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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hey, barista!: Coffee meets science at Cartel Coffee Lab

    Jen Pimentel
    A barista at Cartel Coffee Lab prepares a drink on Saturday, Feb. 27. The Daily Wildcat talked to two Cartel baristas about why they love their jobs.

    Cartel Coffee Lab, where coffee meets science, was started in 2008 in a warehouse in Tempe. As this alternative coffee roaster and shop began to expand, so did its fan base.

    Cartel has six labs in Arizona and two in Tucson. They roast their own coffee, which is unique for a local coffee joint.

    The Daily Wildcat went to the Campbell Avenue location to scope out the place and talk to baristas Aaron Jacobi and Thomas Oberin.

    The Daily Wildcat: How long have you been working here?

    AJ: Since July, so I don’t know how many months that is.

    TO: Um, for three whole years. It’s been a while!

    Do you enjoy working here? What is your favorite part?

    AJ: Oh yeah I love it. My favorite part is probably the amount of customers who have come in contact between people. The way you’re able to interact with customers allows you to get beyond a normal employee-customer relationship; you get to talk to people a little bit more, you get to see them everyday and build relationships with people and you get excited when you see certain people.

    TO: Yeah it’s a good job and it’s a lot of fun. It’s fast-paced, which is nice—it makes everything go by quicker and the people we get are super sweet, but also very strange, so it’s a good time. You never know who is coming through that door; it’s fun.

    What is your favorite drink to make?

    AJ: Oh man. (TO: in the background, “Come on dude!”) Uh, pouring beers. No just kidding. Just a good old V60 maybe. I don’t do any of the nice fancy pours yet in terms of lattes—I’m not super into latte art, I’d rather it just taste good. Trying to make it taste good for the customer. [V60] is personally one of the drinks I enjoy the most and it’s fun nailing it and [knowing] that the customer is going to enjoy the heck out of it.

    TO: Probably cappuccinos—can’t go wrong with a cappuccino. It’s a good go-to.

    Have you had any weird experiences while working here?

    AJ: Yeah, we’ve had some stuff for sure. There was a guy who came in and stared at girls, so that was weird. He was just weirding people out and staring at people intensely. Also we get people who order things that aren’t on the menu and they get like really mad when we cant make a certain drink for them, its weird.

    TO: We’ve had a lot of people steal our tip jars, like this one time, this woman came in and stole my tip jar, but when I went outside to get it she had sprinted away. She’s a really interesting woman, she tried to do it again but I caught her and counted the money in front of her so that she knew I was onto her.

    What’s the best location?

    TO: Downtown’s crazy, I’ve made Beck coffee before. ScHoolboy Q got me into his concert because I made him a really nice vanilla latte.

    How does the setting influence your work?

    AJ: The dim lights are kind of interesting. During the day a lot more light comes in and it’s a lot more open. Our downtown location I prefer a little bit more during the day because it lets in a lot of natural light with a lot of skylights and it’s really nice and open. The vibe here [Campbell Avenue location] I kind of enjoy more [at night], because it reminds me of some of the bars I would go to—more of a tavern-like feeling. It’s fun to play music, have some fun interactions with customers, especially some of the people that come in who have beer and wine. It’s a lot more loose and casual and doesn’t feel like the UA Library.

    TO: It keeps it chill and mellow, and makes it less hectic because it’s a nice environment.

    So, do you control the music?

    AJ: Oh yeah, I like to play a lot of stuff. We play all of it. There’s a lot [of songs] that I like to play, but I can’t because they have profanity and stuff, but I like to play some Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall, some typical stuff like Father John Misty and Arcade Fire. I just like to bounce around and pick some different stuff and sometimes it gets a little weird in here—especially when we break out the old Justin Timberlake and Usher.

    TO: We play the hipster stuff in the morning. Frank Sinatra, jazz. I play Nirvana once a shift. One of our guys plays clubbing music, but I don’t like to listen to that trash. We love the classics; we have a wide range of music.

    Why Cartel?

    AJ: Cartel is a place that pays attention to details and product. The coffee, the taste, the way that employees talk to you and we like to nerd out with our customers, and hope that people like to nerd out with us. We strive to get as close to perfection as possible. Also, the community, it’s really easy to meet people here, especially if you’re a regular. You’ll surely get to know all of us and make friends with us. And you’ll also get to know the other regulars and it turns into a little Cartel community, and it’s a wonderful thing.

    TO: Cause it’s the best. Best coffee shop in Arizona, so that’s pretty rad. We’re all really nice and make good coffee, so yeah.

    These boys’ cool and chill attitudes reflect the ambiance that Cartel Coffee Lab provides. Along with roasting its own coffee, the lab is big within itself and provides bakery items to split with your friends or eat while studying.

    Cartel is located at 210 E. Broadway Blvd. or 2516 N. Campbell Ave.

    Follow Mariel Bustamante on Twitter.

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