Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Like all good allegories, the legend of Mythical Coffee began long before I ever stepped foot into its striking Gilbert store. I was enjoying an incredibly flavorful latte at Driftwood Coffee in Peoria https://www.driftwoodaz.com/one sunny afternoon a few weeks ago that simply stopped me in my tracks. I chatted with the barista and owner Luke Bentley about the amazing flavor profile, and he shared with me the origin of the day's espresso roast: East Valley newcomer Mythical Coffee. Instantly captivated, my mind began to construct a suitable narrative fitting of such a coffee enterprise. Were these the mythological gods of coffee? Who was capable of this sort of of caffeinated greatness mere weeks after opening its doors? For those answers, I was determined to travel to Gilbert in order to see for myself.
Open since December 30, 2019, Mythical Coffee is both a roaster and a coffee destination. The store is located at 1090 S. Gilbert Road in the Gilbert Town Square shopping plaza. The plaza has a walkable small town neighborhood feel with on street parking, tall palms, and a generous number of shade trees. It isn't your usual suburban strip mall, the center's ambiance encourages patrons to linger a bit on a beautiful winter days and even sit a spell on their well placed outdoor benches.
The Mythical Coffee store itself is appealing to the senses. With an entrance that features floor to ceiling glass, the cafe is bright, open, and modern. The aesthetic is industrial chic with cement floors underfoot, gleaming white walls, exposed duct work, and West Elm inspired fixtures and furnishings. With a careful look, you will notice fun details like a gold coiled snake lamp and the glowing pink unicorn neon sign sitting atop the coffee bar. There are also plenty of green plants that soften up the interior. The space is anchored by a slate topped coffee bar featuring top of the line brewing equipment. When I arrived on Sunday afternoon, every seat in the coffee house was occupied, with patrons spilling out onto the two available outdoor tables. People were busy on laptops and gathered into small groups enjoying their delicious looking coffees. The owner/baristas behind the counter were busy pulling espresso shots, topping lattes with gorgeous art, and graciously chatting with familiar faces. What impressed me the most when I approached the counter to order was the warm welcome I received from behind the register. There was a genuine earnestness you don't feel at every coffee shop.
There is a true sense of community being fostered at Mythical Coffee, and that is not by accident. The founders, Eric, Kat, and Courtney chose their Gilbert location specifically because the area was underserved by specialty coffee and the opportunity that presented to become part of a larger community. They dreamed of cultivating human connections in this particular valley neighborhood. They hoped that the space they created would enable people to share their stories and connect over coffee. And that is what barista/owner Eric says inspired the name Mythical Coffee. "Mythology is truly the story of humanity," he explained. As owners they wanted to create a space were human interactions and story sharing would be available to all. "There's often a pretension that exists in specialty coffee that I find counterintuitive," he stated. "We want to make coffee accessible."
Mythical Coffee is sensitive to the many issues affecting coffee production in today's market. First of all, there is a terrible discrepancy between what green coffee buyers are paying for beans in the coffee commodity market and the actual cost to the farmers who are growing the coffee. Small farmers in coffee growing countries are often paid less than a fair price for their labor and cultivation. As a result, many live in poverty, unable to break even on the costs of operation. There is also the threat of climate change. Rising temperatures, increased droughts, and severe outbreaks of disease and pests are bringing the coffee industry to a breaking point. It is estimated that 60% of wild Arabica coffee plants will be extinct by the end of the century.
For their part, Mythical Coffee wants to be part of the solution and is committed to paying fair prices in order to help farmers create sustainable livelihoods. As roasters of specialty coffee, they procure their beans from two different sources: Catalyst Trade Company and Nordic Approach. With over ten years in operation, Catalyst Trade https://www.catalyst-trade.com/coffees specializes in Ethiopian coffee and strives for better profit distribution. Their standards are exacting but they aim to respectfully do business with their Ethiopian partners. Nordic Approach https://nordicapproach.no/ provides Mythical Coffee with traceable beans from other coffee growing regions such as Kenya, Columbia, and Brazil, each with distinct flavor profiles. As Mythical Coffee grows, they hope to facilitate events that help shed light on these pressing issues in coffee.
To address climate change, the cafe is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. To go cups are made from biodegradable materials, guests are offered paper straws, and sweeteners such as raw sugar and stevia are stored in larger dispensers rather than disposable packets. Patrons who plan to enjoy their coffee in house are served beverages in ceramic white mugs or attractive glassware. As Eric put it, "these are just small steps, but at least its a start".
Mythical Coffee shares its roasting space with Xanadu Coffee Roasters at a facility in Phoenix. Their coffee beans are roasted in a Probat roaster and packaged in thoughtfully designed bags bearing Mythology motifs: a Kenyan roast is labeled "Wings of Icarus", a tasty Hondorus roast is called "Lady Freya". The roasts are available for purchase in store or on their website at https://www.mythical.coffee/ If you live in the valley, I recommend you make a pilgrimage to their Gilbert location and let them brew some up for you in person.