A review of my favorite coffee shops in downtown Phoenix

Throughout the course of this semester, I’ve written articles about five amazing coffee shops in the downtown Phoenix area. Equipped with caffeine and free WiFi, they’re all ideal places for ASU students to visit; however, each cafe is unique and creative in its own way. They all showcase and sell art in addition to typical coffeehouse items. All five are open on First Friday too, which is when they are the busiest. Since this blog is coming to an end, I’m going to review my favorite cafes under certain categories listed below. For each one, I’ve chosen my top three contenders.

To refresh your memory, these are the five places I’ve covered in this blog (you can click on the name to take you back to each blog post):

Category 1: BEST COFFEE

  1. Jobot – It’s totally worth waiting 45 minutes in line just to order a toddy coffee or iced mocha from here, which is what my friends and I do every First Friday. It’s just really great coffee. Period.
  2. Squash Blossom – Candy corn and peppermint pattie lattes, and other seasonal drinks that are new every month and crafted to perfection. Need I say more?
  3. 8th Day – Not only is their coffee community traded so you know you’re making a difference with each purchase, but their iced drinks are served in mason jars! It makes your cup of coffee that much better.

Category 2: BEST PLACE TO STUDY

  1. 8th Day – There are several couches accompanied by lots of natural light coming in through the numerous windows all over the cafe, and study groups can meet in their conference room. It’s a spacious coffeehouse with different seating areas and there are huge tables so you can layout all of your work. It’s comfortable, convenient and quiet.
  2. Fair Trade – At both locations, there’s a wide variety of commodious seating ranging from sofas to cushioned wooden benches. It’s also peaceful and spacious like 8th Day. When you have a lot to get done, I would recommend either place.
  3. Songbird – This cafe is significantly smaller, but the long tables with outlets are efficient for students looking to charge their devices while completing homework or writing a paper. There’s a huge bookcase that makes you feel like you’re in a super cool, hipster library too. You can check out thier range of novels on your study break.

Category 3: BEST PLACE TO ADMIRE/PURCHASE ARTWORK

  1. 8th Day – There’s a wonderful assortment of artwork here. There’s huge pieces like a painted door and sculptures near the back wall, but there’s also oil paintings and drawings too. Since it’s found in all shapes and sizes all around the cafe, I guarantee it is not a boring place to visit. You can check out their monthly art gallery premieres every First Friday if you’re interested in that as well.
  2. Songbird – Part of an ongoing art exhibit, it’s located inside the MonOrchid building in the heart of the Roosevelt Row art districts. Their Scrabble-inspired menu is a work of art in itself. There’s obviously other great pieces of art on their walls, but if none of it catches your attention then I’m sure something inside the MonOrchid will.
  3. Fair Trade – There’s a perfect balance of framed photographs and paintings here. I appreciate that it’s not overbearing or distracting, and it tastefully integrates coffee with art.

Category 4: BEST PLACE TO HANGOUT

  1. Squash Blossom – Because it’s also a restaurant, this place is ideal for hanging out with friends. Everything on the menu is fresh, tasty and relatively cheap. It’s perfect for a lunch date with classmates and the 10% ASU discount makes it that much better. The staff is super friendly and the music selection is exquisite. If you haven’t tried it yet, you must do so immediately. Your friends will love you for bringing them there!
  2. Jobot – It’s open until midnight, so take a break from your schoolwork and grab a cup of coffee with your friends after dinner. The lounge environment and loud music provide an excellent escape from your daily routine.
  3. Songbird –  What makes Songbird different from the other cafes is the fact that the owners will sit down with you and get to know you. If they’re not behind the counter making coffee, then they’re probably making conversation with their customers. They love getting to know people and keeping in touch on social media. Check it out!

As I previously stated, each place is unique in its own way and there’s a cafe out there for everyone. I recommend visiting all of them in order to determine which one best suits your preferences. Downtown Phoenix is overflowing with coffee shops and places filled with art, so go out and try something new.

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Drink coffee. Do good.

20121128-171520.jpgHaving been open for only 15 weeks, 8th Day Coffee & Culture has already rounded up a group of regulars with more coming in every week. The coffee shop is located in downtown Phoenix at Second and Roosevelt. Eighth day is a term that the owner and his wife came up with to signify their desire to create a “third place” for people, according to manager Bruce Thurman. A place of light, community and art. You can go to their website by clicking here: http://8thdaycoffee.com/.

“The picture of 8th Day is a type of space where people feel the community and feel a positive vibe,” Thurman said. “A lot of art or coffee spaces have a dark, nihilistic feel to them but our desire is to create a space that has a positive and artistic ambiance to it.”

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What’s the idea behind the coffee shop’s motto, “Drink Coffee. Do Good.”? According to their website, when you drink coffee at 8th Day, you are “directly engaging in justice and bringing hope to the Rwandan farmers.” Thurman went further into detail, discussing the history of the farmers’ struggle in Rwanda and said that it is a phrase they’ve borrowed from their coffee purveyor, Land of a Thousand Hills.

“Land of a Thousand Hills took fair trade to the next step,” he explained. “Fair trade means minimum wage and it’s a wonderful guarantee, but this company developed something called the ‘Do Good’ project in which they pay up to twice the fair trade price of coffee from farmers in Rwanda and now farmers in Haiti and Thailand too. They know the needs of those farmers, so they want to make sure their money is going towards something good.”

The cafe offers fair trade teas, iced lattes, cappuccinos, other coffee and frozen drinks, as well as pastries, toast and fresh fruit. They purchase all their food items from local companies and chefs.

