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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Q&A Cartel Coffee Lab owner Jason Silberschlag

    Courtesy ofCartel Coffee Lab Jason Silberschalg, a UA alumn and Tucson native, is the owner of the Cartel Coffee franchise.

    Cartel Coffee Lab is celebrating the opening of its newest shop in downtown Tucson by throwing a party this Saturday. It will host live musicians and offer beer and wine specials, food straight from its new wood-fired oven and of course, plenty of exceptional coffee.
    Jason Silberschlag, Cartel Coffee Lab franchise owner, Tucson native and UA alumnus, took some time between tasting brews to answer a few of the Daily Wildcat’s questions.

    DW: Why did you decide to open a coffee shop?
    My wife and I were heading down a career path that we decided wasn’t entirely for us and we thought, ‘Well shoot, what are we going to do?’ I went back to this memory of having an idea of doing a coffee shop or a hot dog cart. I liked the idea of flexibility, being able to just pop up and open and close whenever I liked. I knew that the cost of opening a business like that would be kind of inexpensive.
    The industry that we were in before was kind of community-based and we liked that, and we went to the coffee shop idea because it was based around the same ideas. We got very focused about quality and about the things that were available on the market but weren’t available on the consumer level, and we thought it would be great to bring those things to the consumers of this community.

    What makes Cartel different?
    A few different things. The idea of the experience, really focusing on what we believe is correct and true and great in our industry and how we portray that, being the main component. But to get down to specifics, our roast philosophy, our brewing philosophy. Basing what we do on science. Brewing coffee is a chemical reaction and knowing how those reactions work is key to producing a quality beverage. We just feel that although ours is far less complex than some chemical engineering practices, it is all still a chemical process.

    So how do you compete with the big names, like Starbucks?
    Our coffee buying process is different. The method of preparation is different. We put a lot more time into the quality of the beverage rather than getting something out as quickly as possible.
    At Starbucks you can kind of have it your way; in our model, our goal is to create a beverage that is noble and true to itself and we then present it to our customers. Here, there are parts of our menu that are very strict and rigid and we don’t accept any modifications. We don’t believe that you can drink espresso in paper cup; you have to drink it out of a demitasse, its a small 3-ounce glass. The idea is that it’s being served in porcelain, at the right temperature. The idea is that you stand at the bar and drink your espresso like a good Italian and then go about your day, so you don’t need the paper cup. We do have other Americanized beverages, of course. But we don’t have any syrups in our hand-dripped coffees. The syrups that we do have are very limited — organic agave, organic vanilla and organic chocolate. Narrow scope of flavor offerings, but we are trying to maintain purity. We are much more of the mindset, “Hey, let us help you find a beverage that is not loaded down with sugar.”

    Why the name Cartel?
    I was looking for something edgy that wasn’t already taken. There’s a little bit of tongue and cheek, the idea of selling drugs, you know, coffee is a drug. We thought it made sense.

    What accomplishments are you most proud of?
    What this is now is so interesting because this is so different from where we started. We started with the idea of creating a fun and cool work environment and also creating a quality product. What it has evolved into is having a company that is fun and exciting to work for and has actually created legitimate jobs in the community. Honestly, on the whole, we have been able to create 14 to 16 full-time jobs that I feel are really good career stepping-stones for people. Just to be able to do that has been really exciting.

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