Phoenix—the fifth most populous city in the United States—has worked hard to forge a balance between urbanism and rurality. It is a metropolis, but one whose main attraction may be the great outdoors nearby. As the city continues to grow, Phoenix has seen generations of people committed to staying here joined by a new influx of young people with a mind to quality food and drink. These newcomers tend to see the city as ripe for innovation, and in synthesis with the city’s appreciation for nature, have shaped a movement known as New Arizonan. Over the last few years, this emerging ethos has churned out its fair share of renowned brewers, chefs, and mixologists. In the midst of aggressively growing food and craft beer scenes, Phoenix coffee, too, has quietly begun to come into its own—feeling now more than ever like it’s on the verge of a boom. Below are a few cafes that have been at the forefront of the culture and which should be watched for new developments.
Peixoto Coffee Roasters
Having just celebrated its fourth anniversary, Peixoto has grown from a small-scale family operation into a clear leader in the Phoenix coffee scene. The shop is located a bit far from downtown Phoenix, but any understanding of the coffee community here would be lacking without visiting one of its few standout roasters.
The cafe is named after the owners’ family, which owns Fazenda Sao José da Boa Vista, the Brazilian farm that the cafe sources the majority of its coffee from. Other origins are highlighted on AeroPress, Saint Anthony C70, and Chemex on a pour-over bar, but the batch-brew and espresso offerings are almost always sourced from the family farm.
Peixoto serves the most eclectic menu on this list, featuring classic espresso drinks of all sizes, gelato options like the nitro float, rotating flavored tonics, seasonal concoctions, and Spirit Teas. They also offer pastries from different local bakers depending on the day, including local (and vegan) favorite, Sugarloaf Lane.
Everything from the design of the cafe to barista-customer interactions resonates with the company’s mission to go beyond Fair Trade. This mission is furthered by a commitment to sharing the values of their business with customers and creating a community that appreciates the Peixoto product as much as the family itself.
Located at the epicenter of Phoenix’s arts community, Futuro is a beautiful cafe in Roosevelt Row. Whereas some cafes focus on decoration as a way to express their concept, Futuro’s intensely minimalist aesthetic provides a canvas for the real slant of the shop: owner Jorge Ignacio Cortez’s passions. As such, the cafe has gone through several focused iterations. Previously serving 49th Parallel, then La Cabra Coffee Roasters, and now Heart Coffee Roasters, these coffees have each seen a different phase of Futuro’s life. A few years ago, Futuro tended to be seen as the shop that was too cool for you. Now it has settled into a more balanced approach.
What once was all-white-everything now sees baristas in black, deep green house plants, the occasional clothing brand pop-up, and a colorful food program headed by Cortez’s aunt, Isabel Cristina Cervantes Gutiérrez. The kitchen team—Gutiérrez, Cortez, and Lydon LaJoie—achieve a natural marriage between the food and coffee, connecting the two through care and awareness of tradition. On my last visit, there were two washed offerings from Heart: a Guatemala Rosma and a Colombia El Salado, served alongside house-made conchas. The unlikely patchwork and sheer quality of product make Futuro a destination in the Phoenix coffee scene.
Kream, not unlike Futuro, is a design lover’s dream. It is an unassuming kiosk set inside For the People, which sells modern furniture, home goods, and more. However, featuring roasters such as Camber Coffee, Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, George Howell Coffee, and most recently Sey Coffee, this stand offers something completely out of the ordinary for the Phoenix scene.
For the People is set up as a menagerie of luxury. As a result, even when there are more than a few people in the building they are usually all dispersed amongst the spacious store’s various departments, browsing everything from fine art to jewelry to bicycles. There is no sense of the speed of life outside. This means that Kream’s baristas are able to offer a superb customer experience at any given time at a relaxed pace.
Serving a no-frills menu of black or white espresso, drip coffee, and cold brew, the stand has a clear focus on simple greatness. Their drip rotates frequently (sometimes at a barista’s discretion) with the espresso changing every few weeks. On my last visit I had a washed Ethiopia Reko from Kuma Coffee that was served in a beautiful Eunbi Cho mug. The shop does not offer pour-overs, so you can’t visit in search of a particular coffee, but you are sure to get something delicious.
Nestled in the historic and touristy neighborhood of Old Town Scottsdale, Berdena’s fits right in with its boutique neighbors. The cafe is modern and sleek, yet welcoming and filled with natural light. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround a sun-soaked white interior, the shop’s iconic blue three-group Synesso Hydra standing out as a stylish centerpiece.
Another standout multi-roaster cafe, Berdena’s serves a variety of domestic and international coffees, like Morgon Coffee Roasters from Gothenburg, Sweden and local nano-roastery (and one of our secret gems) Obsidian Coffee.
Like most cafes in the area, Berdena’s boasts a sophisticated food program. The menu includes the Phoenix New Times’ “best avocado toast,” a daily quiche, and their newest, Berdena’s breakfast sandwich. This is all in addition to fresh pastries and artisan chocolates from Pump Street, Mayana, and others.
Also worth checking out:
Cartel Coffee Lab, Pair Cupworks, Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters, Obsidian, Mythical Coffee
Any comprehensive Phoenix list would be incomplete without a mention of Cartel Coffee Lab. Often credited with igniting Phoenix’s specialty scene, these coffee giants have done an exceptional job at scaling their company values: highlighting the narratives behind their single-origin coffees. (I recommend getting a rotating tap cold brew or any of their pour-over options.) Also due a fair shake is Infusion Coffee and Tea Crafters, the cafe arm of Patrick O’Malley’s International Barista Coffee Academy—a cafe with a staggering amount of offerings, from 15 single-origin coffees to bourbon-barrel-aged coffees to more than 47 varieties of tea. On the newer vanguard is Pair Cupworks, the small-time team effort of roaster Kimhak Em and ceramist/tea expert Eugenia Tai. Their coffee is served at occasional pop-up events and is available online. Their current lineup consists of single origins with names like “Fearlessly Balanced” and “Caramel Bomb”—among other playfully labeled coffees. Pair Cupworks and roasters like Obsidian and Mythical Coffee are all part of a new and exciting force in the Phoenix area, representing the next wave of our growing coffee culture.
Thomas Buchanan is a freelance journalist based in Phoenix. This is Thomas Buchanan’s first feature for Sprudge.
Photos by Kevin Fitzsimmons and Eric Hervey.
Top image via Adobe Stock/Dreamframer