Day 134: Cartel Coffee Lab

One of my favorite things about this challenge is when people tell me about their favorite small businesses. I normally won’t write about a place I’ve never been to, but it came so highly recommended and I love the concept that I just had to share. The shop of the day? Cartel Coffee Lab.

Let me just start by saying that my step-father takes his coffee seriously. So, I knew it must be good when he was raving about the cappuccino he had recently. But, it was more than the coffee, it was the where. Get this…the Phoenix Airport. Yep, you heard right. There is an independent, small coffee shop in Terminal 4 of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport!

Talk to my step-father for five minutes and you’ll soon be chatting like old friends, which is how he learned about Cartel Coffee Lab’s great adventure. Turns out Sky Harbor is actually their 5th location, their other shops are throughout Arizona (one is even down the street from my freshman housing at ASU!), but this is by far the riskiest. Rent is almost 10x the cost of their in-town locations, but with 40 million people entering Sky Harbor annually, it’s a great opportunity to bring attention to Cartel Coffee Lab.

More than just great coffee, Cartel is also sustainable. They are committed to fair-trade, and even exceeding the requirements. They actually visit the farms where the beans are grown, and baristas undergo a month-long internship period before they’re ever given the opportunity to make drinks for customers.

I have to give kudos to Sky Harbor airport though too. Apparently Cartel Coffee Lab isn’t the only small business in Terminal 4. While there are obviously still “chains” in the airport, about 12 other small businesses opened shop last year, with appoximately a dozen more set to open this year. Essentially, travelers are greeted with local Arizona flair before they even hit the city.

Whether you’re flying Southwest or just find yourself in Terminal 4, skip the Starbucks and visit Cartel Coffee Lab. I can’t tell you how tempted I am to take a flight to check out the great small-shops just within Sky Harbor!

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