There’s long been a connection between coffee and architecture. Architects are stereotyped as drinking a lot of the brew, some of the best coffee houses are found in interesting spaces. Royal Coffee Bar benefits from being founded by an architect, and a sense of good design pervades the shop’s locations, including its sites at Heritage Square in Downtown Phoenix and on College Avenue in Downtown Tempe. Both locations serve Royal’s own coffee, roasted in house at Heritage Square, along with teas and a daily selection of pastries from local purveyors.
The Heritage Square location is a restored carriage house located within a quarter mile of the Third Street / Washington (westbound) and Third Street / Jefferson (eastbound) light rail platforms. In Tempe, the address is just half a block from the Tempe Transportation Center and the Veterans Way / College Avenue station. The interiors of both shops showcase reclaimed wood and vintage furnishings. The Tempe location adds a scholastic touch with a few traditional college chairs with writing surfaces evoking Arizona State University’s nearby campus.
Royal’s beans are packaged by the pound for home consumption but also available to enjoy on site in the usual gamut of coffee and espresso beverages. The baristas can describe the particular coffees available at any time and will typically feature them in drip and cold brew preparations at their peak flavors after roasting. Any of the varieties offered can also be made as a pour-over upon customer request. Espresso drinks include cappuccino, macchiato, and lattes with the option of a handful of flavor syrups such as hazelnut and white chocolate.
Tea drinkers have their choice of a few varieties brewed to order and served hot or iced. The vanilla mint green tea adds bit of flavor to tame the normal grassiness of green teas. The cactus blossom tea is an herbal tea that is unusually bold in color and flavor. Of course, traditional black teas and jasmine green are available. Newer additions include matcha green tea and a black tea vanilla latte that is smooth, subtle, and silky but not excessively sweet. Chai is available in both original and spicy variants, and soy, almond, and coconut milk are available in addition to dairy.
Most of the pastry selection comes by way of the Phoenix Public Market Cafe, which has in recent years become a provider of baked good to numerous coffee houses throughout the metropolitan area. Options vary but on any given day might include star-shaped chocolate chip cookies, slices of banana bread, raspberry almond thumbprint scones, or pieces of a rich French apple cake. Biscotti come from another local bakery, Patticakes of Paradise Valley, and additional snacks include energy bars, fresh fruit, and Nutsack bags of assorted nuts roasted and packaged in nearby Cave Creek.
The Victorian look of Heritage Square and the contemporary aesthetics of the College Avenue location couldn’t be more different in terms of their age and appearance, but Royal’s straightforward approach to both coffee and design works equally well in both venues. Two other Royal locations are at Biltmore Fashion Park, a destination that makes perfect sense for a future light rail extension, even though one is not planned at this time. At any of these sites, enjoying a coffee or tea drink with a light snack is a smart way for anyone, architect or not, to pass some time.
612 E Adams St, Phoenix AZ 85004
Jefferson / 3rd Street (westbound) and Washington / 3rd Street (eastbound) stations
502 S. College Ave., Tempe AZ 85281
Veterans Way / College Avenue Station