Coffee is our morning lifeblood, and while we're more than guilty of slumming it at a Circle K to get our fix, we don't really consider that hot plate-warmed caffeine sludge a real cup of coffee. You don't have to chew real coffee, for one. Likewise, the dried out bagels and scones from Starbucks ain't gonna cut it in terms of morning nibbles. When the thought of burnt beans and stale danishes starts to get us down, we head to one of these local coffee shops and let a talented barista steam our troubles away.
10. Nami We know it's the new kid on the block, but even though Nami's known for its pastries and signature tsoynamis, we're big fans of the coffee. The ambiance of this bright, modern coffee and dessert shop is also a bonus. The pour over coffee with soy and agave sweetener is a hot cup of happiness, and it's the only coffee shop in the valley we've seen with champurrado, a super thick cup o' Mexican hot chocolate. Naturally, one of Nami's many pastries go great with their brew (sourced from Royal at the Market). The Winkies and Nami Cakes put Twinkies and Ding Dongs to shame, and the oatmeal cream pie almost makes us want to go vegan. Almost.
9. Echo Coffee
Echo brews several organic varieties of beans, and the baristas are always more than happy to guide you toward the blend that you'll most enjoy. Our favorite is the Titus, which isn't acidic or bitter and has a sweetish aftertaste that lets us sip our cup o' joe sans sweetener. As variety is the spice of life, Echo also offers organic rice milk, almond milk, and soy milk in addition to the traditional creamers. The environment is bright and airy, with huge leather couches for sinking into with a book, or smaller tables for working on a laptop. Coffee served in-house comes with a free little cookie on the side, and more substantial nibbles like pastries, quiche, or hot and cold sandwiches are also available. Trust the Best Darned Grilled Cheese or the Jamaican Jerk Beef sandwich if hunger strikes.
8. Press Coffee Roasters
For a coffee shop in Scottsdale, Press is surprisingly cheap for such high quality product: half the price of mega chain menus for double the flavor. Their Twitch blend espresso is a smooth roast worthy of the name. And while they offer a ton of different roasted blends, they aren't snooty about you befouling their creation with chocolate sauce and sugary syrups. Try an iced coffee or one of their frappes, which are more like the east coast hand-shaken milkshakes than the aforementioned mega chain's frozen blends. The breakfast sandwiches with turkey and pesto? Also totally worth it.
7. Copper Star Coffee
Cruising through the Melrose District, you may well have driven right by Copper Star Coffee and not even known it. Housed in a retro gas station, this kitschy cool coffee shop makes a mean cup of joe and even has a drive thru for the caffeine fiend on the go. Copper Star has no problem making you a simple cappucino, an elaborate dulce de leche latte, or any other combination you can dream up. They also make their own baked goods (we recommend the cheese danish) and sandwiches like curried chicken salad (also highly recommended). Curl up on one of the colorful, comfy couches and enjoy the friendly neighborhood vibe.
6. Giant Coffee
When the weather's perfect, Giant Coffee is our go-to shop, because the glass storefront opens completely to allow in fresh spring air. Snag a lightly sweet honey vanilla latte or a hot mocha made with high quality chocolate and homemade whipped cream. Kick back at the communal tables to get some work done, or sink into a leather armchair with macchiato in hand. Don't forget to check out Bunky Boutique next door, which shares space with Giant Coffee, or take a quick walk over to the Burton-Barr library to return those over-due books.
5. Lola Coffee We like Lola for the rich espresso, fresh baked goods, gorgeous chandelier, and clientele with much fewer hipsters than Lux. One of our favorite perks of Lola is its homemade whipped cream, which we're pretty sure is addictive. Try an affogato for the full experience. The whipped cream is spiked with espresso and piled in fluffy peaks atop a perfectly pulled, creamy shot of espresso. Or order one of their specialty lattes, like the cinnamon-mocha Matador or the Borgia, a dark chocolate and orange espresso drink (and don't forget the whipped cream!). Saunter up to the long wooden bar against the almost full-length window facing Central and watch the day go by, relax in one of the modern couches, or sun yourself at one of the outdoor communal tables, and enjoy.
4. Royal at the Market
By roasting their own blend of beans on-site, Royal at the Market has stumbled upon a brilliant marketing ploy: you can smell their beans from around the corner and down the street. If the aroma of roasting coffee beans doesn't have you excited, maybe the prospects of bacon brownies or scones will? The coffee is always solid, with a fresh pour over every time instead of a cup from a tureen of questionable stale brew. The place is swamped on a Saturday morning, but the baristas are never frazzled, despite the hectic crowds demanding caffeine. Grab a smooth, nutty cup of coffee, get some work done on your laptop, and then swing by the Downtown Public Market for a couple treats to go. The perfect recipe for a lazy morning.
Lux is the rare place that can serve a good cup of coffee and a mean microbrew under the same roof. The atmosphere is a bit chaotic, but the recent expansion has ushered in much more room for seating, in addition to a more expansive menu that far exceeds basic pastries. (Although we're still a sucker for a scone with our morning coffee.) As the day goes on we're still happy with a perfect Velvet mocha (with a pretty little design swirled atop, natch), but we like to switch gears to something heartier like Lux's mac and cheese with bacon and jalapenos. There's always plenty of seating for socializing with an old friend, going solo with a laptop, or just kicking back and enjoying some Grade A people watching.
2. Jobot Coffee
Where else can you get an iced toddy and a nutella crepe at 3 in the morning? After the bars shut down on Friday and Saturday, Jobot is still going strong. Regardless of when you choose to get your caffeine fix, Jobot's beans (a custom roast from Cartel) are sure to please. If you can skip the coffee on your next trip, give the fresh chai a try with brewed black tea poured over honey and spices with your choice of soy or milk. And although the crepes get a lot of love (we're suckers for the Canadian bacon, smoked turkey, eggs, swiss, and raspberry jam), the scones are huge, fresh, and just as crazy good. Kick it on Jobot's spacious patio or take your to-go cup and roam some art galleries. Either way you win.
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1. Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe
For all of its flaws (sometimes spotty service, pretentious baristas, ambient music played jarringly loud), there's really no competition. We just can't quit you, Cartel. There's a reason independent businesses proudly display your brand of beans on their menus. You know your coffee (and we're crossing our fingers that your microbrews are just as good). The coffee and ambiance attracts hipsters, college students, and 9-5 office drones in equal measures. The hip, industrial setting with mix 'n' match second-hand tables, oversized couches, and local art galore is perfect for meeting friends, getting some work done, or simply people watching. Tell the baristas what you're looking for in a brew and they'll recommend the perfect roast, or order up a basic espresso drink (no fancy schmancy syrups and flavorings here).
It's as close to coffee perfection as you're likely to get here in the Valley. Well played, Cartel. Well played.