Downtown Tucson to Get A Jolt from BBC Award-winning Cartel’s Gourmet Coffee

November 25, 2013

Iced coffee, smoother than Barry White riding an enchanted Dove Bar across a river of chocolate.

Iced coffee, smoother than a Barry White Greatest Hits album.

by James J. Jefferies

Coffee. For so many of us, even thinking about beginning our day in earnest without a cup or two is heresy. Given the frenetic hub of activity that Downtown Tucson represents these days, it is no surprise that there are more options for coffee drinkers than ever before amid the hustle and bustle. While Tucson itself has long been a stronghold for the coffeehouse scene (much like any other red-blooded American college town), Downtown in particular has seen a recent explosion of choices that go way beyond the embattled office Keurig machine whose death rattle tells you the cup is ready.

Into this frothy urban mix jumps Tempe-based Cartel Coffee Lab. Cartel has four stores, all in Arizona, and the new location, right next to the new Thunder Canyon Brewery at Broadway and Herbert, marks their second opening in Tucson, after the original store opened on Campbell Avenue back in 2009. The new Coffee Lab will occupy 3,000 sq. feet, and usher in several brand-new features for the company, first and foremost a custom wood-fired oven from which they’ll offer pizzas and sandwiches, along with an entire menu of bistro-style fare, as well as locally-produced wines and beers. The new location will continue to offer the same espresso-based and pour-over coffee drinks, this time courtesy of a brand new ModBar espresso machine (one of only six in America), and the usual slate of excellent baked goodies customers have come to expect from the other stores.

“Downtown Tucson has always been an important place to me,” says Cartel’s owner Jason Silberschlag, who was born & raised in Tucson and spent a lot of time Downtown while attending the U of A. “It’s been amazing to see it grow into such a unique and special place in Arizona. We really respect the culture that Rialto, Hub, Fox and coworking spaces like Gangplank and Connect bring Downtown.”

This date bar was crazy crunchy on the outside, sweet and moist with a thick layer of dates on the inside.

A date bar, crazy crunchy on the outside, sweet and moist with a thick layer of dates on the inside.

In short, Cartel is serious about keeping it local, and every bit as focused on delivering a quality product. “From the coffee farmers to roasting to brewing, we are hands-on with every piece of the coffee process,” said Silberschlag. “We want the food we serve to be consistent with that mission as well.” It is this attention to detail that recently earned the company a laurel from BBC Travel, naming Cartel as one of America’s Best Coffee Bars.

Cartel offers numerous services for coffee lovers, from ‘roaster’s choice’ subscriptions that can deliver roasted coffee to one’s door to a variety of brewing equipment, and is staffed by educated baristas more than happy to drop a little java science on the curious. The natural wood and stainless steel environments of the existing Cartel locations are warm and welcoming, and the new location will be every bit at home amid the vibrant new breed of Downtown Tucson eateries and bars once it is fully up and running by mid-December. For more information, check out the Cartel Coffee Lab website.