Cartel Coffee Lab is a fantastic local roaster with several locations throughout Southern Arizona, including 2 in Tucson. Additionally, a number of cafes and restaurants throughout Phoenix and Tucson now serve this delicious coffee. Since opening in 2008 in Tempe, Cartel has been known for offering some of the best single origin coffee in Arizona.
If you live in the area and have not tried it yet, what are you waiting for? Drop the Starbucks and enjoy a cup of the wonderful strong & flavorful, non bitter coffee at Cartel.
Cartel sources its' beans throughout the world, specifically focusing on unique & green coffees. Cartel specifically roasts their beans to bring out the natural flavors. Their signature Black Market Espresso changes seasonally and it always smooth and flavorful. The coffee is always bold with nice sweet hints of chocolate. It's really delicious and never has that gross burnt and bitter taste of the big chains. Even those who cannot handle black coffee typically enjoy the sweeter tasting coffee at Cartel.
I typically always order the Americano - the espresso is always perfectly pulled with a nice crema layer. They always make the drinks by pouring the water in first, then adding the shots, which creates a nicer crema layer and creates a stronger, more flavorful drink in my opinion. I've had their drip coffee on many occassions and it is always perfect no matter the location.
Cartel serves traditional espresso drinks as well as cold brew and pour over. There really are not a whole lot of fancy sugary drinks on the menu, however, I have tried their mocha and it is delicious as well with no fake sugary flavors. If you are not a coffee drinker, they offer a variety of loose leaf teas from Seven Cups, a wonderful local authentic Chinese tea shop known to carry some of the best in the country. They also offer a large selection of craft beers. I have never tried the Aeropress, although it is supposed to produce the smoothest cup of coffee.
In addition to coffee, Cartel offers some pretty tasty pastries and treats each morning. I recommend trying the homemade quiche or coffee cake, if available.
Service at Cartel is typically always fantastic. The great thing about Cartel is that the coffee and service are always consistent. I have visited several locations throughout Arizona and the coffee is always consistently good, proving that they have a great barista training program.
The vibe at the newer Cartel location downtown is hip and trendy. The seating area is very spacious and the decor is modern and attractive. There are lots of big windows so you can enjoy your cup while you take in the sights downtown.
In Southern Arizona, it's often to hot to even think of drinking coffee. On the other hand, visiting a local coffeeshop is a nice way to escape the brutal heat for a bit. Cartel offers an attractive spacious layout unlike any other shop in the area. When its' too hot to do much else, consider a relaxing afternoon drinking perfectly brewed coffee in a great setting.