Miami & Phoenix, January 2018

My Espro Travel Press and ThermaCup admire the scenery in Red Rock Country, south of Sedona, Arizona. From the cover of the 2019 Coffee Spot Calendar.I got 2018 underway with an extended trip to the USA, flying to Florida for a week-long meeting, with another meeting the following week in Phoenix, Arizona, which left me little choice but to fly between the two. Rather than fly out, do two back-to-back meetings and fly home again, I went out a week early to explore Florida, then tacked on a week at the end to explore Arizona.

I flew into Miami on Monday, January 15th, jumped into my hire car and headed north, driving up the east coast to Cape Kennedy and the space centre, before returning south and exploring Cape Cod, with a solitary day in the Everglades, clocking up over 1,000 miles in the process. I spent the following week in Miami, based just south of the airport, then, after a weekend exploring the city, I caught the early morning flight to Phoenix on Monday, 29th January.

After my meeting in Phoenix, I took my hire car north to Flagstaff, exploring the surrounding area, ranging as far east as the Painted Desert (with an overnight stop in Winslow) and as far south as Red Rock Country, south of Sedona, driving the length of Oak Creek Canyon along the way. I also visited the ruins at Walnut Creek Canyon and Montezuma’s castle, as well as Sunset Crater (an old volcano). I clocked up another 1,000 miles on that leg of the trip, driving back to Phoenix on Saturday night, before flying home on the evening of Sunday, 11th February.

The flights to, between and from Miami/Phoenix are covered in the Travel Spots below, along with some pictures from my various trips.  You can also read about the Coffee Spots I visited during my time in Miami, Phoenix and Flagstaff.


Header Image:looking north from the terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport just before I left to fly home at the end of the trip.


Travel Spots

You can read about the trip in the following Travel Spot posts.

Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying To Miami

A screen shot of the travel map during my flight from London to Miami with British Airways. Here the plane is over the Atlantic, about 3/4 of the way to Miami.Welcome to the first Brian’s Travel Spot of the New Year. This (not so) occasional series documents my ever-increasing travel experiences, which this year shows no signs of letting up. I’m currently in Florida, where I’ll be for another week, attending a meeting in Miami, then I’m flying to Phoenix for two weeks, returning home for nine days, then I’m heading back to the States. After that, things calm down a just a little bit, but I still have trips scheduled to Thailand, Chicago and Japan later this year. And that’s just for work.

I briefly visited Miami this time last year on another mad trip, which saw me fly to Phoenix, drive to San Francisco, fly to Chicago, then fly to Boston, via Miami, for a work meeting, before returning home. Flying from (freezing) Chicago to the warmth of Miami, staying for five days, then flying to (freezing) Boston was an interesting experience…

This time I flew to Miami from Manchester via Heathrow with British Airways, arriving a week ahead of my meeting for some sight-seeing. The choice of Manchester, not my favourite airport, was dictated by needing to see my Dad before I went. Thus the scene was set.

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Brian’s Coffee Spot: Flying in the USA

My Therma Cup, Travel Press and Aergrind at Miami Airport to provide me with much needed coffee before for a pre-dawn flight to Phoenix.Welcome to another of my Brian’s Travel Spot series which these days seems to involve documenting my various flights around the world. Normally these are long-haul international flights, but today I’m turning my attention to one of my least favourite activities: flying internally in America. It’s not something I do very often and certainly not something I do if I can help it.

This time last year, as I picked my way across America from San Francisco to Chicago to Miami to Boston, I took a series of three flights. One day I hope to write them up as part of the wider trip, but for now, the only other experience I’ve had of flying within America is on a couple of connecting flights, once on my way out to Phoenix in 2016 and the other when flying to Chicago via Newark last year.

