Cartel Coffee Lab's attention to detail sets it apart from corporate cafés

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Selena Quintanilla | The Daily Wildcat

Cartel Coffee Lab located on Broadway on Friday, Sept. 30. Cartel Coffee Lab's first location opened in Tempe and now has six locations across Arizona.

There is no stronger bond than the one a college student shares with caffeine. It is there for us during midterms, helps us wake up for that 8 a.m. class and powers us to write that 12-page term paper.

So it's no wonder that coffee stores have traditionally had such a prosperous relationship with college campuses. This testament holds true for Cartel Coffee Lab, which opened its first location in Tempe by the ASU campus.

Cartel Coffee Lab was founded in 2008 by Tucson native Jason Silberschlag, who became passionate about coffee and wanted to start a community in Arizona for others who shared his outlook.

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Now with six locations all across Arizona, including two in Tucson, Cartel Coffee Lab has established itself as a staple for people searching out specialty coffee.

What sets Cartel Coffee Lab apart from other coffee shops is the attention to detail its baristas have become known for.

“I think we are more of a craft in specific areas," said Lauren Scheibe, manager of the Tucson stores. "In the way that we do pour over coffees or dial in our espressos, a lot of places don’t do that so, in that regard, we are different.”

Scheibe said that Cartel considers itself a third-wave or specialty-type coffee shop—an alternative experience to many established coffee shop chains.

"It's not that we are better or worse than a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, but we just offer a different coffee experience than those places,” Scheibe said.

Cartel's coffee beans have been carefully sourced from all over the world in order to offer a wide variety of choices for the customers. However, unlike other stores, Cartel has grown accustomed to maintaining close relationships with the farms that the beans come from.

“Our beans are straight from the farm to our store, so there’s no extra processing or middle person," Scheibe said. "We are very much into building a relationship with our farmers as much as we are with our customers.”

This focus that the coffee shop has on creating lasting relationships does not end with the farmers. At all six locations, Cartel has dedicated itself to constructing ties within the local community.

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For example, the coffee shop hosts an open mic night every Wednesday at its downtown Tucson location. In addition to this popular event, both Tucson locations hang art by local artists throughout their respective buildings in an attempt to generate a bond between customer, business and community.

“I really feel like Cartel is a unique place in Tucson, and plus the coffee is amazing,” said customer Isabella Rodriguez.

This type of dedication is something that has made Cartel a staple for coffee lovers all over Arizona. It is a place where one can go to study, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a well put-together, chill ambiance.

Silberschlag carefully constructed a lot of the furniture and light fixtures that you see at Cartel, which have helped shape the stores' unique environment.

If you are ever in the mood for a carefully crafted drink from a local company, look no further than the Cartel Coffee Lab — you won’t be disappointed.


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