25 November, 2020, 19:30

14 Picks for Coffee In & Around Downtown Tucson

For most people, myself included, the day doesn’t start until we’ve had our morning coffee.

If you live, work, or play anywhere along or near the Modern Streetcar route, you might have – or might not have (that’s what we’re here for) – noticed the wide variety of options for the beloved morning beverage.

In addition to all of the delicious coffee available, each cafe we spoke with featured incredible people behind the counter. Inspiring stories abounded and a central theme arose: a strong desire to offer the best coffee possible.

Here are 15 of the best options for coffee along the Streetcar route, including University Avenue, Fourth Avenue, and the downtown area. While it isn’t an exhaustive list, it highlights a community that is striving to provide Tucson a special experience with every cup of coffee it serves.

Cartel Coffee Lab

210 E. Broadway Boulevard
Cappucino at Cartel Coffee Lab

Cappucino at Cartel Coffee Lab

Cartel Coffee Lab’s downtown Tucson location has large floor to ceiling windows that invite you inside and an atmosphere that will make you want to stay for hours. Founded in Tempe, Cartel was inspired by a desire to bring high quality coffee to Arizona. The coffee is roasted in Tempe and is the result of direct trade from all over the world. You can get specialty coffees to sit and enjoy in the store or a cup of the brewed coffee to go. All of the baked goods are made at the Campbell Avenue location and brought over fresh every morning. The scones are just perfect. Whether you decide to go sweet or savory, you cannot go wrong.

Hours: 7am – 8pm. For more information, visit cartelcoffeelab.com.

Caffé Luce

943 E. University Boulevard #191
Drip Coffee at Caffé Luce

Drip Coffee at Caffé Luce

Caffe Luce makes every effort to serve its customers the perfect cup of coffee. A roasting company and coffee shop, it specializes in small batch coffee roasting to develop signature blends. An extensive espresso menu lets you decide what exactly you are in the mood for. Whether it is a simple cup of Costa Rican medium roast coffee or an Azteca Mocha, you can taste the care and consideration taken to offer a great product. All of the employees are trained to create latte art so don’t be surprised if you feel the overwhelming urge to take an Instagram photo of your vanilla latte. Rumor has it that Caffe Luce also has a secret menu full of customer’s original creations.

Hours: M-Th, 7am – 10pm; F, 7am – 11pm; Sa, 8am – 11pm; Su, 9am – 7pm. For more information, visit caffeluce.com.

Café Passe

415 N. 4th Avenue
Drip Coffee from Cafe Passe

Drip Coffee from Cafe Passe

Café Passe mixes a coffee house atmosphere where you can spend hours studying, with a welcoming and beautiful patio to meet friends for a relaxing lunch and then gather for an after work happy hour. It’s adaptable, cozy and dog friendly. The coffee is sourced locally at Arbuckle’s Coffee, who provides a special espresso blend only available at Café Passe. The espresso drinks are carefully crafted and the menu is diverse. The Meso Mocha is spicy, not too sweet and will leave you wanting to go back for seconds. Many of the other espresso drinks are creations that have happened organically through regular customers and have names such as “The Bruce Lee” (espresso, sweetened condensed milk and coffee) or “The Al Pacino” (espresso, Irish cream syrup, chocolate and milk). If you are hungry, try the Grilled PB&J which features house-made peanut butter and jelly on your choice of bread.

Hours: 8am – 8pm. For more information, visit cafepasse.com.

Cup Café

311 E Congress
Cup Cafe Custom Blend from Arbuckle's

Cup Cafe Custom Blend from Arbuckle’s

In addition to being a local hot spot for all three meals and the centerpiece of downtown, The Cup Cafe doubles as the primary restaurant for Hotel Congress guests. And, to the Cup’s credit, they don’t opt for run of the mill drip or espresso. In the case of their drip coffee, The Cup Cafe features a custom Arbuckle’s blend that’s well balanced. They also offer a full range of espresso drinks. The Cup Cafe is a restaurant first, however, so if you go for a cup of joe, you’ll need to mosey up to the bar.

Hours: Opens at 7am daily. For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.

Epic Café

745 N 4th Avenue
Hot Drip Coffee at Epic Cafe

Hot Drip Coffee at Epic Cafe

Epic Café is one of the oldest shops on 4th Avenue and open to all kinds of customers. You can come as you are and enjoy the welcoming atmosphere full of local art, eclectic company and kind staff. The coffee is locally roasted at Exo Roasting and is a specialty blend only available at Epic. The beans are roasted twice a week and everything is brewed fresh to order. While you are there, make sure to try one of the baked goods. Pairing a latte with the cinnamon bread pudding is a winning combination.

Hours: 6am – 12am. For more information, visit epiccafe.com.

Exo Roast Company

403 N. 6th Avenue
Iced Brew from Exo Roast

Chiltepin Cold Brew from Exo Roast

Exo is doing it all; bringing in a variety of coffee beans from all over the world to be roasted locally, educating the Tucson community, operating an alluring shop and most importantly serving a special cup of coffee for every single customer. Exo has been working to make an impact on the coffee scene from its beginning three years ago. Every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. there is a free coffee cupping to taste different varieties and learn about all of the unique tasting notes of each. With so many options to try, a standout recommendation is the Chiltepin Cold Brew – a combination of chocolate and chiltepin pepper harvested in Mexico, it is served over ice with milk. It is spicy, rich and completely unexpected. Coffee at Exo is only sold in its simplest form, with all aspects being carefully monitored and controlled for its ideal taste.

Hours: 7am – 6pm. For more information, visit exocoffee.com.

