They recently broke ground on Grant Road for the new casino that’s moving in. The old theater that once stood for decades is just a dusty rubble memory. Now, we wait for what could be a complete reinvention of that desolate area near I-10. Although, one curious corner coffee shop has been gracefully serving some of the best brews in Tucson for over three years now.
Most likely you’ve driven past it on your way to or from the freeway (that’s always been my experience with the place). A slight glance to my right or left and there it was, Blessed Grounds. I’d usually keep driving but that all changed on one particular day.
It was early and the late morning was proving to be overcast with a hint of having to wear a hoodie. Finally giving into my curiosity about this coffee shop I had passed by so many times, I parked the car and stepped into Blessed Grounds.
Okay, wow. Why hadn’t I stopped in here before? The space is small but extremely clean and streamlined. A full coffee bar is set up on the left with bags of house-roasted coffees, tins of teas, and Blessed Grounds merchandise dotting the comfortable seating area. The interior is only slightly deceived by its exterior. Is this a chain coffee concept? It’s almost too nice not to be.
To find out what the coffee is all about, I ordered something fairly basic to make sure they have the foundation to build on a return visit. A double shot cappuccino was the decision. When it arrived, embellished with a foamy flower, I was impressed with the complexity of the espresso.
Rich, bold, with a little sweetness and an earthy underbite — it was great. So they probably get their beans wholesale from some major label. Nope.
General manager Amy Prillaman explained that they do all of their roasting in-house and purchase beans from fair trade farms across the globe. I thought to myself that there was no way they do all of the roasting there in such a tight spot.
She then led me back to a large warehouse area attached to the coffee bar. Flags from bags adorn the walls of the space — Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Honduras, etc. — as well as sacks of unroasted coffee on stacked shelves. There, in the center of it all, was the roaster itself. It’s not a big fellow at all but one that has been built especially for Blessed Grounds.
“You sure you’re not a chain?”
Blessed Grounds was actually founded on a vision. Owner and founder Jared Wright was traveling through California when the image of coffee roasters and hands cupped together holding beans popped into his head. He also saw lines going across the map of America, giving him the idea that, through the means of coffee, we could all come together in peace and harmony. Wright, being a reasonable person, really didn’t know what to make of all that. Although his faith led him to a small corner of Tucson to open up a coffee spot that could indeed unite us all.
Prillaman informed me that the tour she was giving wasn’t just set aside for curious food writers. At any time, the staff at Blessed Grounds would be more than happy to give you the grand run of the facilities as they are beyond proud of what they do. Better yet, Blessed Grounds offers classes on what real coffee is, how it is processed, roasted, and later ground up to become lattes, mochas, espresso, and even a big ol’ cup of well-needed morning Joe.
My time with Prillaman really opened me up to the various facets of coffee production. In my time, I have worked as a barista for both corporate and private coffee nuances, so I kind of thought I knew it all. Not even close. I had no clue that if a certain bean is roasted a certain way an element of tomato taste could sparkle the palette. Tomato. Have you ever had tomato come through in your morning brew? Exactly.
Then, there is all of the charity work.
Blessed Grounds is definitely one of those places that practices what it preaches. They routinely donate 5% of their retail income to charitable organizations, most notably Casa de los Niños, Operation Resource Arizona, and Teen Challenge of Arizona to name a few. In cooperation with Gap Ministries, Blessed Grounds has helped those in need or in recovery, providing a safe place to turn to. There’s a multi-billion dollar coffee empire named after a goddess that does a fraction of what Blessed Grounds does. So, amen to that and them.
The back warehouse isn’t just for storage and roasting some of the best coffee in the 520 — oh no! On more than various occasions, that space will open up to live music, dances, community meetings, and fundraising rallies. They roll up the large sliding door, strike up the band or DJ booth, and invite the surrounding community in for a good time.
You’re amped up on all of that coffee so you might as well dance it off.
Coffee is just one aspect of Blessed Grounds as I was more than thrilled to sample their varieties of house-blended teas. One of my favorites has to be the Southern Belle, a loose green tea that sits happily along the essence of peach, orange, and ginger. This one is good either hot or cold, as is the Desert Paradise which exults rose, hibiscus, apricot, lavender, and cornflowers.
Winter is still here but spring is on the way with the parched promise of summer right behind, and their teas will comfort and quench in any temperature, any time of day.
To make your experience at Blessed Grounds even more divine is a confection, either house baked or provided by a nearby friend, for dipping purposes or to sit next to your cup. The daily assortment changes on the regular so visiting them is sort of like being part of a surprise party thrown just for you. Cranberry scone? Chocolate chip cookie? Muffin? No matter the batter, the treats will inspire rainbow sprinkles to fall from the sky.
Now that I am familiar with Blessed Grounds, it will definitely be a go-to stop when on that stretch of Grant Road — where not much seems to exist. As the construction is underway for that casino, those who are working on it that need a good pick-me-up need only look across the street. Delicious coffee, creative drinks, tasty teas, and sweet bites await them, you, me, and everyone in between.
It’s as if we asked for something just like that in an area once devoid of caffeinated salvation. It looks like our prayers have been answered.
Blessed Grounds is open 6 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday, and located at 902 W. Grant Rd. For more information, visit blessedgrounds.com or follow Blessed Grounds on Facebook and Instagram.
Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...