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Britt's Guide to Getting Coffee in the Valley of the Sun

So I have been thinking about this for a while this week, esp. since I went on a quest to find a great coffee shop in Phoenix earlier this year. It was ultimately a fruitless quest that led me right back to Tempe where I started. At my best, at least I'm not working out of BOSA Donuts (that much) anymore. (Although I do love Bosa, and when the women who work there tell me "You actually look nice today!")

I haven't really explored Gilbert or Chandler because I've had no compelling reason to. Phoenix is a city, and I like cities. Tempe is where I live. Naturally most of my experiences are in these two locations.

So I hope this is useful to you all. Please note that my opinions on these businesses is simply my opinion, and I hope my personal anecdotes are more charming to you than annoying.

Starting where I started and in order by location:

King Coffee (Tempe) - When I first went here, I sat outside on the small sidewalk space with some very loud college students who made me feel bad about myself. I also got bit up by mosquitos, and if you know me well, you know I HATE BUGS BITING ME. I came back a few more times, and I think each time has been better. Plus, they have really good home made Oreos. I think they have jazz here as well (sometimes?) but I have yet to experience that. I would recommend it for working alone, not socializing, or like the young couple next to me yesterday, making out. Jesus, it's a coffee shop, not Woodstock! (4/5)

Xtreme Bean (Tempe) - My go-to spot for coffee. It's unfortunately loud and the music selection is straight out of 1997. Which can be both good and bad. I have joked that this is my "Friends" coffee shop, but was I really joking? No. The coffee is good and they have a decent selection of lattes. They also have a good selection of breakfast burritos, but if that's not your thing, there is a Taco Bell (that I have run to) across the street. They also do live music at night but I am typically there between 3 - 7 PM. I've timed myself. Seriously.  Good spot to work from and also be hit by a bathroom door. (5/5)

Gold Bar Espresso (Tempe) - My favorite coffee shop! Cute, awesome coffee and espresso, great overall ambiance, friendly people. Right across the street from Xtreme Bean so if you have the motivation to try both in the same day, well, it's possible. They don't serve actual food, which is where Xtreme Bean beats it. But they are also closer to Taco Bell. Gold Bar's back area is very much like your Grandma's living room. Just kidding, I don't know what that looks like. The stained glass windows are supposedly beautiful during a rainstorm, but that is only what I've heard and not experienced.  Good spot to work and meet a friend at. Also, it's by a pretty okay pizza place, Spokes, and the world's least busy Ross store. It reminds me of Wednesdays when I was in elementary school; I don't know why. (5/5)

Solo Café (Tempe) - I really like this place! It's on Baseline and Mill, and shares its space with a barber shop. It was actually my favorite spot (went on dates there, met up with friends, worked and wrote from) until they remodeled it. Now, it's very small. The music is also a bit loud, but I've heard Phantogram play several times there. Which beats Counting Crows. (4/5)

Cartel (Tempe) - I've had generally positive experiences at Cartel, but when I compare it to some of the other places I've been to, it's sort of ... boring? Not memorable? Anyway, it's a relatively decent coffee shop. I think I liked it better when the brewery was attached. Is that weird? Not my first choice, but I don't hate it. Don't remember much about the coffee but the pastries are not so great if I remember correctly. (4/5)

Steve's Espresso (Tempe) - A really overlooked gem on Baseline and Guadalupe. Good coffee, good atmosphere, and THEY DON'T HAVE WI-FI. But it's not because it's like Taco Bell, which usually doesn't have Wi-Fi for business reasons, but because they want you to speak to people. Imagine that! (5/5)

Talebu Coffee and Wine Café (Chandler) - Have only gone here ONCE. Would I go again? Yes! Actually, if I was going on a date with someone more sophisticated than my Taco Bell-loving self, I would bring them here since it's probably good to meet for coffee on a first date. There's also wine and beer here, which is a sign of worldliness. Honestly, it's a cool spot, kind of like a more approachable Lux in Chandler. Maybe I'll go again someday. (5/5)

Giant Coffee (Phoenix) - Earlier this year, this place was my shit. I was volunteering downtown and hitting this joint up afterwards for some coffee and good old-fashioned Britt brooding, which is when I sit at a table and sulk into my coffee cup. Giant reminds me so much of the coffee shops I went to when I lived in Williamsburg. It's also loud. I would say it's a good place to go maybe with headphones? So working or writing here isn't out of the question. Date, friends, business meeting? Maybe meet somewhere less loud. This all being said, Giant has the best black coffee I've had in Phoenix. I've become more of a frou-frou basic bitch princess since I turned 25, so I've been drinking more macchiatos than anything else lately.  This is a place I would flock to solely for black coffee. One more time: Their black coffee is the best I've had since becoming a Phoenician. Probably would marry it if I could. (5/5 for the black coffee, or drip coffee? Tomato, tomahto.)

