As the name implies, this website is about the coffee shop lifestyle, so what better topic for a post than a breakdown of the best spots to read and discuss articles found on!  So here they are, the 5 best coffee shops in Tucson.

5 – Safehouse

Safehouse is the premiere Tucson local coffee shop/roaster. Safehouse was first established July 1997. The original intent of Safehouse was to create a place which had an atmosphere that was “somewhere between a dive bar and disneyland”.  As such Safehouse remains the only coffee shop where smoking is welcomed and encouraged, and even with the citywide ban on indoor smoking, they offer a selection of cigarettes for purchase, classifying themselves as a smoke shop which allows them to get around the anti-smoking law.

Of course, when it was first created, Starbucks didn’t exist on every corner and the concept of a place where good coffee and alternate lifestyle could come together to produce a truly unique experience was fairly new to Tucson.  In its early days the coffee beans were actually roasted on site, every Sunday morning.  It’s owners spent a lot of time studying the intricacies of making the best coffee from bean to cup, and created several blends of various styles of coffee branded with their own unique flair.

However, in recent years I feel that the magic of this place has receded.  They have moved the roaster operation off site, and have concentrated on producing beans to be sold in bulk to other coffee shops.  While this is a good move from a business perspective, the coffee shop itself has suffered in quality and experience.

But it still remains as a very unique place to enjoy counter culture, and if you smoke cigarettes or cigars, it really is the only place to light up while enjoying a good cup of locally produced coffee.  The regulars are a bit rough around the edges and its not the most well maintained of places, but that is a big part of its charm.


4 – Epic Cafe

Located on 4th avenue, this is the bohemian center of the Tucson universe. Frequented by students, artists, writers, and flower children, this is the place to go for great coffee, well prepared organic and vegan foods, and delicious desserts, all in an inspired artsy atmosphere.  Local artwork and quotes about the importance of enjoying coffee adorn the walls along with an always overflowing bulletin board of community events.


3 – Crave

This coffee shop is recently under new ownership, after being previously run by the owners of the Safehouse.  I really like what they have done with the place.  They feature freshly prepared pastries and lunch items as well as Illy brand coffee imported from Italy. The new owners are very welcoming and accommodating and have a true love for the preparation of coffee.  The atmosphere is quiet, clean and comfortable.  It is a great place to meet up with with a friend or business meeting and it’s a perfect alternative to Starbucks. I highly recommend checking this place out.


2 – Espresso Art

This place is as close as you can get to a European style sidewalk cafe in Tucson.  Located on University Blvd., this coffee shop features pastries and Illy brand coffee in a hip college environment.  With local artwork on the walls, open mic events and a piano available for anyone to play at will, as well as an upstairs study area and hookahs available after 5pm this is a unique and enjoyable place to spend some time surfing the web or getting some work done, as well as a great place to meet up with people in a fun and unique social environment.


1 – Cartel Coffee Lab

If what you are really looking for is the best possible cup of coffee you can find this is the place to go.  These guys take the preparation of coffee to a whole new level.  Based in Scottsdale, Cartel is passionate about the entire process of the producing coffee by creating relationships with the specific bean farmers they buy from, to carefully controlling every aspect of the roasting process, to obsessively perfecting every shot of espresso they pull in the shop.  The result is magical.  This is my pick for the best coffee shop in Tucson not so much for its atmosphere, though it is also quite enjoyable, but for their uncompromising attention to detail that they put in to the the art of making and enjoying coffee.