Judging Java: Phoenix, Arizona

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Coffee Columnist

Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Phoenix, Arizona, with my girlfriend, Maggie, to see the band AJJ perform live on my 21st birthday. If you’re unfamiliar with the band AJJ, they’re a folk punk band, and also my favorite band of all time. According to Stats for Spotify, they are my most listened to band of all time. They are also from Phoenix, and they were specifically celebrating the 10th anniversary of their album “Knife Man,” which was recorded just a short drive from the venue. It was an emotional show for everyone involved, and I was lucky to have gotten there early enough to be right at the front.

But enough about a concert, let’s talk about why I’m here: Phoenix, Arizona has some incredible coffee. I went in with low expectations, partially because the last time I traveled out of state to a concert I was met with some underwhelming coffee, although to be fair it was New Jersey.

The first coffee of my journey was, admittedly, in Pittsburgh. Maggie and I stopped at Gasoline Street Coffee on the way to the airport. I had an absolutely incredible cappuccino, and I would say that if you’re looking for a good cappuccino in the Pittsburgh area look no further than Gasoline Street.

The second cup of coffee that day was on the first plane of my journey, which was from Pittsburgh to a layover in Denver. This was a cup of Illy coffee, the coffee that United Airlines serves on their flights. It was a relatively simple cup of coffee, pretty cut and dry, but what made it was the Stroopwafel. If you’re unfamiliar with Stroopwafel, they’re a dutch wafer waffle that has caramel syrup in it, and most airplanes offer them as a complimentary snack.

The ultimate flying life hack is to order a cup of coffee and Stroopwafel and place the Stroopwafel on top of the coffee cup so that it heats up. The most critical step is to flip the Stroopwafel in between sips so that both sides are heated evenly. It also should be pointed out that after you first take a bite of the Stroopwafel you won’t be able to put it back on the cup, so timing is of the utmost urgency. If you wait too long it won’t be warmed correctly, but do it too early and the Stroopwafel will get too cold too fast.

The next day, we started our day at the Blue Hound Kitchen, the restaurant in our hotel. Alongside an absolutely incredible breakfast, Maggie and I each got delicious almond milk cappuccinos, which had an exquisite amount of bubbles.

My second coffee that day was at the El Charro Hipster Bar and Cafe. Alongside some delicious tacos, I had a wonderful iced vanilla latte, which would later reveal itself to be an MVP of the entire trip, because it is what gave me the energy to make it through the concert. (By “make it through the concert” I more accurately mean “go harder than I have ever gone at any sort of live event.”)

The next morning I was, admittedly, a bit drained, so I started my day off once again at the Blue Hound Kitchen, although this time the cappuccino was served in a traditional wide cappuccino mug as opposed to the normal coffee mug it had been served in the first time.

My second cup on Saturday was from Cartel Coffee, a local Phoenix chain, and it was an absolutely incredible Iced Vanilla Latte. I know that it seems like I am drinking a lot of Iced Vanilla Lattes despite it being October, but what you need to understand is that during the day it was over 90 degrees outside and very dry, so iced coffee was really the only option. It was a fantastic coffee, but I will admit I got too big of one so I was thoroughly caffeinated the rest of the day.

The last coffee of my journey was Sunday morning before heading back to the airport. Instead of going to the Blue Hound Kitchen a third time, Maggie and I went to a local breakfast place called the Morning Squeeze. I got an iced vanilla latte (shocker), but what was distinct about this one was that it was served to me in a mimosa glass, which made drinking it feel very classy.

Overall, I would say that Phoenix has some fantastic coffee and is a fantastic city. If you’re ever given the chance to travel there, just make sure you pack short sleeves.