Coffee Emerging as Arizona’s Leading Economic Resource

The Sixth “C”.

Half a dozen people are standing around a table slurping coffee from spoons. They’re at the Press Coffee Roasters roastery in Phoenix, sampling eight different bean varieties and roast profiles in a process called “cupping.”

The noisy tasters are a seemingly random, yet telling, cross section of the state’s ever growing coffee industry, which is positioned to become the sixth “C” of Arizona’s five resources: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. They are: a local consumer looking to bring coffee to Arizona’s office break rooms, a new roaster who rents time on Press’s equipment, the Press Coffee roasting team, and Press owner Steve Kraus.

Kraus was one of the first to bring the concept of “third wave” specialty coffee to Phoenix when he opened his first shop in 2008. At that time, national franchises had Arizonans in the habit of ordering a daily dose of customized coffee drinks. Third wave—a movement to produce high-quality coffee through improved growing, harvesting and processing techniques—was taking it to the next level, focusing on bringing out distinct flavors in coffees during the roasting and brewing process.

In the passing six years, Press Coffee has moved from its original location to the Scottsdale Quarter and now leases a roasting facility in Phoenix. It is set to open a coffee shop in an innovative apartment complex and is helping a pair of new roasters start their own company.

“It’s a natural process for Arizona to grow in coffee. Specialty coffee is being recognized more and more by the consumer, and there is a lot of information out there to learn,” Kraus says.

In September, Press is planning to open a shop in the Skywater Luxury Apartments in Tempe as part of a number of amenities for the residents. The complex looks at a coffee shop as no different than a pool, says Kraus. It’s a concept that was unheard of just a few years ago.

It’s also what makes Arizona’s coffee leaders like Kraus so open to helping new roasters into the
industry. Press is leasing time on its roasting equipment to newcomers Nom de Plume Roasters. Owners Niko Kovacevic and Harlin Glovacki left their jobs as baristas to move into roasting because they wanted to share what they had learned.

With costs of top-of-the-line roasters and other equipment starting at $50,000, Glovacki sings the praises of coffee leaders like Press and Cartel Coffee, based in Tempe with locations in Scottsdale and Phoenix.

“We couldn’t be in a position we were in without them,” he says.

“A few years ago, you might have been able to get by on a lesser quality roaster,” says Kraus. “But now the demand is for quality. Harlin and Niko have a great business plan and model. They need to use a high-quality roaster.”

Alex Mason, Press general manager, explains that where specialty coffee is now, new roasters in the market are not competition.

“There is differentiation in the source of your coffee and your roast profile,” he says. “Also, every customer out here is creating a new base. More specialty shops will open more people’s eyes to what specialty coffee is.”

Kraus’s eyes, on the other hand, are always on what’s next not only for coffee, but also for Press. He’s looking for locations for a flagship store and as is expanding both in Arizona and out of state.

“There are markets that are  still untapped,” he says.

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