Lola Coffee (Phoenix) - One of my city-dweller friends lives here more or less. I've only been to Lola twice and I've found it to be nice. I wouldn't say it jumps out to me as particularly warm or welcoming; I think it's the big atmospheric space if I'm being honest. It feels cold. The coffee hasn't left an impression on me, but I remain optimistic. It's in a very cute part of Phoenix, nonetheless. Good for Tinder dates apparently? (4/5)

Fair Trade Coffee (Phoenix) - I like that this is right off the lightrail, so it's really a two-minute walk to get back on the train. I also like that it has an inviting interior and many pleasant baristas. But the food and coffee itself are, eh. They leave something to be desired. Plus it easily becomes crowded in Fair Trade. Pretty okay place to work from, extremely busy during First Friday. (3/5)

Jobot Coffee (Phoenix) - This is the first coffee shop I went to in Phoenix! And it was the first place I had coldbrew. And, I've had several anxiety attacks here. I like the idea of Jobot, I think, more than the real thing. I would recommend it for dates and meeting up with friends, but not so much for working or writing or reading. Perhaps it's different during a  weekday? The coffee here, it bears saying, is great in my uneducated opinion. The Roosevelt Row scene is cool, but echoing what I said in the previous blurb, BEWARE OF FIRST FRIDAY. Other than that, I've got nothing but love for Jobot. It was also the first place I had agave, which I wanted to call "edamame." (4/5)

Lux Central (Phoenix) - Yuppie and hipster heaven! Naturally I was obsessed with this place in 2014. I googled coffee shops in Phoenix because I wanted to change up my weekend habits, and I would ride the lightrail from Tempe/Mesa to Lux because I liked it so much. The last few times I've gone here, it's not been as exciting as when I was a starry-eyed 26-year-old discovering Phoenix. But the coffee and food are amazing. You can work from here; it's just loud, like Giant. There's a bar in the back I believe. I recommend the thumbprint cookies and their cappuccinos. (5/5)

Copper Star Coffee (Phoenix) - Went here during the Melrose Street Fair. It was pretty chill. I think I liked my coffee? The inside of Copper Star makes it feel a bit exposing, which was a -1. (4/5)

Circle K By Roosevelt Row (Phoenix) - Included because I was surprised by how much I liked my coffee here. Might bring a date here, but it would have to be the right kind of girl. (5/5)

DeSoto Central Market (Phoenix) - I love Desoto! It's one of my favorite places in Phoenix. The coffee stand here deserves so many kudos for a.) kind people b.) good coffee and c.) just general awesomeness. Desoto is an EXCELLENT place to work from. Well worth the drive from wherever. Desoto also has a few restaurants and a jewelry stand inside the building, and they do all kinds of community events. I've taken my Mom and sister here, and they love it too. (5/5)

Grand Central Coffee Station (Phoenix) -  I only had a beer when I went here a few weeks ago, but it's very cavernous on the inside. Prime for hiding, which is something I like to do went out in public. A former boyfriend (many ages ago) once told me, "You're like a cat. You really like corners." Yes corners are awesome! And cats would only be so lucky to have me among them. Probably the best spot for making out on this list TBH. Maybe Circle K would be the runner-up. (5/5 for the décor and vibe and optimism)

Starbucks on Rural and Baseline (Tempe) - This is my favorite Starbucks in the world. Don't hate. ( #PSL/5)

Dutch Brothers (Pretty Much Everywhere) - I love this coffee chain because it's like a rave that became some sort of coffee shop and I wish I had the amount of energy of the people who work at these places. (5/5)

Starbucks at Barnes and Nobles in Surprise (Surprise) - Out of left field and again with the Starbucks! I'm at my best when I'm at my most basic. Do I plan on going to Surprise again? Arguable. But I honestly miss this place. Like, I have the best memories of working there around Christmas on my laptop. It just felt so nice, a sort of once-in-a-few-years feeling that is hard to replicate. I honestly might just go to Surprise for this Barnes and Nobles someday. (5/5 for weird nostalgia)

My picks: Gold Bar, Xtreme Bean, and DeSoto. Props to Surprise's B&N.

And for nostalgia's sake:

Border's (Erie, PA) - Mostly for holiday coffees with Wenli followed by hours of perusing music and books. (5/5)


  1. I love this!! I really want to try Giant. Maybe I'll skip Circle K? You'd love this little coffee shop by me. It's within walking distance. Oh, and we need to go to my favorite Lawrence Park place at Thanksgiving!! It's almost too cool to
    be so close to Erie ��☕️

    1. That's a really old picture of you! And yes, we should go to this coffee shop. #nomoreStarbucks

  2. How can you drink coffee when it's 100 fucking degrees outside? Is Phoenician really the preferred term because I love that. I spent a week in Arizona and loved the place.


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