Cartel Coffee Lab has reaped its fair share of local and national applause, including that of BBC Travel and
Food & Wine Magazine. With all those accolades, it's surprising just how modest Jason Silberschlag—the man behind the coffee—actually is. "We're all infants in understanding coffee," Silberschlag mused in a video on the shop's website. "It's one of the most complex beverages we consume." But, more than modest, Jason's comments reveal a very real respect and reverence for the drink—a respect that manifests itself in the staff's persistent experimentation, study, and instruction. The spot, after all, is not a coffeehouse; it's a coffee lab.
Each of Cartel Coffee's four locations moderately play up the laboratory theme with lots of stainless steel, but offset any hint of coldness with brightly colored walls and original sculptures. Even more essential to the theme? The baristas are known to carefully explain brewing processes and technique to their customers as they create decadent espresso drinks, including the simple desert favorite: cold-brewed coffee. Light on the sugar, the brew allows sippers to really taste and admire the bold, earthy flavor of espresso beans culled from Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Guatemala. And though coffee is the most obvious drink to order at Cartel, you’ll want to pay attention to the rest of the menu, especially at the Tempe location. Since early 2013, this outpost has evolved from a straight coffeehouse into a full-blown microbrewery.