Cortez Coffee Company makes a unique debut to Tempe's coffee shop scene

Nestled in a quiet neighborhood on Vista Del Cerro Drive in Tempe, Cortez Coffee Company’s humble facade conceals a bustling, innovative coffee operation producing some of the most unique products in the business.

In the process of rebranding itself, Cortez will now be serving up coffee from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Saturday, with an accompaniment of locally crafted artisan pastries. It will also have live music in the near future.

Cortez has also begun selling at Hazelrock and Phoenix Public Market.

Phoenix Public Market Manager Sara Matlin said she’s really seen a lot of progress in the Cortez company since it began selling at the market.

“We’ve really seen them expand,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see how they’ve already grown and where they’ll go from here.”

Cortez Coffee Company, however, is much more than a coffee shop. Owner Ron Cortez, a vibrant Costa Rican coffee connoisseur, has a hand in every aspect of the coffee-making process.

Cortez roasts around 120,000 pounds of beans each year, which come from all over the world. Whether from Kenya, Guatemala or Peru, Cortez builds a relationship with each grower he buys from.

“I bring the growers to Arizona,” he said. “I’m a relationship person. I like to know them, and they need to know me.”

From there, Cortez uses micro roasters to roast the beans to different degrees. These aren’t just your typical light, medium and dark roasts either.

One of the most unique products Cortez offers is the “white” cold brew, which is made from beans roasted so lightly it still tastes like green coffee with a sweet, organic tang.

“I like to try things no one else is doing,” Cortez said. “I just start putting things in bottles.”

Other unique products Cortez offers include a smooth, nitrogen infused coffee. Cortez is also experimenting with mixing cold brew and other drinks, like horchata and rum.

“I’m creating a niche,” he said. “Everybody pretty much has somehow got into that niche, and we’re just bottling it now. Cold brew is it.”

Cortez said he is planning to capitalize on the cold coffee market, which Arizona’s warm climate lends itself to quite well.

Cortez’s business approach to the coffee market is relatively unusual, with most businesses functioning first as a coffee shop and hangout spot and second as a roaster, if it does its own roasting at all.

Owner of Songbird Coffee and Tea House Jonathan Carroll, who has worked with Cortez for several years, wrote in an email that Cortez’s unique approach has really helped to revolutionize the local coffee community.

“Based on Ron's experience, knowledge and ability to reach out to the present coffee culture, I know he's made strides and continues to work hard in making this state a legitimate coffee culture,” he wrote.

Cortez stands out as the original and most knowledgeable roaster in town, Carroll wrote.

“We're honored to do business with a man who was born to roast, educate and deliver quality beans over and over again, so to say his beans haven't helped the early 3 plus year success of Songbird would be a flat out lie,” he wrote.

Carroll wrote that while launching a coffee shop is difficult, he has complete faith in Cortez during this new business venture.

“Honestly, Cortez Coffee Bar & Music is a place of refuge, a place to network and study, but also a place to learn even more about coffee, roasting, cupping and meeting really cool people in the process,” he wrote. “I have no doubt he'll succeed with Cortez Coffee Bar + Music — only because he never fails.”

Related Links:

Gimme that average ASU coffee

Hazelrock seeks to join the friendly coffee community in Tempe


Reach the reporter at icastil3@asu.edu or follow @isabella_m_cast on twitter

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