4300 N Campbell Ave #24, Tucson, AZ 85718
Tucked away in a corner of St. Philip’s Plaza at River and Campbell is this bright and friendly gem of a coffeehouse. I passed by Ren for a whole year, never quite registering that it was there, and once I visited, it instantly became my favorite place in town. Ren is the kind of place where you can do anything: have a business meeting, drop in after a ride on The Loop, meet your best friend, catch up on emails, or just relax with a good book. The space is not huge, but it’s quieter for that, and the vibe is super friendly.
Lisa Ocker, the owner of Ren, has done a great job of working with local food artisans to supply the kitchen with local honey, kombucha on-tap from Project AZ Tea, and lavender (for the lavender syrup in your latte) from Oracle’s Oaks Farm. Their coffee is sourced from Tucson’s Yellow Brick Coffee. They have a wide assortment of teas, smoothies, baked goods (including a few gluten free items) and delicious larger plates like Avocado on toasted Barrio Bread, and a bagel breakfast sandwich with egg, arugula, cheese and avocado. I even saw that they recently started serving mimosas made with organic OJ! So if you’re in the mood for just about anything delicious, I highly recommend stopping by Ren.
Raging Sage Coffee Roasters
2458 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719
In addition to being a beloved place for coffee, tea and the most delicious assortment of scones, Raging Sage is a micro-roastery with a deep commitment to sustainable coffee growing and processing serving Tucson since 1998. In addition to the scones (did I mention those??) there is always an assortment of other sweet and savory goodies, some gluten free, and if you like what you’re drinking, coffee beans and Raging Sage’s specially blended teas are available for sale, as well.
There is a moderate amount of seating in the cozy main dining space, and the staff enforce a peaceful and conversational atmosphere by reminding patrons to take calls outside and keeping the wifi turned off until 11am. An iced Oaxacan mocha on the shady patio makes even a good day, better.
Cartel Coffee Lab
2516 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719
210 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85701
If you want something in between a unique, local coffee shop and a larger chain, Cartel is a good bet. They have two locations in Tucson - one on Campbell north of Grant, and one downtown on Broadway between 4th and 5th Avenues - as well as some in Tempe/Scottsdale/Phoenix.
I like the atmosphere at both, with a slight preference for the downtown location because of its huge windows and location in a beautiful old industrial building.
Cartel specializes in single-origin coffees, most on the lighter, fruitier end of the taste spectrum. No dark roast, smoky cups of joe here! The taste and the presentation is unique and refined. The staff is friendly, and there are plenty of tables available. If you’re not into coffee, try their prickly pear herbal iced tea with a mesquite muffin...desert inspired and delish!
943 E University Blvd #191, Tucson, AZ 85719
4205 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719
245 E Congress St, Tucson, AZ 85701
With their first location near the University of Arizona, Caffe Luce set themselves apart with a darker roast of coffee and a vibe reminiscent of the classic coffee houses on Portland and Seattle. They have since expanded to three locations in Tucson - one in the Trader Joe’s shopping center at Campbell and Limberlost, and another downtown on Congress - so you don’t have to go far to get a nice strong cup of joe.
Their baked goods are good, but not quite on par with some of my other picks. Although, if you need a quick snack, say a bagel and cream cheese, or a muffin, they’ll have what you need. (Disclaimer - I have not yet been to the downtown location, but the Internet says that have “Modern, bi-level counter-serve featuring gourmet coffee, plus sandwiches, vegan eats & cocktails”).
Crave Coffee Bar
4530 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711
Bright, open and airy, while at the same time cushy and cozy….and with excellent coffee and baked goods (including baklava!). Crave Coffee Bar is hard to beat. Centrally located on Broadway near Craycroft, it’s an easy place to hang out all day when you have a project to finish, or if you want to have a business meeting in a casual setting.
Owner and master coffee roaster Fatmir Morina opened Crave after moving to Tucson from Europe in 2010. He has created something Tucson was lacking before: sprawling, eclectic space where people can relax and enjoy some excellent eats.