits on thousands of years of history - so they've had time to get it right.
Today's innovations are made far more often behind the scenes by companies like Seven Cups. They're unique in that they source dozens of varieties of teas grown across over 20 farms in Asia, all maintained through direct-trade relationships. This means they buy directly from the farm owners, all of which they've personally visited to observe quality, meet the families behind the tea and shake hands. They're building relationships with farmers that, too, are the driving force of innovation (in terms of quality) in the tea industry.
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Though Cartel is only currently serving Seven Cups tea at their Scottsdale and Tucson locations, Downtown will be soon to follow, and you can expect it at the Tempe location when their expanded shop opens to the public on May 31.