Ike’s Coffee and Tea

100 N Stone Avenue
Ike's Coffee & Tea (Credit: Ike's)

Ike’s Coffee & Tea (Credit: Ike’s)

Whether you go downtown for work, jury duty or fun on a weekday, chances are you have found yourself at Ike’s at least once. It is home to a breakfast and lunch menu made with fresh ingredients, good flavor combinations and perfect to either eat there or get it to go. The coffee menu highlights the classics while mixing it up with seasonal flavors. A chalkboard behind the counter advertises the coffee specials that are constantly changing and always unique. The staff is friendly and willing to work with you to customize most things on the menu.

Hours: M – F, 7:30am – 5:30pm. For more information, visit Ike’s Coffee & Tea on Facebook.

Maynards Market

400 N. Toole Avenue
Maynards Coffee

Maynards Coffee

If you can’t make it over to Caffe Luce and aren’t in the mood for The Cup Cafe’s custom blend, Maynard’s uses Luce bean exclusively. They also offer a full range of espresso drinks, a lovely patio, and a decadent selection of baked goods. On a side note, Maynard’s Kitchen serves up a one of the best dinners in downtown Tucson in a super-intimate atmosphere in the historic train station.

Hours: M – Sa, 7am – 8pm; Su, 9am – 8pm. For more information, visit maynardstucson.com.

Pie Bird Bakery & Cafe

177 N. Church Avenue
Cappucino To-Go at Pie Bird Bakery & Cafe

Tucson Miel at Pie Bird Bakery & Cafe

Pie Bird opened its charming doors only a month ago, but feels like it has been in the Transamerica Building forever. It is warm, inviting and sells delicious coffee. Pie Bird brews coffee from local roasters Café Aqui. An impressive list of espresso drinks can be found on its menu, but pay special attention to the Tucson Miel. The sweet and comforting drink is made with steamed milk, honey and cinnamon. Don’t just limit yourself to the coffee menu, breakfast and lunch is also being served along side a rotating selection of house made pies.

Hours: 7am – 4pm. For more information, visit piebirdbakeryandcafe.com.

Revolutionary Grounds

606 N 4th Ave.
Mug o' Joe at Revolutionary Grounds

Mug o’ Joe at Revolutionary Grounds

Revolutionary Grounds is a full service coffee shop and bookstore. Dedicated to serving a quality product, the owners have carefully constructed a menu to reflect the values the store was built on – local, sustainable and socially conscious. Its coffee comes from two channels, Capulin Coffee and Gadsden Coffee. Capulin prides itself on its shade grown, hand sorted, sun dried coffee that pays its workers a living wage while also managing to create a superior product. Gadsen Coffee is located in Arivaca and focuses on fair trade, organic fresh coffee all roasted in small batches. Revolutionary Grounds believes in serving excellent ingredients but still making it affordable. The baked goods are all house made and vegan whenever possible. If you are lucky enough to visit on a day when the vegan carrot cake is being sold, make sure to get it. If owner and baker Joy Soler is in the store, be sure to ask her its history and watch her eyes light up telling you the story.

Hours: 8am – 8pm. For more information, visit revolutionarygroundsonline.com.

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Sparkroot

245 E Congress Street
Gibraltar at Sparkroot

Gibraltar at Sparkroot

Sparkroot is right on the streetcar route and a great example of the blossoming energy in downtown. It is a place to either grab a quick cup of coffee on your way into work or spend a few hours studying with friends. The breakfast and lunch menu both boast a great list of vegetarian options. One standout coffee choice is the Gibraltar. It’s a double shot of espresso with milk and will give you the boost you need to make it through your day.

Hours: M – Sa, 7am – 10pm; Su, 8am – 9pm. For more information, visit sparkroot.com.

Shot in the Dark

121 E Broadway Boulevard
Mug of Drip Coffee at Shot In the Dark

Mug of Drip Coffee at Shot In the Dark

This downtown staple is full of surprises. For starters, it is open 24 hours and brews a special dark roast from a local roaster, Icon Roasting. Not only is there more espresso per drink than the average coffee shop, you can get house made baked goods that often are vegan and gluten free. The café operates as a co-op and is 100% employee owned. Everyone has an equal vote and all decisions are made that way. The pride the employees have in their store radiates from behind the counter.

Hours: 24/7.  For more information, visit Shot In The Dark Cafe on Facebook

Stella Java

100 South Avenida del Convento #180
Cappucino at Stella Java

Cappucino at Stella Java

Stella Java is in the bustling Mercado San Agustin and serves coffee roasted at its sister company, Presta Coffee Roasters. The people behind both businesses are dedicated to offering coffee that is the result of sustainable farming and direct trade. It all comes from a single origin and is usually featured for approximately three to six months. This allows the staff to get to know the beans well and let the flavor shine. On top of the coffee drinks and organic milk, Stella Java also has house made syrups. Whether you are going to the farmer’s market, catching the streetcar or just looking for a place to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, this little shop is worth checking out.

Hours: Opens at 7am daily. For more information, visit stellajava.com.

Time Market

444 E University Boulevard
Americano from Time Market

Americano from Time Market

Time Market has an assortment of specialty beers, wine, pizza, sandwiches and produce. It also serves a rotating list of coffee from different roasters. Time Market looks for roasters to work with who take pride in what they do. There is typically a featured roaster, changing about once a week. This not only gives the customers a chance to experience a wide variety of coffee, but also builds relationships with the national and global coffee community. With a focus on espresso drinks, the goal is to make the coffee beans shine and to give its customers a positive experience drinking the kind of coffee they want.

Hours: 7:30am – 10pm. For more information, visit facebook.com/TimeMarketTucson

Jennifer Rothschild is an aspiring freelance food writer by night.

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