Category: Scottsdale
Coffee Cartel Review

First, let me say that I know that there are multiple locations, which I will eventually visit. However, for this review, I will be focusing on Coffee Cartel in Old Town Scottsdale.

Whenever I’ve had to meet someone in Scottsdale, I’ve often chosen this place because it’s in a great location, it’s easy to find, and most people like the coffee here. Coffee Cartel takes its coffee seriously. In fact, their website shows you how to brew the perfect cup of joe with their own label brand. In addition to serving coffee, however, the shop serves tea, pastries, and beer.

Every time I go to this particular shop, I see a lot of people working on their laptops, some of them even wearing ear buds. Granted, I realize that working in a coffee shop is pretty common, but there are some places where I notice this more. The energy at Coffee Cartel is laid back, and it reminds me a little of the coffee shops I used to visit when I was a graduate student living in San Francisco. There are multiple seating areas. The only criticism I have about their set up is that their outdoor seating area is a long bench that’s connected to a bunch tables. Therefore, if you have one patron that is apt to bouncing his/her leg when they are anxious, everyone sitting on that bench is going to know it. Otherwise, the other areas are fairly comfortable. The room where I took the photo for this blog was behind the coffee bar, where there are a couple of tables and two comfy leather couches.

When a coffee place has their own brand of coffee you can pretty much assume that their coffee is going to be at least decent. Cartel’s coffee is actually more than decent. Their coffee is bold, flavorful, and smooth. I know smooth isn’t a typical adjective you hear when you talk about coffee, but sometimes very strong coffee can taste acidic and leave an after taste. Their iced teas range from really good to fair. Sometimes I’ve found their tea blends to be a little too exotic for me. The pastry selection is not as vast as I’ve seen at other places, but what they do sell is good quality and tastes delicious. I had the lemon bread, and it was just the right amount of sweetness. Even though I’m not a huge lemon fan, I still enjoyed the flavor because it wasn’t over the top.

The people who work there are pleasant and professional. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I feel like I’m walking into my neighborhood coffee shop, but I’ve never had a bad experience or felt mistreated.

The crowd that I’ve noticed at Cartel is pretty diverse. I’ve seen people of all ages and different backgrounds. I’ve seen people doing schoolwork, meeting with friends, or having business meetings. Much like Echo, Coffee Cartel is an appropriate place to go if you’re looking for a quiet space to work. However, it’s not so quiet that you would feel uncomfortable meeting up with a friend.

This particular shop is in a great location, which is one of its biggest advantages in my opinion. Cartel is nestled among a ton of shops and restaurants, not to mention it’s near Fashion Square Mall and all the nightclubs. For example, I could easily imagine people going to Cartel after walking along the Waterfront during Thursday Art Walk. There’s so much to do in that area that it really makes a great place to meet up with friends.

Coffee Cartel has a lot of great qualities. The two biggest are their location and setting. Their coffee is great, but I expect coffee shops to have good coffee and, if they don’t, I’m never going back even if it’s in a spectacular location. Coffee is really important to me. I can’t function without it. It’s my manna, lifeblood, brain food, you get the point. So if you’re in the area and feel like enjoying a cup of coffee and people watching, check out this place. Bean Count: 7/10.

Echo Coffee Shop Review
Echo Coffee Shop Review

My first impression of Echo Coffee Shop was a library, except instead of librarians you had skilled baristas and a vast array of coffee selections. I walked into the shop and the first thing I noticed were the rows of laptops partially covering pensive expressions. The room was so heavily pregnant with everyone’s thoughts that I felt compelled to whisper my order to the barista: Café Americano with a peanut butter cookie. The cookie was delicious and the coffee was strong, but I tasted a slight bitterness, which is usually associated with burned coffee beans. Even though there were places to sit, I was cramped at my little table by the window. After 30 minutes of drinking my coffee and reading a copy of Java, I left to go home.

I can’t say there’s anything particularly wrong with Echo. The coffee is better than most places and the selection of pastries is more than decent and they even offer some gluten free options. The baristas are pleasant and there are plenty of tables and a few sofas for people to sit and work. The way it’s decorated reminds me of a Starbucks. It’s clean, with light colored walls, and full of natural light from the large windows. However, my experiences at Echo have always left me feeling emotionally sterilized. The energy of the space colors how I feel about this particular coffee shop. I’ve been to Echo about a half dozen times and the energy is always the same. There’s never much conversation going on and in fact, when I met one of my friends for coffee, she and I both felt uncomfortable talking because it was so quiet that we felt like we would get into trouble if our voices were above a whisper.

My visit to Echo made me think more about how the definitions of community and connection have changed. Social media and smart phones have made the virtual seem more real than the physical world. It’s more natural to be connected to your lap top computer than it is the people sitting next to you. If the power grid were to ever go out, humanity would have to relearn what it means to be part of a community. And yet, I would argue that our lack of physical community is creating an epidemic of detachment, self-absorption, and bullying. Empathy is not created over the Internet.

It’s challenging pinpointing why the energy feels the way it does at a place. However, sometimes places are just not good matches for people, and for me, I prefer places with more hustle and bustle. I want to feel a part of something, even if it’s just drinking coffee and reading a book. If I want quiet, I’ll go to a proper library. Due to Echo Coffee Shop’s menu, coffee, and hospitality, I give them 8 out of 10 beans.