I found this place during my internet search for coffee in Arizona – there were a couple of places I thought worth trying in Sedona, all had a state highway type address and when we got to the Sedona area with lots of little pockets of shops and houses around I had no idea how I’d find these places, especially being at the mercy of the bus tour and not much cell phone reception. So I was pretty excited when we pulled into the strip of shops that had Pink Java Cafe that I’d jotted down. A fairly stunning location.
Wasn’t sure the other places in town offered much hope (shallow I know, judging this book by it’s cover without even seeing the book!)
It was joined to a large jeep tour outfit, Pink Jeep Tours so I was a little suspicious but any doubts about it turning into a pump-it-out-no-matter-the-taste-or-technique kind of place were set aside when I saw they still had the much raved about on review sites I’d seen pink La Marzocco – a Lammy usually always signals someone who wants to and typically is doing it right.
Barista girl who appeared from nowhere with a scowl held promise if it weren’t for the matching pink shirt and logo – other than Fuel who does it with class, you don’t typically see baristas in uniforms. Tattoos, hats, attitudes yes, but not uniforms. I paid my $3.25 (the hope roller coaster reared up again, price was in ballpark) and started scanning the cup stack for the 8oz’s but was swiftly denied when the pink girl barked “16oz?” (and there goes the roller coaster down again). What? 16oz? Why is that a question? Is there something bigger? I stammered “Ahhh, just the smallest cup you’ve got thanks.” No such luck. Look at the size of it – I almost had to pick it up with two hands! That smile is for the camera …
Of course the coffee was weak and certainly not the regulation Blue Bottle 22g of freshly ground coffee – it was whatever got dumped out of the grinder which wasn’t enough. At least it wasn’t scouring hot. I drank about 4 oz. But I loved sitting there with the cookie I’d wrapped up and saved from the lunch buffet and the orange rocks in the background
Oh wow. What a find. I did my usual research before we headed out to Arizona (based in Scottsdale for JSConf) – obviously I had packed my awesome travel kit as well – but after a quick look around found that Arizonians (?) have a bit of a coffee culture – thanks to this site Arizona Coffee I knew I’d find good a cappuccino somewhere! Most places I think you have to drive to, but I was pleased to see the #72 bus went in front of our hotel and reasonably close to 2 places … although in the end we walked.
Cartel Coffee was actually suggested to me on Twitter by the new barista Nick at Elite Audio Cafe when I tweeted that I needed some recommendations for Arizona. If a barista is suggesting a place it must be good! Their website had all the right signs including this great video narrated by the founder which has some fantastic speech bubble-style captions over the barista while she’s making an espresso.
We almost didn’t get there though because Google pinned the wrong spot when we looked at the map – we were traipsing around in the suburbs looking for it on 5th Street instead of 5th Ave! After front yards (with cactuses!) and people doing Sunday chores and twitching curtains didn’t give way a little commercial neighborhood with a coffee shop in it, we took another look at Google and realized we were deep in suburbia! By now we were miles from the bus so we plotted the route to walk – again no footpaths because everyone drives (hence the twitching curtains as people looked at these aliens in their street) and it didn’t take too long to get to the start of 5th Ave through Old Town Scottsdale. As we were wandering along the start of 5th Ave a guy talking to someone in the doorway of a shop called out “Hey, you guys want a ride somewhere? That’s my truck just there, plenty of room.” So friendly. So so axe-murdery! Told you people just don’t walk in that town. And it wasn’t even that hot so it was actually not a bad day for a walk … except I was getting desperate for the coffee by now!
Eventually we came upon it – and to our annoyance discovered that the #72 bus that we’d taken at the start of the trip actually went really close to the part of 5th Ave that we needed to be at! Grrrr. Anyway – the walk was so worth it! We stepped into the place and apart from their orange doors, knew it would be good. Cool tables dotted around the place, people using Macs, some even plugged into the power so hanging around was definitely an option, glass cabinet and cake plates of pastries, cool hipster dudes behind the counter, an iPad register with Square dongle attached and a lovely little single group La Marzocco.
