A Guide to Tempe Coffee Shops
Patrick O’Malley was working at a deli and cafe on the island of Maui in Hawaii when during one fateful shift, he got the chance to repair a broken espresso maker. Not long thereafter, he decided to quit that job, move back to Arizona, and launch a business selling and maintaining these espresso machines he had become so fascinated with. By 2015, following the sale of his first venture, an escapade into wholesaling fine java beans, and receiving a diploma from the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, Patrick finally felt ready to open his very own Tempe coffee shop gloriously named Infusion Coffee & Tea.
A sea of espresso mugs that have been collected from all over decorates Infusion’s back wall that’s made of purposefully placed vintage wooden planks. This coffee bar at the end of the world interior goes hand in hand with a good-vibes tropical setting out front; we’re talking slender palms, some character-ridden red-brick patio flooring, and of course, any of Arizona’s markedly vibrant sunsets to the sky. Combine these attributes with optimally spaced and occasionally more private seating arrangements, their close proximity to Arizona State University’s campus, and ethically sourced, globally cherished java beans, and you may be hard-pressed to discover a more desirable study setting in the valley.
What started as a passion project to create a place where people could put down their phone and connect over a cup of coffee while enjoying a beloved childhood board game, has evolved into much more than your standard Tempe coffee shop. The merriment sanctuary that is Snakes & Lattes houses over 1,000 games, and for just $5 per person, guests get unlimited access to any title from aged to modern for the entire day! That’s not to mention, on weekends, there are “game gurus” in the building who are more than happy to answer any questions or even recommend an optimal experience tailored for your group.
Their coffee is fresh and locally roasted, although, at the same time, a diverse selection of craft beers exclusively sourced from Arizona breweries is readily available. Then there’s the full bar’s wholesome menu, a tantalizing catalog chalked full of glitzy mimosa flights, fine wines, espresso-induced cocktails like Yesterday’s Remedy, and trendy takes on timeless classics such as the Old Fashioned.
When Steve Kraus and his wife Tram Mai opened the first Press Coffee house in 2008, the great recession left them with little more than their exceptionally sourced beans and an aesthetically brilliant ambiance to depend on. Both of those honest qualities, along with a phenomenal staff, not only navigated the shop through an era marred by financial hardship but would also lead to substantial growth that today amounts to eight locations throughout the valley. This grand canyon state native also dishes out a pretty mean breakfast burrito or, if something lighter sounds more appealing, give the mouth-watering bacon and egg avocado toast a try.
Initially operating within the purview of a modest stall at St. Joes Hospital, Xtreme Bean has since graduated from the coffee kiosk game and is now recognized as one of the best independently owned coffee shops in Tempe, Arizona. Funky colorful shapes hang from the ceiling above, overlooking the plentiful seating that dapples this cafe which also features stained glass windows, a knowledge-filled bookshelf, photos of local musicians on the walls, and a piano tucked cozily in one corner for passersby to share some undeniably familiar melody with fellow patrons.
Not only does their menu boast smooth coffee blends that are delicious whether served hot or iced, but there’s also superb Portofino espresso, along with a myriad of tantalizing blended beverages like the Mocha X, an amalgamation infused with Ghiradelli dark chocolate, rich cream, and choco shavings. Don’t forget to do your taste buds a favor by enjoying an egg-stream bagel sandwich or baked breakfast burrito.
Originally imagined to be nothing but a roaster of the best coffees, Cartel first opened in 2008. As a result of ever-increasing foot traffic flowing through their operation, founders, Jason and Amy Silberschlag quickly realized they needed to start building some furniture for these folks so guests could hang out and talk about the coffee they were enjoying, and at some point during that process, a cafe model took shape.
Now featuring 7 carefully procured locations, including a single coffee shop in Tempe, Cartel Coffee Lab has become one of the most formidable and dependable boutique java brands in the state of Arizona – they’ve also recently expanded into California and Texas.
Steve’s Espresso radiates with fantastical charm, so park your rump in any one of their fairytale-castle-worthy, hand-crafted wooden chairs and prepare to drift away to a chandelier-lit realm rampant with jovial purple tones. The fare here exhibits just as much craftsmanship as the extraordinary layout, featuring house favorites made from scratch, including but not limited to: precisely crisped toast, sweet fruity jams, gooey chocolate sauce, and lest we forget, their famous heavy cream scones, among other mouthwatering delicacies.
Just when you thought we made it to our happily-ever-after description ending, keep in mind, this hallowed coffee shop serves alcohol as well; YES, that means spirited brunch options and caffeine-infused libations like the espresso martini, cheers!
Family-owned and dedicated to pouring a little bit of love into every cup, King Coffee serves premiere locally roasted coffee that can be paired with freshly baked pastries from nearby confectioneries. Considering ASU’s Tempe campus is just a stone’s throw away, the cafe boasts what would be a minimalistic interior were it not for works of art lining the walls, and aside from the inspiring scenery, there are comfortable couches, lengthy workbenches perfect for group meets, and personal study spaces meant to boost focus and productivity. Although you can find all you’re favorite coffee shop classics here, they do offer more adventurous creations like the lavender white mocha, Nutella latte, or even loose-leaf teas.
Gold Bar Espresso has been an independently owned, universally cherished staple of the Tempe coffee shop scene for decades now. Largely known as the “choice of the connoisseur,” they are the valley’s only cafe offering Allan Bros blends from Eugene, Oregon, additionally, baristas utilize a manual, semi-automatic machine that’s constantly adjusted throughout the day to ensure each exceptional shot of espresso drawn receives its own loving touch. Jazz performances by house-bands are common and often bring out a tight-knit community of welcoming regulars.
Offering gourmet Guatemalan coffee, latte, espresso, and cold brew, Snooze is a lively, friendly, and must-taste breakfast destination in Tempe. Always emitting upbeat energy, they make any given morning feel like your weekend and happy hour rolled into one, no matter which side of noon it’s on, with this being said, every restaurant features a full bar with alcoholic beverages of plenty. As far as food is concerned, from paleo and vegetarian to vegan and dairy-free to gluten-free friendly, their breakfast and brunch menu features something for everyone. Trust, the servers here will go above and beyond when customizing your order to its exact specs, in somewhat rare service-industry form, it’s like they’re both expecting and delighted to do so!
Founded in Southern Oregon in 1992 by dairy farmer brothers Dane and Travis Boersma, Dutch Bros. Coffee is the country’s largest privately held, drive-thru coffee company. For those java purists bewildered that I could include as large a chain as Dutch on this list, please remember, they’re not very common elsewhere in the United States, so for visitors or newcomers, this energy-rich oasis in the sun will undoubtedly prove a sweet treat. From early mornings to late nights, some heavenly beverages you may spot being served out of their pull-up window include specialty coffee drinks, smoothies, freezes, teas, and Blue Rebel energy drinks that customers can infuse with their favorite flavors.
Every cup of Dutch Bros. coffee is handcrafted – roasted by hand in the Pacific Northwest, blended by hand, and then ground and pulled by hand, ristretto-style. One more observation worth noting, their employees are relentlessly kind, attentive, and cheerful, at all times, never failing to look like they’re having the moment of their lives while on shift; super fun vibes!
If you enjoyed this definitive guide to the best Tempe coffee shops, be sure to check out our lovely list of the top 15 coffee shops in Phoenix!