“We have the world’s best coffee, and I say that unashamedly,” Thurman expressed. “We sell it the world’s best way too. Each cup of coffee that we sell is individually crafted and it may take a minute or two or three longer, but it’s worth it for the customer.”

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I purchased a delicious mocha latte served in a mason jar, and worked on homework at one of their various tables suited for customers who need a lot of space for their materials.

Speaking of customers, people of all ages come to check out 8th Day and enjoy their free WiFi, art gallery, conference room and live music shows.

“Our customer base started out with our friends who then told their friends about it,” Thurman said. “Then it was the neighbors, people walking their dog or going from their apartments to work and school. Now people are coming in because they’ve seen us open on First Friday or they know about our art gallery. Word of mouth has become prevalent.”

Although 8th Day’s usual hours are Monday through Friday, 7 am to 7 pm and Saturdays from 7 am to 2 pm, they are open later on First Fridays. They are also closed Sundays.

“First Friday is a demarcation mark for us,” Thurman explained. “That’s when we have local artists performing in the evening and it’s also the premiere for that month’s art show. We are typically open until 11 pm at that time but if the place it still hoppin’, we will stay open until later.”

The gallery that opens every First Friday showcases art that stands for 30 days. About 90% of fresh art comes in for every premiere.

“Art is man’s expression of truth,” Thurman said. “And we feel that it’s very important to give artists the opportunity to share their world view. So many people today are wanting to help a small business and want to help their neighbors, so we are just trying to do good for our local artists.”

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There are numerous pieces of artwork displayed around the cafe.

When asked about his favorite part of working at the cafe, Thurman said it all revolves around the people, from his staff to his customers.

“When you go into a store, quite often you get greeted with ‘what do you need’ and then ‘ok bye,'” Thurman expressed. “What we try to develop here is a staff that is concerned with the individual that walks through the door. We want to find out who that person is, not just what they want from the menu. We try to develop a relationship with them, which has been successful with the development of a lot of regulars that come to us. This has become their ‘third place.'”

To stay up to date with events and the coffee shop in general, you can follow 8th Day’s social media.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EighthDayCoffeeAndCulture?fref=ts
&
Twitter: https://twitter.com/eighthdaycoffee

Fair Trade Cafe: integrating coffee and art ‘with a conscience’

Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from? Do you know if the farmers cultivating your espresso beans are given adequate working conditions and decent wages? At Fair Trade Cafe, they take that sort of thing seriously. Located on Central and Roosevelt, in front of the light rail, Fair Trade opened about five years ago and has remained loyal to its founding values.

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Top left: The outside view of Fair Trade Cafe, found on Central and Roosevelt. Top right and bottom: Inside views of the coffee shop.

“The scope of the cafe is found right in its name,” barista Beau Feger-Owsley said. “It’s a company that makes fair trades to ensure that workers get paid well and that all of our coffee is locally roasted so customers know exactly where their product is coming from.”

Fair Trade’s ideology is advertised in their motto as well. The idea behind “Coffee with a Conscience” is displayed on their home page, http://www.azfairtrade.com, and there’s also a wall dedicated to the painting of the slogan right when you walk into the cafe.

Aside from their commitment to sell only fairly-traded products in their store, a number of other things set this cafe apart from others. Not only do they serve coffee and provide free Wi-Fi, their menu ranges from pastries and freshly-made sandwiches to smoothies, teas and even an ice-cream bar.

My friend got the original hummus and vegetable plate, and we both enjoyed iced Americanos. (photographed below) Both items were delicious!

The cafe also hosts special events such as independent movie premieres and shows by local bands. It stays open during First Friday art walks and since it includes an art gallery, it attracts people especially on those nights, according to Feger-Owsley. When asked about all the art hung up around the cafe that is available for purchase, he explained that Fair Trade is also a company that supports artists and their work.

“Art’s good,” Feger-Owsley replied. “It’s good for a city, and it’s good for people to be expressive. Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of that? It makes the shop look cool too.”

The coffee house is open until 10 p.m. every night and is just a light rail stop away from ASU downtown, but the walk there isn’t too bad if you choose that mode of transportation instead. There’s also another Fair Trade Cafe located in Civic Space Park right next to the downtown campus; however, its times vary and they don’t stay open after 7 p.m. The atmosphere and menu in both locations is quite similar though, there’s just more of a variety of customers at the Roosevelt one from what I’ve experienced.

Downtown ASU professor, Rosemarie Dombrowski, goes to the Civic Space Park location almost weekly. I first heard of the cafe when she suggested we meet there to go over one of my English papers last year, and it was obvious she was enthralled by it.

“I love the underground entrance, the patio and the water feature,” she said. “It’s visually interesting and has a relaxing, intellectually stimulating feel. They also have the best vegan cookies and donuts!”

The “Coffee with a Conscience” motto blended together with the artwork also keeps Dombrowski a Fair Trade regular. She wishes that “every business operated on that principle,” but feels that downtown Phoenix does a good job of mixing art into our everyday lives otherwise.

Finally, when asked to explain her absolute favorite thing about the coffee shop, Dombrowski stated it was their products and seating.

“The former are fresh, healthy, delicious and ethical,” she explained. “The latter is comfortable, fosters discussion and provides excellent spaces for workshops. I suppose that combination of elements coupled with art is very ‘college.'”

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Top: Some of the artwork displayed and available for purchase in the cafe. Bottom: The wall depicting Fair Trade’s motto, “Coffee with a Conscience.”