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  • Penny Hieb

King Coffee and Roastery

Whenever I venture out to a coffee house I have not yet experienced, I get a palpable sense of excitement as I draw closer to my ultimate destination. Sometimes this excitement turns out to be warranted and all my lofty expectations are fulfilled and I leave caffeinated and thinking about my eventual return. And sometimes I even leave with a

t shirt. I can happily say that my maiden voyage to King Coffee and Roastery at 3230 E. Union Hills Dr. was one such occasion.

King Coffee and Roastery has three locations in the Valley: one in Tempe, a spot in Chandler, and the store I visited in North Phoenix, which is directly across the street from Paradise Valley Community College in the Union Hills Centre strip mall. The company is family owned and committed to roasting and selling high quality coffee. The carefully sourced coffee is procured from a green supplier out of San Diego, where it arrives fresh at the port. The coffee is then transported to Phoenix where it is roasted at their three locations daily.

The location at 32nd Street and Union Hills is a popular spot for PVCC students and faculty, not to mention locals who want to experience a fresh, expertly crafted cup of coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. With plenty of tables and a zippy wifi connection, the cafe easily lends itself to productive study and work sessions. For those simply wanting to relax with a cup of joe, there is a cozy corner toward the front of the store with a leather couch and matching armchair.

The cafe is bathed in a pleasing shade of robin's egg blue with lively punches of teal. The focal point of the space is the wood paneled espresso bar illuminated by a large hanging coffee bean shaped lighting fixture. There is a generous amount of seating at the far side of the bar where regulars can belly up and casually chat with their barista. The morning I visited, the cafe's soundscape included indie rock tunes by bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, and Franz Ferdinand.

The walls at King Coffee and Roastery feature an ever evolving gallery of local art available for purchase. On display at my visit were wood panel pieces by Gilbert area artist Francis Frank E-Motion. The abstract panels were colorful and highly textured encaustic works, a mixed media technique which involves using heated and pigmented beeswax.

Atmosphere aside, what truly sets this coffee shop apart is the exceptional coffee and the skillful pour of its engaging and knowledgeable barista, Zack. I watched as he effortlessly served up an impressive array of beverages to a steady flow of customers, all while warmly greeting and chatting with guests. Because I ordered my latte with intentions to stick around, it was charmingly presented in a whimsical Currier & Ives mug and topped with luscious and delectable latte art. The cafe keeps a mismatched collection of mugs behind the bar, some donated by loyal regulars, others found at art museums and, no doubt, a great aunt's cupboard somewhere. Its a fun detail and hints that while this cafe takes its coffee seriously, it doesn't take itself too seriously. And that's the thing that makes King Coffee and Roastery so appealing. The coffee is undoubtedly superb but the baristas are genuine and unpretentious.

I chatted more with Zack and learned that he has over 10 years of experience in the coffee industry. He recently moved back to the Phoenix area after spending a few years at a coffee shop he was scouted to run in Spokane, Washington. He is also a featured speaker at Coffee Fest, a specialty coffee trade show that happens four times a year in venues throughout the country. He will be there this August at their convention in Anaheim, California.

The menu at King Coffee and Roastery includes all of the fundamentals: drip coffee, espresso, the latte, cappuccino, Americano, as well as three featured house specials: the Snow Day: white mocha, peppermint and vanilla; the Bulletproof: drip coffee with butter and MCT oil; and the Green Dragon: spicy chai and matcha. Alternative milks offered include almond, coconut, and soy. The bakery case is stocked with fresh bagels, pastries, and breads. Oatmeal is available daily until 12pm.

King Coffee and Roastery is open on weekdays from 6:30 am to 5:00 pm. On weekends, the cafe opens at 7:00 am and closes at 3:00 pm. Check it out anytime, the coffee's always fresh.

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