Presta Coffee, Mercado San Augustin

My espresso, made with the 120PSI house-blend at Presta Coffee, Mercado San Augustin, and beautifully presented on a wooden tray with a glass of sparkling water.One of the names that I kept seeing when in Phoenix was Tucson’s Presta Coffee. So, when I ended up there a week later at the end of my road trip through eastern Arizona/southern New Mexico, naturally I paid Presta a visit, calling in on the original branch in the Mercado San Augustin (Saint Augustin Market).

The market occupies a lovely, large, open rectangular courtyard with shops and restaurants on all sides (like an outdoor Mackie Mayor if you know Manchester). Presta has a long counter in one corner, with seating available at the counter itself and in a (non-exclusive) seating area off to one side. You can also take your coffee out into the courtyard where there are plenty of tables.

Compared to Presta’s flagship branch, the coffee service is limited, with the 120PSI blend being served from a concise espresso-based menu. There’s also a single-origin on batch brew which changes at least once a day. There is no food or cakes, but you are welcome to bring things in from any of the shops/restaurants in the market to have with your coffee.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Mercado San Augustin in Tucson and what I'm calling the main entrance.
  • Just across the road, the circus was in town. But more importantly, there's a tram stop.
  • There are other entrances, including this one on the corner...
  • ... while this the back wall, as seen from the parking lot.
  • Returning to the main entrance and going in, this is the view of the courtyard...
  • ... and here's a similar view from when I returned in the evening two days later.
  • Presta Coffee is in the back corner on the left...
  • ... which, when I was there two days' previously, is also where the sun was.
  • Don't be fooled (like I was) by the sign 'Sonoran Sno-Cones': the espresso machine...
  • ... in the window belongs to Presta. The best door to use is the one to the left.
  • Before we go in, here's a view of the courtyard.
  • You're welcome to sit out here with your coffee if you like.
  • This is the best door to get to Presta, which is off to the left of the picture.
  • Just around the corner, by the way, is La Estrella Bakery (left) and a hat shop...
  • ... while there's also another door here...
  • ... along with this three-person table, tucked around the corner...
  • ... which is next to the main indoor seating area. The counter is just to my left...
  • ... which you can see more clearly here, along with first door I showed you.
  • The short side of the counter faces the tables, while the long side runs off to your left.
  • Meanwhile, I can't help thinking that this handy sign would have been handier outside!
  • The only other seating is off down the long side of the counter...
  • ... where you'll find these six blue chairs.
  • A view of the blue chairs from the other end of the counter...
  • ... where you'll find another pair of chairs. There's a door to the courtyard to the left...
  • ... while over in the back wall, these double doors lead to the parking lot.
  • A view of the business end of the counter from the last of the chairs, with tables beyond.
  • One of the things I really liked about Presta was the box grider structure...
  • ... which hangs above the counter all the way around, covered in greenery.
  • To business. You order at the till at the left-hand end of the counter.
  • There's a beautifully concise menu to your left...
  • ... and a selection of retail bags to your right.
  • The flasks for the batch-brew, meanwhile, are off to the left...
  • ... while the La Strada espresso machine and its grinders (house & decaf) are to the right.
  • Beyond this is the EK-43 grinder for batch-brew and retail bags...
  • ... with the batch-brewer beyond that.
  • I decided to put the La Strada to work, seen here from my seat at the counter.
  • The paddle slides all the way to the left, and we're underway.
  • I love watching espresso extract...
  • ... and the right-most seat at the counter in Presta is the perfect vantage point.
  • It really helps when the espresso is extracted into glass, as it is in Presta.
  • Look at the way that crema is developing.
  • Almost done now...
  • ... just slide the paddle over to the right...
  • ... and there's the last drop!
  • The espresso, the house blend, 120PSI, formed the basis of my cortado.
  • Served in a glass, I was very impressed with the milk...
  • ... which held the latte art pattern all the way to the bottom.
  • I also grabbed breakfast from La Estrella Bakery, a bun (left) and cherry pie (right).
  • Before I left, I bought a bag of the Brazilian Espirito Santo which was on batch-brew.
  • Here my coffee and my Global WAKEcup eye up the espresso machine.
  • I returned two days later, in the evening, when I watched an extraction from by the till.
  • From here, I could see the weight of the shot: it's at three grams right now!
  • The shot starts to develop...
  • We're now up to 9.4 grams.
  • 12.5 grams...
  • 10 seconds later and we're almost done...
  • Just slide the paddle to the right...
  • .. and were done. Total extracted weight is 39 grams.
  • My espresso, the 120PSI blend again, beautifully presented...
  • ... on a wooden tray with a glass of sparkling water, which is where I'll leave you.
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A roaster with two coffee shops, Presta Coffee has been going for five years, with this, the Mercado San Augustin branch, the original. The second, flagship branch is north of the city centre on 1st Avenue. It used to house the roastery, but that recently moved to new, dedicated facility. The Mercado San Augustin branch, meanwhile, is just west of the Santa Cruz River in the Menlo Park district, having the distinct advantage of being a half-an-hour stroll along the river from my hotel. It’s also at the western terminus for Tucson’s tram line.

On the corner of Congress Street and Avenida del Convento, the market has several gateways/doors in the various sides, but I’m choosing the large gateway on Avenida del Convento as the front. This puts Presta in the back left-hand corner, although you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled: I missed it the first time around, although the espresso machine in the open window facing the courtyard is the key giveaway (in my defence the sun was right behind it).

A set of double doors in the middle of the back wall will lead you to the right-hand end of Presta’s counter, although a more logical entrance is the door in the left-hand corner. Turn right, and you’ll end up at the till which is at the short end of the counter at the far, left-hand end. You’ll also find the flasks for the batch-brew here, while there’s a small retail selection, selling the espresso blend, decaf and various single-origins. Meanwhile, the espresso machine, grinders and batch-brewer line a work surface along the windows opposite the long side of the counter. Alternatively, entering from the parking lot behind the market through double doors in the back wall, you’ll come between counters selling ice cream (right) and cakes (left) and find Presta directly ahead.

The C-shaped counter runs parallel to the back of courtyard. There are two chairs at the short end on the right, with six more arrayed along the long side, which, if you like watching espresso being made, is the best place to be. Alternatively, there’s an indoor seating area opposite the till, with five four-person wooden tables, plus a three-person table tucked around the corner. Finally, you can sit in the courtyard, which is lovely, with multiple tables scattered around, some under the shade of several mature trees.

I started with a cortado, the complex, fruity notes of the 120PSI espresso blend coming clearly through the milk, yet at the same time being largely in harmony with it, making for an excellent introduction to Presta’s coffee. I’d hoped to have breakfast, so went next door to La Estrella Bakery, where I picked up a cherry pie/turnover and a nameless, but extremely tasty pastry/bun to go with my coffee. Both were soft, the cherry pie in particular bursting with flavour, the filling having a jam-like consistency. The bun, meanwhile, wasn’t overly sweet.

I bought a bag of the naturally-processed Brazilian Espirito Santo, which was the coffee on batch-brew. It matured nicely in my Global WAKEcup as it cooled. I returned two days later, trying the 120PSI as an espresso, which was served on a wooden tray with a glass of sparkling water. Beautifully balanced, it delivered on the fruity complexity promised by the cortado.

100 SOUTH AVENIDA DEL CONVENTO • TUCSON • AZ 85745 • USA
www.prestacoffee.com +1 520-333-7146
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Presta (espresso + batch-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food N/A
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 07:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 19th, 21st January 2019

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