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3:42 PM Mon, Nov. 12th

Web exclusive: Coffee choices vary locally, beyond a Cup of Joe

The tri-city area offers an abundance of options if you want a cup of coffee or a blended espresso drink.

Questions abound about what makes each coffee shop unique and whether anyone actually goes to a coffee shop to order coffee anymore.

Following is a look at a few of them, just a caffeinated drop in the bucket, of all those available in the area.

Prescott:

Bucky's Bean Bag

Amber Schab, a barista at Bucky's Bean Bag who carries the lofty title of "Coffee Team Manager," said that actual coffee really is the most popular drink at Bucky's.

"We sell a lot of coffee and tea, and a lot of coffee beans," Schab said. "Coffee is our most popular drink, and second is probably our cappuccinos. We have a lot of European customers who like those."

Schab said what makes Bucky's unique is its extensive gift selection, ranging from small souvenirs that local artists make to a variety of intense salsas, such as "Whoop Ass" brand hot sauce, and mugs declaring: "Instant human, just add coffee."

Schab has had extensive experience in the world of coffee, coming from the Mecca of coffee houses, Seattle. "I worked at Starbucks in Seattle for five years. It was cool. We knew all the company CEOs. No one knew what a 'barista' was back then."

Cuppers

Rachel Scharfenberg, a barista at Cuppers coffee house, said that Cuppers stands out in that it is off of the main strip of businesses, and that it is in an old house.

"The house really has a great atmosphere," Scharfenberg said, "and we do have a lot of regulars, maybe 35 to 40 who show up each week."

Scharfenberg has had extensive experience with the Prescott downtown coffee house scene. "I used to work at Courthouse Coffee, Crepes Now, and Coffee Roasters. I like it here more; there's something about it, the atmosphere. It might be the house, I hear it was built in 1872."

"Mixed drinks are really more popular here than coffee," Scharfenberg said. "It's maybe a 70-to-30 ratio. Our mochas are probably the most popular, iced or hot, depending on the season."

Scharfenberg said that Cuppers plays host to a number of events, including psychics and tarot card readings.

Coffee Roasters

Richard Gregory, one of the co-owners of Coffee Roasters, said that Coffee Roasters in unique in that it's the only coffee shop in downtown Prescott to roast its own coffee.

"We sell a lot of espresso drinks, but also a lot of coffee, since we roast our own," Gregory said. "Our latte is our most popular mixed drink."

Gregory said that Coffee Roasters also provides the coffee for other Prescott coffee shops, including The Raven.

The Raven

Ben Dickey, an employee of The Raven, said that coffee is popular, as it offers a refillable "bottomless" coffee cup for those drinking in, but that their variety of mixed drinks and alcoholic beverages also are very popular.

"A lot of things make The Raven unique among coffee shops," Dickey said, "because it's more than a coffee shop. We have an art gallery, we host live music, and we have a lot of great food."

Dickey also added another unique fact for espresso fans about The Raven: "It's the only place where you can mix your espresso shot with liquor, like chocolate stout. That's a popular mix with a lot of customers."

St. Michael Express

William Hytinen, a barista at the St. Michael Express, said St. Michael customers favor mixed drinks over coffee. "It's maybe a 60-40 ratio, in favor of mixed," Hytinen said. "We do a get a lot of locals who stop in on their way to work, since the coffee here is really cheap."

Hytinen, a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said, "The job is nice. You get to meet people to talk to, and when it's slow you can work on schoolwork."

Hytinen said that he plans to go into the CIA's Intelligence Analysis program, and that he brings an analytical approach to coffee. "Our approach to coffee is very scientific. Some call it the 'Zen method.' We calculate oxygen, temperature, and so on, for the same quality roast each time."

Hytinen also applied his analysis skills to the City of Prescott: "It's a nice balance. It's not such a small town that you get a lot of crazies."

Hytinen did make exception for a driver he saw sporting anti-Semitic slogans on his vehicle. "Some people are out there, though. I tell them about my plans with the CIA, and they think the CIA is using radio transmitters for mind control, that sort of thing."

Prescott Valley:

Step One

Terri Asbury, a manager at the Step One coffee shop in Prescott Valley, immediately identified one thing that sets Step One apart from other coffee shops.

"All of our proceeds go to the Stepping Stones Domestic Violence Shelter," Asbury said. "It's a good feeling, knowing that each cup of coffee helps victims of domestic violence."

Asbury said that coffee and blended drinks are selected nearly equally at Step One.

"It's about 50-50 with coffee and other drinks," Asbury said. "Some regulars are extremely fixed on one thing. We have some who'll order a hot coffee year round, and some who'll order a cold drink year round. Others, of course, adapt for the seasons."

Lori Stegner, a barista with Step One, said she thinks the atmosphere is one of the shop's winning qualities.

"People are always happy here. We get a lot of people, young and old," Stegner said.

Yellow Leaf

The Yellow Leaf coffee shop's Prescott Valley location is unique in that it's a drive-through only coffee shop.

"We get a lot of people on the go, regulars who drive by for a quick cup on the way to work," said Karin Ulrich, a barista at Yellow Leaf.

"Coffee is definitely our most popular drink. Our Freezes are starting to get more popular, as things heat up, but coffee is still number one."

Ulrich says that aside from the ease of drive-through service, Yellow Leaf is well known for its customer service.

"We really give the customer our all," said Ulrich. "Someone last week said we're a cut above anyone in the area because of how we treat people."

Chino Valley:

Cupp-A-Chino

"I believe (Cupp-A-Chino) is really the major coffee house in Chino Valley," said Angela Drury, general manager of Cupp-A-Chino. Drury's father-in-law has owned of the Chino Valley coffee shop for the past two years.

"Most of our customers are coffee drinkers. Of our mixed drinks, the vanilla or mocha is probably the most popular," Drury said. "Now that it's summer, the iced drinks are looking pretty good for a lot of people."

Drury attested to the loyalty of her regulars, and how she views them as more than just customers.

"We have regulars who come in twice a day, like clockwork. Most of my customers are repeat customers," Drury said. "Most of our business is done through drive through, but it's also a really popular spot for my friends to hang out. They started as my customers, but now I consider them my friends."

Contact the reporter at dmeurer@prescottaz.com