Exo Roast Co.

The Exo logo, and a little bit of an explanation, from the wall at the back on Tucson's 7th Street.Exo Roast Co. has, since 2013, been roasting and serving some excellent coffee in the centre of Tucson, Arizona. I first visited in March last year, after a tip-off from Coffee Ken, who I met at Matador Coffee in Flagstaff on my first of visit to Arizona in 2018. I also called in again on Saturday, when I was back in Tucson.

Occupying a sunny corner, Exo is split in two. From the outside, I’d have bet that the back was the roastery, with the coffee shop up front. While I was right about the coffee shop part, the roaster is here too. The back, meanwhile, provides overspill seating, a part-time bar and occasional events space.

Exo Roast Co has a concise espresso-based menu, pleasingly lacking the buckets-of-milk style drinks, with a single-origin plus decaf on espresso, another on batch-brew and two more as pour-overs through the V60. Breakfast is served until noon during the week, while at weekends, it shifts by an hour, not starting until 8:00 but continuing until one o’clock. There’s a short, but inventive seasonal menu chalked up on a blackboard on the wall next to the coffee menu. There’s also a small selection of cakes/pastries.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Exo Roast Co. in Tucson, Arizona, seen here looking across 7th Street.
  • The white-painted rear section has its own doors and acts as additional seating...
  • ... while the coffee shop proper is in the front, brick-built section.
  • Exo Roast Co., on the corner of 7th Street and 6th Avenue, seen here in March 2018...
  • ... and here on Saturday (January 2019), this time without the sidewalk closed sign!
  • The A-board (like all the photos, unless otherwise noted) is from March 2018
  • The front on Exo is also all glass with central double doors (and in 2018, only one bench).
  • I loved the over-hanging glass shutters (if that's the right word).
  • The double doors seen from inside. There's a table in the windows on either side.
  • There's another door at the front on the left-hand (7th Street) side.
  • The counter, meanwhile, is on the right-hand side.
  • A view of the front of Exo, as seen from about halfway back.
  • There's not much seating in the front, although these tables are down the left-hand side.
  • The first two are wide, but the remainiing three are narrow as they squeeze in beside...
  • ... an equally narrow bar that runs alongside the roaster...
  • ... whcih is at the back on the right.
  • All of Exo's coffee is roasted here.
  • There are four stools on the narrow bar down the side, ideal for watching it in action.
  • There's also a broad table right at the back which wasn't there during my 2018 visit.
  • However, that's not all. At the back on the left, a narrow doorway/passage leads to...
  • ... a bright, multi-coloured lobby with another door out on 7th Street.
  • Beyond this is the back room which has it's own counter, which...
  • ... turns into a bar on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings....
  • ... when the kitchen also serves small plates.
  • Sadly, it was set up for an event, so I couldn't get photos. Let's head back to the front...
  • ... where you'll be greeted by this view of the counter....
  • ... while this is the view if you come in either of the front doors.
  • There's a small retail shelf opposite the counter, by the door on the left...
  • ... and a cold drinks fridge on the right.
  • The till is at the front on the left-hand side...
  • ... with the concise menus handily placed on the wall behind.
  • Meanwhile, the coffee choices and tea menu are off to the right...
  • ... and the pour-over is along the short, front side of the counter...
  • .. although this is the more conventional view...
  • ... with the choice of beans displayed in glass jars.
  • However, I decided to start with the espresso machine...
  • ... a green La Marzocco Strada (seen here in 2019).
  • I had a cortado, made using the Guatemalan single-origin.
  • The latte art was quite impressive...
  • ... and lasted all the way to the bottom of the glass.
  • I also tried the same Guatemalan as a pour-over, served here in a simple, white mug.
  • This was all to accompany my breakfast, these rather wonderful tacos.
  • On my return in 2019, I had a Burundi espresso, served with a glass of sparkling water.
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Exo Roast Co. is just northeast of the city centre, a five-minute walk under the railway from the Amtrak station. Part of the Historic Fourth Avenue District, it’s actually on 6th Avenue, while the bulk of the tall, single-storey brick-built building runs alongside 7th Street, with only the (comparatively) narrow storefront on 6th Avenue itself.

Although long and thin, it’s actually quite wide and almost as tall, open to the box rafters of the roof high above. Almost the entire front is glass, where central double doors lead in from 6th Avenue, flanked by a bench on each side. There’s some bike-parking, sheltered under a large tree, while around the corner on 7th Avenue, there’s more outside seating, installed since my visit last year.

Inside a pair of two-person tables flank the door. The counter, on the right, runs to the back of the (front) room, the rear half housing the Probat roaster. The pour-over faces the front, with the cake in a glorious old display case on the corner, followed, along the long side of the counter, by the till, grinders, green La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and take-away station/collection area.

On the left, another door opens onto 7th Street, followed by a long bench under a set of retail shelves, then a row of five two-person tables. The first two are wide, but the rest are narrow and close together, with the chair from one table banging into the chair at the next. These last three tables are opposite the roastery, where there’s a narrow four-person bar providing a glorious view of the roaster. Finally, at the far end of the roastery, a broad, two-person table faces front.

Right at the back on the left, a doorway leads to a small lobby, with its own door on the left opening onto 7th Street. If you keep going, you’ll come into the rear section of Exo, which provides overspill seating during the day and from 18:00 – 23:00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, is run as a bar which serves small plates. It also functions as an occasional events space, which was the case during my visits, so I wasn’t able to get any photographs.

When it comes to coffee, it’s all roasted on the Probat, Exo only serving single-origins which change every week or s. During my visit last year, there was a Guatemalan on espresso, a Peruvian on batch-brew and two more on pour-over via (the same Guatemalan and an Ethiopian). The barista recommended the Guatemalan in milk, so I had a cortado, followed by the same coffee as a pour-over to compare.

As a cortado, the milk and coffee combinws to produce something reminiscent of a biscuit flavour, but with more fruity overtones, while as a pour-over, it lacked the funkiness of the espresso, but that’s no bad thing. Served in a single, large mug, it was a smooth, mellow coffee, the sort you could drink all day.

I made it just in time for breakfast, having got to Exo at 11.57. I selected the breakfast tacos (this is the south-west after all) which was an inspired choice. Two tacos, each over-stuffed with a fried egg, roasted winter vegetables, goat’s cheese, pickled onion strips and chilli oil. I was a little sceptical of the ingredient list, but on the plate, it was a delight, albeit a messy one (although that could have been me, rolling up the tacos and eating them by hand). The roasted winter vegetables were heavy on potatoes, which is fine by me, since I love potatoes, and the combination of flavours and textures was awesome.

On my return this year, I had a Burundi single-origin espresso which was excellent, a rich, complex coffee. I’d hoped to try the small plates in the evening, but there was an event on, so the kitchen was closed.

403 NORTH 6TH AVENUE • TUCSON • AZ 85705 • USA
https://exocoffee.com +1 520 777 4709
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Exo (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Small Plates, Cakes
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 11th March 2018, 19th January 2019

You can also see what local coffee-blogger, Coffee Ken, made of Exo Roast Co.


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