Hot! Caffeine Scene: Phoenix

Does anyone think it’s strange that the Girl From Arizona doesn’t write about Arizona? Outside of climbing, I don’t write about my adopted state. I figure there are other blogs that do a much better job of that. Still, all the things I seek out when I travel are suddenly popping up in my backyard. Phoenix is becoming both an established beer city AND a coffee town. While beer events are plentiful, coffee shops are also jumping into the mix with a number of activities that are helping everyone understand just what it is that makes the local culture so great.

Seed to Cup
August 13 – 15
I’m lucky enough to have one of the pioneers of the Phoenix bean scene a short bike ride away from my house. While I may joke about the too-cool-for-school hipsters at Cartel Coffee Lab, there’s no denying that it serves up some amazing espressos. It also has a team of baristas who can balance the fine line between Portlandia pretension and passionate education.

This weekend, that education is formalized into three classes explaining how coffee gets from the farm to your cup. The sessions start with Origins – explaining how coffee is grown, sourced and affected by its terrain – continue with roasting and brewing – where you’ll actually get to participate in roasting Cartel’s beans – then ends on Monday night with a tasty lesson on aroma and flavor. At this last session, you’ll compare flavor profiles with beers and wines.

As a new coffee drinker, I’m looking forward to learning how to better describe and understand what I like about coffees from different regions and different ways to prepare drinks. The chance to compare that to what I love about beer and wine is a total bonus! There are still a few spaces left for sessions, and you can register here.

SW Latte Art Competition
September 3
This is a fun competition where some seriously skilled baristas not only pull great coffee shots, but then top them off with a delicate design of milk and foam. For the second year, the Latte Art “Throwdown” is a chance to see just how they do it. It’s also a part of Phoenix Cooks – a day of restaurant samplings, sessions and demos. These latte art throwdowns are a somewhat regular occurrence at individual coffee shops, but they appeal more to the regulars than general public. By adding it into a more widespread “foodie” event, even more people have the chance to learn a little bit about coffee and local shops.

Coffee Week
September 5-11
Everyone knows how much I love Beer Weeks – celebrations not just from a city’s breweries but by all businesses and people who love their local suds. So I was just as excited to hear Phoenix would be having a Coffee Week. What a great way for people to learn about coffee and visit local shops, for chefs to get creative with some coffee recipes and breweries to serve up some coffee stouts. From what I can tell, there has only been one other city-wide Coffee Week in London. UK Coffee Week set a high bar on the potential of what a coffee week could be and Phoenix has an opportunity to set an equally high standard on this side of the pond. For now, though, it looks like Coffee Week is primarily a fundraising event for Phoenix Children’s Hospital with only a few of our local shops participating. Here’s a caffeinated plea to let it become even more. Make the Latte Art Competition an informal the kick off to the week. Open the doors to everyone to create their own coffee events, regardless of a fundraising tie. I think our first Arizona Beer Week is proof to how creative and supportive Arizona can be for its hometown businesses. Now is the time Arizona: Coffee Lovers Unite!

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  1. Oooh, that Seed to Cup thing sounds cool! What are your go-to coffee drinks? I always get a cappuccino at Cartel – they do it really well.

    One of the characters who helped me get a good handle on tasting espresso is John from Jobot. Drop in there sometime on a weekday morning and you’ll find him. He’s extremely entertaining and likes his rock climbing.

  2. Thanks for the Jobot referral Justin! I haven’t been there yet but it looks like a chill place to meet and work. I’m a macchiato drinker, but am thinking about dropping the milk and going straight espresso. Also hoping to learn more about brewing at the Seed to Cup so I can have the occasional “walk around with” cup.