This year began with a trip to Miami and Phoenix, involving a connecting flight between the two. Faced with the prospect of over five hours on a plane (and a small one at that), I looked at the options, and, with work’s travel budget picking up the tab, I decided that I’d better fly first class.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Business Class From Phoenix

The British Airways 747 which flew me back from Phoenix, on the stand at Heathrow Terminal 3.After a month in the US, it was time to come home. I’d flown to Miami (in the back of an A380), spent a week driving around Florida’s east coast (interesting, but very flat), attended back-to-back week-long meetings in Miami and Phoenix (including flying first class between the two), then had a final week driving around northern Arizona, largely basing myself in Flagstaff. This was easily the best part of the trip, with mountains, canyons, forests and deserts all within an hour or two’s drive of Flagstaff. There was even an unexpected find of some great coffee.

However, it was time to come home, so I drove back to Phoenix the night before, spent the day exploring the relatively young coffee scene in Scottsdale, then headed for the airport, Sky Harbor, one of my favourite airports in the USA, perhaps even in the world. I’d only flown out of Sky Harbor once before, in late 2016, when I flew there and back on British Airways on my first visit to Phoenix. Back then, before I had a travel budget, I’d flown both legs in economy. This time, although I’d flown out in economy, I was returning back in business class...

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You can also see what I got up to with my coffee while I was travelling (and not visiting Coffee Spots)…

Travels with my Coffee, Part I

My Travel Press and Therma Cup stand in awe at the magnificence of Courthouse Butte in Red Rock Country, Arizona.If you have been paying attention on social media (or indeed, reading my posts!) you’ll know that for the last four weeks, I’ve been travelling around the USA, first in Florida/Miami, then in Phoenix/Arizona. In the past, I’ve written about my travelling coffee kit and I’ve also written extensively about making coffee on planes and at airports, which makes the long journeys bearable.

On this trip, I’ve been doing a lot of touring, which means not that many visits to speciality coffee shops along the way. In the past, this has meant either not having coffee or having to put up with bad hotel coffee in the morning and bad diner coffee during the day. However, since getting my Travel Press, all that has changed.

The Travel Press has meant that I can make coffee in the morning and take it with me. Then I began to get a bit obsessed (me? no! surely not!) It started with a trip to the Grand Canyon where I took a photo of my Travel Press and Therma Cup overlooking the canyon, then last year I took a picture of them on the Great Wall of China. Then it got out of hand…

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Coffee Spots

You can read about all the Coffee Spots I visited on this trip in Miami, Phoenix and Flagstaff (listed alphabetically for each city).

Miami

Here are the Coffee Spots I visited during my week in Miami.

ALL DAY

A lovely Ethiopian pour-over through the Kalita Wave, roasted by Per'La and served at ALL DAY in Miami.Of all the places I visited in Miami, ALL DAY, which opened in the Park West neighbourhood in May 2016, felt most like a British coffee shop, perhaps because, as the name suggests, it serves an all-day breakfast menu (while a staple of American diners, I find it rate in speciality coffee shops). Options include various egg dishes (plus some interesting egg-based sandwiches), along with several non-egg based dishes. ALL DAY also helped itself no end by dispensing with the American curse of counter service, instead bringing your coffee and food to you.

Talking of coffee, this is equally impressive, starting with a bespoke, five-group La Marzocco espresso machine, serving a house-blend from Wisconsin’s Ruby Coffee Roasters, which continues a link between Midwest roasters and Miami. Refreshingly, ALL DAY has dispensed with coffee names, instead going for a simple choice of espresso, espresso with milk and espresso with water, while offering a range of sizes.

Ruby is also available on filter, either through batch-brew or pour-over via the Kalita Wave, where it is joined by various guest roasters. While I was there, this included local roaster, Per’la Speciality Roasters, and Roseline from the Pacific Northwest, which was supplying the decaf.

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Panther Coffee, Coconut Grove

A bare light bulb in a wire cage, seen from below at Panther Coffee, Coconut Grove.When I first came to Miami this time last year, one name was on everyone’s lips when it came to speciality coffee: Panther Coffee. From its home in Wynwood, where all the coffee’s roasted on-site, it had grown to a chain of three shops, all in Miami (although since my visit, another three branches have opened, including two in the last month!). Sadly I wasn’t in Miami for long last time, so only had the chance to visit the original in Wynwood.