The coffee was divine. Wonderful caramel roast with milk like velvet. When the register dude delivered the coffee he said it was the barista’s first Rosetta – what a momentous occasion for him – I made sure I grabbed a photo!
The peanut butter cookie was amazing too – not too big so that half each was just a nice taste and half price because it was late afternoon Happy Hour! I was happy that’s for sure!
When we left I made sure to go and tell them our San Francisco barista had recommended we go there and that I would report back that his recommendation was spot on – that coffee was up there with the best I’ve had in the States. I ended up going back to the cafe (easy to find by myself in the end) a couple of times, I never saw those guys again but every different person that made coffee was fantastic. There seemed to be a group of regulars who went in there, the baristas knew them by name including an older couple in walking gear who must’ve had a morning circuit that involved a coffee stop.
Thank you Cartel Coffee! Thank you for being in an unlikely place like Scottsdale Arizona – and as the founder says on the video, they just weren’t sure if serving a 180 degree drink (82*C) in 120 degree heat (49*C) was going to be successful but I say yes!
Such an amazing orange place! After driving a couple of hours through the desert from Scottsdale where we were staying, orange rocks and canyons start to appear – and they really are orange. A high concentration of somethingorotheroxide … whatever rust is! I was on a bus tour for the wives while husbands were at JSConf and the bus driver took us to a few different view points below and above the rocks and for lunch and a spot of shopping in Sedona.
So the rocks were amazing but the bus trip had its moments. Way more people than the wives’ bus trip last year had kids and they yahooed and screamed on the bus for 2 hours, one woman got motion sickness and kept throwing up in the bathroom at back of the bus right near where I was sitting. It was basically the nightmare trifecta for me – bad cellphone reception (it was the desert after all), screaming kids licking the windows and wanting to play peek-a-boo with me (I maintained a stare and pretended I was European and didn’t speak English so didn’t understand what they were saying … although I’m sure “hello. hello! Hello!! HELLO!! HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO!! translates in any language) and someone vomiting after we all ate lunch at the same place. As soon as I got off the bus I jumped in the shower to scrub myself clean then drank a liter of bottled water. I survived. But didn’t go on the wife activities the next day. I worked in the coffee shop and beside the pool
My first trip to the desert came and went without me melting from the heat – a great time of year to go with temperatures in the high 20′s (C) during the day and around 10 at night. The Mister was attending JSConf (the same conference that was in Portland last year that we went to) so I went along for a change of scenery.
Scottsdale is very near the much larger, well known Phoenix (where the airport is) and it was a great town/city! In the middle of the desert these towns just sprawl with patches of irrigated green.
I didn’t realize I would be so excited to see a cactus growing in it’s natural habitat – I practically squealed the first time I saw one. Didn’t see one with the perfect 2 arms like this one:
They just grow on the side of road, in traffic islands, people’s front lawns and beside the canal in town – so cool!
A very chatty taxi driver told us all about them and I was fascinated!
they live for about 300 years
the ‘arms’ don’t grow out until 75 years
they only grown in that fairly concentrated area in Arizona, and in fact they stopped about an hour out of town when we traveled north to Sedona
some of the smaller ones look very cute and soft to touch but aren’t – very hard and spiky and one bit The Mister!
there’s a law against molesting them (yes that’s the official term) that carries a $10,000 fine – only Native American Indians are allowed to – I actually think this means cut bits off for medicinal purposes etc
Scottsdale was quite different in that no-one was around, everyone drives, no pedestrians, except us walking to town and on the way we saw no mail boxes (quite a feat to find somewhere to mail Father’s birthday card), no trash cans, and a huge shopping mall with underground parking or valet so you only have to take 3 steps in the heat from the door of the car to the door of the store.
When I wasn’t visiting the orange rocks in Sedona I worked in a fantastic coffee shop we found, Coffee Cartel, and beside the pool eating pineapple and strawberries. Might be worth an annual visit – only a couple of hours away by plane.
Bad sound quality but I was rather embarrassed sitting on the cafe’s patio recording myself … I was the strangest girl on the bus tour I’m sure so talking to oneself probably acceptable, but still, I was muttering and not projecting. Sedona is COOL – more photos later.