Photo courtesy of Press Coffee Roasters
The Arizona desert—especially the chic resort town of Scottsdale—has long brought to mind spas, pools, and golf courses, plus a place to score fine art or a pair of cowboy boots.
In recent years, this stylish city east of Phoenix has morphed into an unlikely destination for cool cafés and cutting-edge coffee roasters. In addition to coffee shops opening throughout Old Town Scottsdale, the waterfront, and shopping centers, the city of 250,000 residents has continued to welcome restaurants, winery tasting rooms, and boutiques selling apparel and other lifestyle goods.
Fortunately, that mid-century modern design everyone who travels to Scottsdale falls in love with hasn’t been compromised by the new crop of cafés; several iconic resorts have implemented specialty coffee programs to appeal to visitors and locals alike. Last year, Hotel Valley Ho—a reimagined 1956 property that once welcomed stars like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Janet Leigh—opened a new café concept: ZuZu serves bottomless cups of coffee, donut sundaes, and breakfast burritos against a backdrop of smooth rock walls and turquoise Danish-style dining chairs. And at Mountain Shadows, in Scottsdale’s Paradise Valley, they craft coffee and espresso drinks from Press Coffee Roasters’ beans, along with serving nitro cold-brew on tap, which helps guests contend with the desert heat.
Apart from the boutique mid-century resorts, here are several noteworthy cafés putting Scottsdale’s coffee scene on the map.
Cartel Coffee Lab
Snug on East 5th Avenue in Old Town Scottsdale, this is one of the coffee roaster’s eight locations. The storefront is marked by tomato-red paint trim, while its hand-painted lettering is in a soft gold. With communal-style seating born out of welded pipes and long wooden boards, the vibe is grungy-meets-glam at this café. The beer-on-tap menu is written in chalk on a chalkboard, while ceiling fans whiz beneath the rough-hewn wood ceiling. Given the desert climate, iced drinks are a popular order here. In fact, Cartel’s Black Market cold-brew coffee is now available in cans, as of last summer.
Since 2008, when Amy and Jason Silberschlag opened their first café in Tempe, with a focus on single-origin coffee, they’ve expanded to locations in Phoenix, Tucson, Palm Springs, and Austin, along with Scottsdale. Three years ago, they rolled out an online subscription for their roasted coffee beans, called Cartel Edition. To further help spread the word about the brand, Cartel Coffee Lab also hires brand advocates, rewarding them with free coffee and merchandise, plus a first look at new products, in exchange for promoting on social media accounts.
This cute and sunny—not to mention tiny—café in Old Town Scottsdale gets raves for its Instagrammable blue Synesso espresso machine, floral patterned wallpaper, and funky black-and-white tile beneath the bar, above which black pendant lights help cultivate a Parisian feel.
Owner Jonathan Madrigal, a native of Costa Rica, opened Berdena’s in 2017 to be a destination of “fine coffee and food.” With specialty lattes like cardamom rose and honey lavender providing nice detours from traditional flavors, Berdena’s also elevates classic breakfast and brunch food: its smashed avocado toast was voted by Phoenix New Times as the region’s best in 2017 (no small feat, as health-conscious dining is the norm here), and the signature Berdena’s Breakfast Sandwich piles hand-carved ham, a fried egg, cheddar, arugula, tomato, house-made chipotle aioli, and avocado on a brioche bun.
Schmooze Workspace and Cafe
This café with a snarky name feeds right into the current trend of coworking spaces. Those who are self-employed or work remotely frequent the space for either meetings or solo work time. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends. Owner Steve Simonelli, who debuted Schmooze in 2018, wanted to create a place with not only communal opportunities but also grab-and-go drinks and food. Located in Old Town Scottsdale, it plays off of the neighborhood’s growing energy that includes Art Walks on Thursday evenings.
Beverage options include a wet or dry cappuccino, Ethiopian espresso (with strawberry and chocolate flavor notes), or specialty coffee brewed on the Alpha Dominche Steampunk. A simple cup of coffee can be prepared drip, cold-brewed, or nitro. The food menus provide a wide array of options, including croque madame and croque monsieur sandwiches or the quirky named “divorced eggs” (flour tortilla with eggs, black beans, pico de gallo, and red and green chili sauce) for breakfast, and salads, burgers, tacos, or a plethora of sandwiches, like the “Bodacious BLT” or Reuben, for lunch.
Press Coffee Roasters
A favorite coffee for restaurant wholesale accounts in the greater Phoenix area, Press Coffee Roasters’s eight café locations include two in Scottsdale: on the waterfront and within Scottsdale Quarter, an outdoor shopping mall. With a continued focus on educating customers, Press offers “Coffee 101” classes at both Scottsdale locations. These one-hour classes ($20, advance registration encouraged) provide an interactive way for customers to learn more about coffee regions and flavors as they cup a variety of coffees.
This past summer, the company opened The Roastery, a two-story, 5,600-square-foot flagship roastery café in northeast Phoenix, to fulfill roasting orders of 250,000 pounds of coffee each year. At the old production facility, ready-to-drink cans of their cold-brewed coffee are packaged, a clear sign that cold brew is hot in Arizona. Press Coffee Roasters has also found success operating cafés inside modernized, new-construction apartment buildings, including the Nexa Apartments and SkyWater Apartments in Tempe, and Muse Apartments in Phoenix.