However, on my return, I was determine to explore, so as I drove into Miami from the Everglades last night, I made a detour to visit the Coconut Grove branch. Very different in look and feel to Wynwood, it’s long and thin, with the counter on the right.

You’ll find all the usual Panther Coffee goodies here, with a choice between the East and West Coast espresso blends, plus multiple single-origins on filter, with Chemex or Clever Dripper if you’re prepared to wait, or bulk-brew if you’re not. There’s also cold brew and a collection of soft drinks as well as some craft beer. This is all rounded off with a limited selection of ready-made sandwiches and cakes/cookies.

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Panther Coffee, Wynwood

The label on Panther Coffee's West Coast Espresso Blend.My first-ever visit to Miami was in February 2017, when I called in on the wonderful Panther Coffee. Back then, I wrote about the roasting side of the business, the Wynwood branch doubling (for now) as the roastery. Today it’s the turn of the Wynwood branch to feature as a Coffee Spot in its own right.

Set back from the busy 2nd Avenue, Wynwood occupies a free-standing, single-storey building, with a large outdoor seating area, perhaps three times the size of the interior. Much of this is centred on a lovely, old tree, which, I imagine, provides much-needed shade in the summer.

Inside, the counter shares the space with the roaster, although Panther has plans to move to a new roasting facility, so it may not be there for much longer. There’s seating opposite the counter and in an annex to the right of the door, but I suspect that most people choose to sit outside.

Panther serves its East Coast and West Coast espresso blends from a concise menu thankfully lacking the buckets-of-milk sizes. There are seven single-origins available through a variety of (filter) brew-methods, plus bulk-brew and cold brew, along with a selection of cakes/cookies.

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Vice City Bean

Detail from the side of the Vice City Bean cold brew tricycle in Miami, Florida :seriously good coffee!The casual visitor could be forgiven for thinking that Panther Coffee is all there is when it comes to speciality coffee in Miami. However, the  coffee scene is slowly taking off, particularly over the last couple of years. It was a barista at Panther’s Wynwood branch who first put me onto one of these newcomers, Vice City Bean, which opened in April 2016, a few blocks south of Wynwood, just north of the downtown area.

It’s a lovely spot, with large, north-facing windows, high ceilings and lots of space. The coffee is all the way from Madcap in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while there’s a guest espresso, which was from Onyx Coffee Lab in Arkansas while I was there. These are available through a cut-down espresso menu with a range of alternative milks. If you prefer filter, there are two options on bulk-brew and three more on pour-over through the Kalita Wave, with offerings from Madcap and the guest roaster. Meanwhile, there’s cold brew and loose-leaf tea.

If you’re feeling hungry, there’s a range of cake and pastries, including savoury pastries. Add to that a small selection of empanadas and assorted toast-based snacks, so you are covered for breakfast and lunch.

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Phoenix

Here are the Coffee Spots I visited during my week in Phoenix.

Cartel Coffee Lab, Phoenix Sky Harbor

A decat cortado at Cartel Coffee Lab at Terminal 4, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.I’ve already sung the praises of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, which is one of the best (large) airports I’ve had the pleasure of flying into/out of in recent years. Unsurprisingly, a big part of its charm (for me, at least) is that it has a branch of Cartel Coffee Lab past security in Terminal 4. The first two times I flew to/from Phoenix (late 2016, early 2017), it was closed by the time I got to the airport, but since then Cartel has extended its hours, so on my first trip to Phoenix, I was able to call in both when I arrived on a Monday morning and left, almost two weeks later, on a Sunday night.

Since it’s at an airport, Cartel would be forgiven for running a cut-down operation, but no, not Cartel. Instead, you are treated to the full Cartel range, which includes six single-origins (one decaf), one of which is available on espresso, while all six are available as pour-over via a combination of Aeropress, V60, Clever Dripper and Chemex. There’s also the obligatory bulk-brew, while you can buy bags of the beans (and even a Chemex!) to take home (or on your flight) with you.

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Cartel Coffee Lab, Scottsdale

A mug of a Colombian single-origin, served through the Aeropress at Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale.It’s fitting that I celebrate my return to Phoenix with a long overdue write up of Cartel Coffee Lab in Scottsdale. Cartel, a small roaster/coffee shop chain with its flagship roastery/coffee shop in Tempe, has been going for almost 11 years. It now has seven branches, including downtown Phoenix and at Sky Harbor airport, as well as two branches in Tucson, and another in Palm Springs over the border in California. The Scottsdale branch has been going since 2011 and I visited three times last year, never managing to write it up for a variety of reasons (usually a lack of decent photo opportunities, since it’s perpetually busy).

Scottsdale is similar to all the other branches when it comes to coffee, serving six seasonal single-origins, all roasted in-house, one of which is decaf. Naturally, all the beans are available to buy. One (the top of the list) is always available as espresso, while there’s also a daily bulk-brew, with all the beans available as pour-over through the Chemex (8oz or 16oz), Cartel having stopped offering Aeropress/V60 at the end of 2018. There’s a range of cakes if you’re hungry and, in this branch, craft beer and Arizona wine on tap.

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Fourtillfour

Fourtillfour in Scottsdale, operating out of this neat little space at the back of a patio.Scottsdale, to the east of Phoenix, is a lovely area of shops, hotels, houses, quiet streets and, right in the centre, a cluster of four speciality coffee shops, forming a rough diamond. At the southern tip is Fourtillfour, the creation of Nico and Mia, who moved here from San Francisco. Fourtillfour satisfies their twin passions: great coffee and vintage cars, the couple often organising rallies and other events.

I can’t speak to the cars, but when it comes to the coffee, it’s a small but lovely place. There’s an outside patio, which has the bulk of the seating, something you could only get away with in a climate such as Arizona, while inside there are a pair of small rooms, one with the counter, the other with some seating. The coffee, which is from San Cruz's Verve Coffee Roasters, comes either via a simple espresso-based menu or there’s bulk-brew.

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Peixoto

The Peixoto logo from the wall outside, both esposing the crop to cup philosophy and explaining how to pronouce the name: "Pay - Sho - Tow".When it comes to speciality coffee in Phoenix, you need to include the surrounding cities, particularly Scottsdale (east), Tempe (southeast), and, beyond that, today’s destination: Chandler. And when it comes to Chandler, there’s one name on everyone’s lips: Peixoto. Indeed, several people suggested I’d be well served making a specific trip just to visit Peixoto, so having arrived on the early flight from Miami exactly a week ago, and with a free afternoon to kill, I pointed my newly-collected hire car in the direction of Chandler…

What marks Peixoto out as special is its crop-to-cup philosophy, taking the ethos of direct trade to its logical conclusion. I’ve seen this in coffee-producing countries such as Vietnam (Oriberry Coffee) and China (Lanna Coffee), but this is the first time I’ve seen it outside of those regions. In Peixoto’s case, (some of) the coffee comes from the Peixoto family farm in Brazil, imported directly to the roastery in the corner of the coffee shop and, from there, straight to your cup. Short of moving to Brazil, it doesn’t come more direct trade than that!

There’ll be more on this in Peixoto’s Meet the Roaster feature, but today I’m focusing on the coffee shop.

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Regroup Coffee + Bicycles

The Regroup Coffee + Bicycles logo, along with its slogan #wheredoyouregroupThe pairing of coffee and bicycles is a fairly well-established in the UK, but not one I’ve seen very often in the US. To that end, Regroup Coffee + Bicycles, which does what it says in the name, is, dare I say it, much more European in feel than it is American. Forming the easternmost point of a diamond of speciality coffee shops in the heart of old Scottsdale that includes Cartel, Berdenas and Fourtillfour, it’s a relative newcomer, having only opened at the end of 2016. That said, Regroup has been very successful, so much so that it’s opening its own roastery/coffee shop, also in Scottsdale.

Occupying a low, single-storey building, Regroup’s layout is pretty simple, with the coffee shop in the front and bicycles at the back. The coffee menu is just as simple, with a blend on espresso (from Colorado’s Hotbox during my visit). I have to say, though, that my heart skipped a beat when I saw the sleek lines of the Slayer espresso machine on the counter. There’s also the obligatory bulk-brew available, while if you’re hungry, Regroup has a limited selection of things on toast, plus a range of cakes, pastries and fruit.

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Flagstaff

Here are the Coffee Spots I visited during my week in Flagstaff and northern Arizona.

111 Roasting Works – Tasting Room

My Colombian Los Naranjos through the V60, served in a carafe, mug on the side, at 111 Roasting Works.One of the first places that was on my list for coffee in Flagstaff, Arizona, other than Matador (which was across the road from my motel) was Firecreek, right on Route 66 itself. However, what I hadn’t realised is that Firecreek had, in the last few months, opened a new coffee tasting room at its roastery on 111 South San Francisco Street, two blocks south of the main coffee shop.

Operating under the brand of 111 Roasting Works, this wonderful space has the roastery on the left, and a large, open plan coffee bar on the right. I’m going to call this space, which has an espresso bar and a slow bar (pour-over to you and me) the Tasting Room, so not as to confuse it with the roastery, which I’ll call 111 Roasting Works.

It’s only open (for now) in the mornings, Monday to Friday, offering the simple choice of the (single-origin) espresso of the day (chosen by the barista that morning) or one of three single-origin filters through Aeropress, V60 or Bonavita dripper. All the coffees are exclusive to the tasting room, by the way. You can’t even get them at Firecreek in the centre of town.

August 2018: Some sad news coming from Flagstaff. 111 Roasting Works has stopped its coffee service and will just be used as a training room. I'll definitely miss it the next time I'm in Flagstaff. The coffee which was exclusive to 111 Roasting Works will be available at Firecreek in the centre of town.

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Firecreek Coffee Company

A Kenya AA in a diner-style mug, made with the Bonavita Dripper at Firecreek Coffee Company in Flagstaff, AZ.I came to Flagstaff in search of mountains, forests, canyons and deserts, but not expecting much in the way of good coffee. However, the one place that pretty much everyone recommended was Firecreek Coffee Company, right in the centre of town on the Historic Route 66, almost directly across from the train station (which now doubles as the tourist centre).

I’ve already written about Firecreek’s roastery, 111 Roasting Works, which is a few blocks to the south. When I visited, it operated as a tasting room on weekday mornings. Sadly I’ve just learnt that 111 Roasting Works has finished its coffee service, but the good news is that Firecreek, which opened in 2015, is still going strong, serving excellent espresso and filter coffee, plus a range of tea, from the Donahue Building, one of Flagstaff’s oldest, dating from 1888.

There’s an excellent breakfast menu, which is supplemented by a wide range of very tasty-looking (and indeed tasty) cakes. These are all served in the large, spacious front portion of Firecreek, while there’s a second area to the rear, which serves as theatre, function room, bar and overspill seating area. You can also sit out front at one of two tables.

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Matador Coffee Roasting Co.

The drive-through (and walk-by) kiosk of Matador Coffee Roasting Co of Flagstaff, Arizona.I often choose my accommodation during my travels based on where the good coffee is. However, in the case of February’s visit to Flagstaff, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to find anything, so the fact that I woke up on my first morning, drew back the curtains in my motel room and found Matador Coffee Roasting Co. literally across the road, was entirely down to good fortune.

Matador is a roaster, coffee shop and drive through, with a second, larger branch (without the roastery) on Highway 89, on the other side of Flagstaff. Occupying an old garage, it’s a handy spot to pick up coffee if you’re driving through, while if you have time to stop, there’s limited seating inside (where, if you’re lucky, you can watch the roaster in operation), or you can sit outside at one of the picnic tables set well back from the road.

Be aware that this is more of a traditional American coffee shop, with a darker roast espresso blend and large drink sizes (12oz to 20oz), plus the ubiquitous bulk-brew options. However, there are also several lighter roasts available as pour-over, while if you’re hungry there’s a small range of breakfast bagels and cakes.

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