A.J.'s Pumpkin Spice Blend

There's a long line at the coffee counter in A.J.'s Fine Foods for a reason. Though this local grocery chain is known for its produce, meats, and wine selection, the java and pastries are tasty and fresh, too. And now that they're serving their seasonal Pumpkin Spice blend, Saturday mornings are even more crowded than usual - at least this past Saturday was, when we visited the A.J.'s location at Camelback Road and Central Avenue.

But we think it's worth taking a number and waiting for the Pumpkin Spice coffee. We only waited about five minutes, a fraction of the time we've spent in line at most Starbucks. And this blend is definitely an eye-opener, bursting with flavor.

The taste of espresso is strong with this one, though. The Pumpkin Spice is a potent blend, and you can see swirls of coffee bean oil in the dark, muddy brew. It gave us a bitter aftertaste, but that was nothing a few packets of sugar didn't fix.

Once we got past the heady roast blast, the pumpkin flavor emerged and balanced things out. It was a little subtle, but still tasty.

As for the caffeine kick, A.J.'s Pumpkin Spice is actually quite impressive. We took about an hour to get to the bottom of our cup, but felt the effects - slightly increased heartbeat, better mental focus, and a bit of the jitters - for twice that long.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea