Across America: San Jose to Portland, January 2020

My Global WAKEcup and Travel Press look down into the Grand Canyon from Skeleton Point, the furthest point of my hike along the South Kaibab Trail. Looking to the right of the Travel Press, you can see the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.I started 2020 in the same way that I started 2019 and 2018, with an extended trip to the USA. In this case I was gone for 3½ weeks, flying out to San Jose on Friday, January 3rd and returning from Boston on Tuesday, 28th January, the rather bizarre itinerary largely designed to avoid taking an overnight flight back to the UK.

I began with a week in the Bay Area in California for work, followed by another week in Phoenix, again for work. After a week exploring Northern Arizona, the final few days of the trip were spent on the other side of the country in Portland, Maine, before I made the short drive down to Boston for my flight home.

Although the first two weeks were dominated by work, I did have a long weekend at the start of the trip to get acclimatised, allowing me to explore the Bay Area’s excellent coffee scene, including, for the first time, heading out to the East Bay and Oakland. I also had a chance to continue exploring Phoenix’s growing speciality coffee scene. I then took a road trip around Northern Arizona which saw me swap the 20°C temperatures of Phoenix for the snow at the rim of the Grand Canyon and in Flagstaff, before returning to Phoenix to fly across the country to Portland in Maine, where I spent a long weekend visiting Amanda.

The trip itself is covered in the Travel Spots below, while you can also read about the Coffee Spots I visited in the Bay Area, Phoenix, Flagstaff and, finally, Portland .


Header Image: the San Francisco skyline, looking north as I flew over the city on my way to Phoenix.


Travel Spots

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

Brian’s Travel Spot: Flying to San Jose

The nose of my British Airways Boeing 787-900 which flew me to San Jose.Welcome to the first Travel Spot of the new year, on my first trip of 2020, which means I started the year much as I started 2019, when I flew to Phoenix on the 4th January, managing to get upgraded along the way from Club World to First Class. That was also on the first Friday of the year (I flew yesterday).

This time, I flew from Heathrow to San Jose, California, where I spent a week (for work). Then I was back in Phoenix the following week (work again), before spending a week travelling around Arizona, enjoying the winter sun. Finally, I flew to Portland (Maine) to see Amanda for the weekend, which was an interest contrast (similar to last year, when I flew from Phoenix to Chicago). From there, it was on to Boston to fly home at the end of January.

As usual, I flew with British Airways to and from the US, while, due to time constraints, I did the internal travel by plane as well, flying from San Francisco to Phoenix with American and from Phoenix to Portland with Delta. I’d have loved to have done either (or both) of those legs by train, but it wasn’t feasible.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: From San Francisco to Phoenix with American

Making airline coffee bearable: make your own! My Espro Travel Press and Knock Aergrind in the American Airlines lounge at San Francisco Airport before my flight to Phoenix.Welcome to the second instalment of the first Travel Spot of the new year, documenting my first trip of 2020. Part I saw me flying from London Heathrow to San Jose on 3rd January, where British Airways kindly upgraded me to Club World, thus ruining my plans for writing about my experiences in World Traveller Plus (premium economy to you and me). Not that I am complaining too much.

After a week in the Bay Area for work (plus visiting plenty of coffee shops and an unexpected Cat Café), Part II sees me on my way from San Francisco to Phoenix, flying with American Airlines. From there, I had two weeks in Arizona (one for work, one travelling) before flying from Phoenix to Portland (Maine) with Delta. From there, I made my way home via Boston with British Airways.

Flying internally in America is one of my least favourite activities, but I’m slowly learning to make the most of it, helped immensely by having a work travel budget that allows me to fly first class (not as grand as it sounds), plus having enough status with British Airways that I can use the lounge when flying with partner airlines such as American Airlines.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: From Phoenix to Portland with Delta

My Global WAKEcup with a pre-flight V60 from Giant Coffee at Phoenix Sky Harbor Terminal 3.Welcome to the third instalment of the first Travel Spot of the new year, documenting my first trip of 2020. Part I saw me flying from London Heathrow to San Jose on 3rd January, while Part II saw me take the relatively short hop from San Francisco to Phoenix. Now, after two weeks in Arizona (one for work, in Phoenix, and one travelling in Northern Arizona), Part III sees me flying all the way from Phoenix to Portland (Maine), my final stop before making my way home with British Airways.

Although I’d have loved to have done the trip by train, it would have taken a minimum of three days and cost an awful lot more than flying. I did a similar journey in reverse in 2018, when I went from Providence to Tucson by train, but that time I allowed myself a leisurely two weeks for the journey with plenty of stops along the way. With time against me on this trip, I ruled that out and decided to fly. Since you can’t fly directly from Phoenix to Portland, I was faced with various combinations of airlines/routes, eventually settling on going via Atlanta with Delta (my favourite US airline).

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Return from Boston

Making my own coffee again, this time in the British Airways lounge at Boston Logan, with my trusty Travel Press and Aergrind.Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of the first Travel Spot of 2020, which covered the trip I took out to the Bay Area, Phoenix and Portland (Maine) in January. Part I detailed my flight to San Jose, with British Airways, while Part II involved flying from San Francisco to Phoenix  with American Airlines (and almost losing my laptop!). Part III saw me change things up a little and fly with Delta from Phoenix to Portland (Maine) via Atlanta. And finally, this post covers my return home on the early morning flight from Boston.

I’ve done this route once before (last summer), flying from Boston in premium economy with Virgin Atlantic on its early morning flight. I’m flying in premium economy again (aka World Traveller Plus), but this time with British Airways, a flight which has the distinct disadvantage of leaving 45 minutes earlier than the corresponding Virgin Atlantic flight (which means 45 fewer minutes in bed…). Once again, Amanda drove me down from Portland to Boston the night before, and I stayed over in the same airport hotel before getting up at the ridiculously early hour of 05:15 to catch the 05:30 shuttle to the airport.

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You can also see what I got up to when I wasn’t visiting coffee shops.

Travels with my Coffee: USA 2020

My Travel Press and Therma Cup overlook Phoenix from the Ridge Line Trail along South Mountain.Welcome to the first Travels with my Coffee of 2020, the series where I take my coffee to all the best places, particularly when there are no speciality coffee shops to be found. Last year, my coffee did very well, going on a road trip through Arizona & New Mexico, spending a month in Shanghai and another five weeks in the USA, before going on a second road trip, this time in the south of Ireland. We’ll see if this year is as eventful.

It got off to a good start as I flew to San Jose, spending a week in the Bay Area, with day trips to San Francisco and Oakland. From there, I flew to Phoenix, where I spent a week (work again) before touring northern Arizona the following week. After that, I flew across the USA from Phoenix to Portland (Maine) via Atlanta to spend a weekend with Amanda, then flew home from Boston.

As ever, I was joined by my trusty travelling coffee kit, which saved me from plenty of bad office coffee, while my Travel Press and three of my reusable cups had some adventures along the way, particularly during the week in northern Arizona.

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Coffee Spots

You can read about all the Coffee Spots I visited in the Bay Area, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Portland on this trip, all listed alphabetically by city, starting with the Bay Area, where I’ve broken things down further by city.

Bay Area

San Jose

Chromatic Coffee Roastery Cafe

My flat white, in a glass, at the Chromatic Coffee Roastery Cafe in San Jose.Quite a lot has changed since I was last in San Jose in April. Back then, Chromatic Coffee had its original store in Santa Clara, along with a new location in downtown San Jose, while the roastery was on Lincoln Avenue, just around the corner from my friend Richard’s house. Fast forward just over seven months and, while the Santa Clara location is still going strong, everything else has changed.

The roastery, admittedly, is still on Lincoln Avenue, but it’s no longer around the corner from Richard’s house, since he’s moved to Willow Glen. The downtown coffee shop has gone, however, Chromatic deciding to relocate it to the roastery, where it now serves coffee to all-comers from a large space at the front of the roastery.

There’s a simple coffee menu, with the Gamut blend on espresso, although this is occasionally changed up. This is joined by a daily batch brew using the new Ground Control Cyclops, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of pastries from Manresa Bread. One thing to be aware of: the coffee shop is technically classified as a coffee truck, only able to serve coffee in takeaway cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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Voyager Craft Coffee, San Pedro Square Market

A Finca Las Ventanas from Costa Rica, roasted by Voyager Craft Coffee and served as an espresso in its new location in the San Pedro Square Market in San Jose.On my last visit to San Jose, in April 2019, B2 Coffee was a fixture in the San Pedro Square Market. However, like so much in San Jose speciality coffee since then, everything has changed, while at the same time feeling much the same. B2 Coffee has, sadly, closed, but, with pleasing symmetry, Voyager Craft Coffee, which took over from the original Bellano Coffee (B1 Coffee if you like) on Stevens Creek Boulevard, has now taken over from B2 as well.

The basic set-up is almost identical, Voyager occupying the same U-shaped counter located on one side of a large, communal seating area at the market’s northern end. You order here and find a seat (or sofa) in the communal area, or, alternatively, head outside, where there’s even more seating.

The coffee is all roasted in-house by Voyager, with seasonal offerings on espresso (Cascade blend, single-origin and decaf), batch brew and with up to five choices on pour-over. Add to that Voyager’s unique destination drinks, their ingredients inspired by places around the globe. If you’re hungry, there’s a concise toast-based menu, a selection of cakes, plus the food hall in the market is at your disposal. And there’s a bar!

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Oakland

Cat Town

The Cat Town logo, showing the silhouette of a cat climbing down the C of Cat Town.In 7½ years of writing the Coffee Spot, I’d never been to a cat café. However, all that changed last weekend when my friend Richard suggested visiting Cat Town in Oakland. It was America’s first cat café when it opened in 2014, adding the RAWR Coffee Bar, its own independent speciality coffee shop, in 2017. I wrote about RAWR earlier in the week, which you can visit in its own right, independent of Cat Town, while today’s Saturday Supplement focuses on Cat Town itself.

What makes Cat Town special in the world of cat cafés is that all the cats in residence are up for adoption, although you don’t have to be interested in adopting if all you want to do is visit and hang out with the cats. An hour with the cats will set you back $10, which goes towards covering Cat Town’s expenses. Although you can turn up on spec, booking ahead of time is recommended since Cat Town limits the number of people allowed in at any one time and it can get very busy. Note that while Cat Town is closed on Monday/Tuesday, RAWR is open, so you can still pop in for coffee.

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RAWR Coffee Bar

The sign hanging outside RAWR Coffee Bar, part of Cat Town in Oakland, California.I must confess that I’ve never given much thought to visiting cat cafés, even though I really like cats. However, when my friend Richard suggested Cat Town in Oakland, which has the RAWR Coffee Bar attached, I was intrigued. Cat Town was America’s first cat café when it opened in 2014, while the RAWR Coffee Bar followed in 2017. Although linked (you enter Cat Town via RAWR, for example), they operate independently, so you’re free to pop into the coffee bar without any obligation to visit Cat Town.

What makes Cat Town stand out from the other cat cafés that I’ve previously been aware of is that all the cats in residence are up for adoption (which is why Richard was there). You can read more about Cat Town’s work in its own Saturday Supplement. Meanwhile, today’s Saturday Short focuses on the RAWR Coffee Bar, which serves espresso-based drinks and a batch brew filter option from local roasters Highwire. There’s also a small selection of pastries if you’re hungry.

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San Francisco

Linea Caffe

The Linea Caffe sign, from my visit in April 2019, with the words "Linea Caffe S.F" written in white in a cursive script on a red, circular background.I’m indebted to my friend Karen for introducing me to Linea Caffe, which we paid a flying visit to on my previous visit to San Francisco in April 2019. Sadly I didn’t have time to do a write up, so on my equally brief return to San Francisco last week, I made a point of calling in for a more extended visit.

Located in the heart of The Mission, there’s not a lot to Linea Caffe, just a small, near cube-shaped, sunny, corner spot with windows on two sides and a massive L-shaped counter inside, which leaves space for a single, two-person wooden bench and not much else. Indeed, there’s far more seating outside, where a similar bench is joined by six small, round tables down the side of Linea Caffe.

Linea Caffe, which roasts all its own coffee, has a concise espresso-based menu using a seasonal blend plus decaf, backed up with a single-origin on batch brew. If you’re hungry, there’s a small range of cakes and pastries, including savoury options, from Neighbor Bakehouse.

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Ritual Coffee Roasters, Mission

The Ritual Coffee Roasters logo (a stylised cup tilted at 45 degrees with a star balanced on top).Ritual Coffee Roasters a veteran of San Francisco’s speciality coffee scene, going strong since it opened its Mission location on Valencia in 2005. A roaster/coffee shop chain, I’ve had its coffee in various places across the USA, but until now, the only other location I’ve visited is Hayes Valley, when I was in San Francisco in April last year.

The Hayes Valley location is part of Proxy, occupying one of a handful of shipping containers, offering an impressively-full range of coffees despite its small size. In contrast, its original location in the Mission is a large, open space, with a distinctly minimalist vibe, a complete contrast to the stereotypical San Francisco exposed brick industrial spaces such as Sextant Coffee Roasters and Sightglass.

The focus is firmly on the coffee, with a blend (Emperor’s Cup), single-origin (Monte Álban, Mexico) and decaf (Los Gigantes, Colombia) on espresso, plus multiple single-origin filter options, including batch brew (La Folie, Guatemala) and three choices for the V60. Finally, there’s cold brew, nitro cold brew and a seasonal cascara drink. The coffee choices change seasonally, with all the beans (and more) available in retail bags. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes and pastries.

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Palo Alto

Verve Coffee Roasters, Palo Alto

Bringing a new meaning to the phrase "well-balanced", it's a one-and-one (split-shot espresso and macchiato) from Verve Coffee Roasters in Palo Alto, with the espresso cup precariously balanced on the edge of the saucer.Verve Coffee Roasters, which began in Santa Cruz, California, has spread out along the Pacific Coast, with locations in nearby San Francisco to the north and Los Angeles to the south. It’s also crossed the ocean to Japan, where it has coffee shops in Tokyo and Kamakura. Although I haven’t been to all the Verves, I decided that I would visit at least one coffee shop in each city, crossing off Kamakura, the last on my list, when visiting Japan last year. Which was where the staff told me about the new Palo Alto coffee shop. I swear they’re doing this deliberately! So, when I was in the Bay Area for work at the start of this month, I popped up to Palo Alto on the Caltrain to tick that one off my list.

Verve occupies a corner spot a block from the station, with a large outdoor seating area right on the corner, backed up by a bright, spacious interior with plenty more seating. The coffee offering will be familiar to anyone who has been to a Verve before, as will the twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines. There’s also food until 2pm and cakes all day.

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Phoenix

Berdena’s

A lovely espresso, served on a wooden tray, with a glass of sparkling water on the side.Berdena’s is a relatively recent addition to Scottdale’s growing speciality coffee scene, having opened in April 2017. Part of a new wave that includes Fourtillfour and Regroup Coffee + Bicycles, plus, just across the Arizona Canal, Press Coffee Roasters, it’s just a couple of blocks away along East 5th Avenue from the pioneering Cartel Coffee Lab. Unlike the majority of the area’s coffee shops, which focus solely on coffee, Berdena’s is known as much for its food, although in a fit of bad timing, I missed out on lunch on my first two visits! Berdena's serves a concise breakfast menu until 2pm every day, while there's a selection of cake all day long.

Turning to coffee, Berdena’s started with Madcap from Grand Rapids in Michigan, but has now evolved into a multi-roaster, changing roaster every six weeks or so, with a single-origin on espresso and another one batch-brew. You can also buy retail bags, although Berdena’s had sold out during my latest visit, the coffee from Morgon Coffee Roasters in Gothenburg proving extremely popular!

You can either sit outside at one of the tables sheltering under the passage to the left of the shop, or find a spot in the spacious interior, where there’s a selection of tables and a window-bar.

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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 of two 2018 visits 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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Driftwood Coffee Co.

My espresso, an Ethiopian Guji from Horizon Line Coffee, served in a glass at Driftwood Coffee Co. in Peoria.Although this is my sixth visit to Phoenix in under four years, I’ve always stayed in northeast Phoenix or Scottsdale, my speciality coffee focus generally turned towards the centre and the cities to the southeast, such as Tempe and Chandler. However, Peoria’s Driftwood Coffee Co. has been on my radar since it opened in 2017, so when work finished unexpectedly early one afternoon, I took my chance and drove over to pay it a visit.

Driftwood is on the edge of Old Town Peoria, just off Highway 60, which runs northwest out of central Phoenix. Occupying a compact space at the end of a warehouse-like building, Driftwood has a generous outside seating area and a simple, high-ceilinged interior. A true multi-roaster, Driftwood aims to offer at least one Arizona-based roaster and one from elsewhere in America. While I was there, there were two local options, Mythical Coffee (which I’d visited earlier in the week) and Tucson’s Yellow Brick Coffee (which I’d previously enjoyed at Maverick Coffee), while the national offering was from Horizon Line Coffee in Des Moines, Iowa. There’s a concise espresso-based menu, batch brew (for those in a hurry) or a slow bar, offering cafetiere, Chemex or V60.

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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 award-winning outdoor 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. The first, accessible from the patio, has the counter, while the other houses a large Probat roaster, where Fourtillfour roasts all its own direct-trade coffee under the brand Four Coffee. This is served via a simple espresso-based menu, along with batch-brew, while if you're hungry, you there's a small breakfast menu and a selection of doughnuts. Naturally, the coffee is available to buy either in-store or on-line.

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Giant Coffee, Phoenix Sky Harbor

The sign on the wall at Giant Coffee in Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor.Good airport coffee is still, sadly, a rarity. It therefore seems unfair that, given its scarcity, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport should have not one, but two speciality coffee shops. The first is Cartel Coffee Lab in Terminal 4., which is very handy for me, since I typically fly British Airways/American, both of whom use the terminal.

However, this time, I was flying Delta, which uses the newly-refurbished Terminal 3. I was just kicking myself for my choice of airline and hence terminal, rueing missing out on a decent pre-flight coffee, when I walked past Giant Coffee, a small coffee bar tucked in with a larger convenience store/newsagent.

Although there’s not much to Giant, it offers a concise espresso-based menu using the house-blend and decaf, plus there’s pour-over (V60 or cafetiere) and batch brew, each sporting a different single-origin. There’s also Rishi Tea and a range of cakes, sandwiches and salads.

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Maverick Coffee

A lovely flat white, made with the guest espresso, the Runaway Blend from Yellow Brick Coffee in Tucson and served at Maverick Coffee in Phoenix.Maverick Coffee is another of chances discoveries of a coffee shop right outside my hotel, in this case in the Paradise Valley Plaza, an old-style outdoor mall in Scottsdale, where I was staying on my visit to Phoenix last week. Maverick, which opened in 2015, in many ways feels like a typical American coffee shop, but when it comes to the coffee itself, it serves a house-blend from San Francisco’s Ritual, with a monthly guest, chosen by popular vote on social media, plus decaf on espresso.

However, that’s only the start. There’s the obligatory bulk-brew, while if you really want to explore, Maverick has a constantly-changing selection of four single-origins on filter through the Aeropress, V60, Chemex and cafetiere. When one bag finishes, another goes on in its place. The range of roasters is bewildering, with Maverick supporting both local roasters and pulling in coffee from all over the country, most of which is for sale on the retail shelves by the counter.

If none of that takes your fancy, there is a selection of loose-leaf tea, various iced and cold-brew coffees, plus small but tempting all-day breakfast and lunch menus, all backed up by a variety of cake.

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Mythical Coffee

A lovely one-and-one (espresso and macchiato) plus a glass of sparkling water, beautifully presented on a triangular tray at Mythical Coffee in Gilbert, Arizona.A permanent fixture of my now annual trips to Phoenix is meeting up with Meg and her husband Coffee Ken, Arizona’s leading coffee blogger. So, when I arrived in Phoenix on Saturday, other than picking up my hire car and checking into my hotel, my first act was to drive over to Gilbert, one the cities to the southeast of Phoenix, for our meet up. The venue was a new coffee shop, Mythical Coffee, on Gilbert Town Square.

What Ken hadn’t told me when he suggested Mythical Coffee as our venue, is just how new it is. Today it has been open for precisely two weeks. Mythical Coffee is a roaster and coffee shop, offering an ever-changing cast of single-origins, one each on espresso, batch brew and pour-over, with the coffee available to buy in retail bags. There’s also cold brew and, when the equipment has been tweaked, nitro cold brew will be available, along with several seasonal lattes and a small selection of matcha, chai and tea. Mythical offers a small brunch menu, featuring overnight oats, plus four different toast options, served until 2pm each day, along with a selection of cakes and pastries, available all day.

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Pair Specialty Coffee & Tea

My espresso, a Colombian Geisha, roasted and served at Pair Speciality Coffee & Tea in Mesa, and presented on a square, wooden tray with a glass of water on the side.After five previous visits to Phoenix, where I’ve visited coffee shops in the surrounding cities of Scottsdale, Tempe and Chandler, this trip has seen me add Gilbert, Peoria and now Mesa to the list. Mesa, which is east of Tempe and north of Gilbert, is somewhere I’ve only previously driven through on my way to the Superstition Mountains. What caused me to stop on this occasion was Pair Specialty Coffee & Tea, which I was urged to visit by several people, including Fionn of The Pourover and Eric, at Mythical Coffee.

Pair Specialty Coffee & Tea started as a pop-up inside the tap room at Cider Corps, although it’s now migrated to a more permanent set up at the back of the main bar with plans to expand the opening hours in the next month or two. Pair roasts all its own coffee, with five single-origins on pour-over, two of which are also on espresso. These are backed up by five loose-leaf teas pus matcha, with all the coffee/tea available to buy in retail bags.

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Press Coffee, Scottsdale Quarter

A beautiful cappuccino in a classic, hard-to-photograph black cup on a black saucer, made at Press Coffee Roasters, Scottsdale Quarter.I’m leaving Phoenix today after an all-too-short week-long visit, which included a weekend in the Grand Canyon. However, I couldn’t go without sharing on the unexpected highlights of my stay with you. Speciality coffee is not something I was expecting to find on this trip since I was on business and staying out to the northeast of the centre, in North Scottsdale. However, on my second evening there, having wandered the block from my hotel to the Scottsdale Quarter (I think of it as an outdoor shopping mall), I stumbled across Press Coffee Roasters, which immediately set off my Coffee Spot radar!

Press Coffee is a roastery, with a chain of four coffee shops, including one at the airport. What’s more, there are three more on the way! Press Coffee has been going for eight years, with the Scottsdale Quarter branch opening in 2010. There are two blends on espresso, along with decaf, plus five single-origins on filter, made using the Seraphim automated pour-over system through either the Kalita Wave or Chemex. There’s an espresso blend and single-origin on the obligatory bulk-brew, plus cold-brew and nitro cold-brew. If you’re hungry, breakfast/lunch is served until 2.30, with cakes available all day.

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Press Coffee, The Roastery

My cortado, made with the La Esperanza Colombian single-origin, roasted on-site and served in a glass, on a wooden tray, with a glass of water at the side.My first speciality coffee experience in Phoenix was the chance discovery of Press Coffee in the Scottsdale Quarter on my very first visit in 2016. Since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Press, visiting its locations on the Waterfront in Old Scottsdale and in the Skywater Apartments in Tempe. The number of Press locations has varied over the years, but currently stands at eight, which includes the new roastery. This opened in July last year in north Phoenix, just off SR51, one on the main routes north out of Phoenix.

Although I have a soft spot for Press, I would be hard-pressed to describe its locations as anything other than utilitarian. Not The Roastery, however, which is magnificent, occupying a standalone building with a large outdoor seating area, a mezzanine level above the counter/kitchen and the roastery at the back.

The coffee offering is very familiar: the Twitch blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, two options on batch brew and up to six single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. Add to that a selection of tea, beer, wine and spirits, plus a concise all-day food menu and a range of cakes, and you have something for (almost) everyone.

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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 that includes Cartel, Berdena's and Fourtillfour in the heart of old Scottsdale (just to the east of Phoenix) 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 planning to open 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.

January 2020: I popped back to Regroup where I learnt that the roastery had been slightly delayed and was due to open at the end of the month in Tempe. There's also a brand new Mk II Slayer on the counter. The only other change is that Regroup has gone cashless.

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Flagstaff

You can read about all the Coffee Spots I visited in Flagstaff on this trip (listed alphabetically).

Firecreek Big Park

An espresso, served in a class white cup, at Firecreek Big Park in the Village of Oak Creek in Arizona.When I was in Arizona this time last year, one of my chance discoveries was Flagstaff’s Firecreek Coffee Company. As an added bonus, the staff told me about a second branch, Firecreek Big Park, in the Village of Oak Creek, south of Sedona/Red Rock Country, a beautiful area that’s worth a visit (or two) in its own right.

Firecreek is right on AZ 179, which connects Sedona, to the north, with the Interstate, I17, to the south. Even better, just north of the Village of Oak Creek, it runs right through Red Rock Country, so Firecreek couldn’t be more conveniently-placed.

Smaller than the Flagstaff original, it serves a cut-down, espresso-based menu, plus a selection of cakes and a few savouries (granola, bagels and quiche). The space is lovely, a single, long room with a fireplace, open to the A-frame roof which soars above you. There’s also a large front patio.

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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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Portland

You can read about all the Coffee Spots I visited in Portland on this trip (listed alphabetically).

Bard Coffee

The label on a bag of Bard Coffee's High Tide Espresso blend: medium roast, a blend of Central America and East Africa coffees, tasting notes of sweet red berries, orange-like citrus with a creamy body and a dark chocolate finish.As part of my current US trip, I paid a visit to Portland, Maine, partly to check out the local coffee scene and partly because it made a cool addition to my overall journey. What I found was a thriving coffee scene which I’ll cover in the next few months, starting today with the lovely Bard Coffee.

Bard Coffee occupies an amazing location next to Tommy’s Park, a lovely green space right in the heart of downtown Portland. For once got my timing right and arrived two weeks after Bard had reopened following a major refurbishment. Normally, it’s the other way around, with me arriving just before a refurbishment or, better still, in the middle of one!

Bard roasts all its own coffee, with a good selection available at any time. On espresso, there’s the seasonal High Tide blend or the decaf Lo-Fi blend, while on bulk brew there are two coffees of the day, a light- and dark-roasted single-origin. Finally, you can have any of five single-origins, plus decaf, through the Kalita Wave filter, with one of the single-origins available through the Chemex. This last one is chosen to highlight the difference between the Chemex and Kalita brew methods.

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Tandem Cafe & Roastery

A light bulb in the shape of a tandem bicycle from the wall of the Tandem Coffee Roasters RoasteryWhen I first came to Portland in 2015, to start my coast-to-coast train journey from Portland (Maine) to Portland (Oregon), I very nearly didn’t make it to Tandem Coffee Roasters. I’d arrived late in the morning and had settled into my hotel before realising that (in those days) Tandem closed at 2 pm. By then, it was already gone noon and Tandem was at the other end of town!

I made it, of course, and was very glad that I did, Tandem becoming a firm favourite of mine, along with the likes of Bard Coffee and Speckled Ax. There are, in fact, two Tandem Coffees in Portland, the Cafe/Roastery (the subject of this Coffee Spot) and Tandem Coffee + Bakery (cunningly disguised as a gas station on Congress Street).

Returning to the Cafe/Roastery, this consists of, unsurprisingly, a coffee shop and, in a second, standalone building behind it, the roastery, where Tandem roasts all its coffee on a 35kg Loring. The coffee shop is the focus of this Coffee Spot, while the roastery has its own Meet the Roaster feature. These days, by the way, the coffee shop is open until four o’clock each afternoon (except Sunday, when it’s closed).

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