Tucson barista Jason Calhoon is now working at Avenue Coffee, he reports on the Cafe VanGo Twitter account. In addition, Cafe VanGo is now closed.



Cafe VanGo had been a staple at Bookmans in Tucson, and I am wondering what’s next for the mobile espresso delivery unit?

Bookmans is working on an espresso bar in their Mesa location which is opening soon.

Update: Avenue Coffee published a post about this topic.

Avenue Coffee
2502 N Campbell Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85716
Phone: (520) 225-0437
Twitter: @avenuecoffee

Arizona Coffee

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  1. Great addition to Avenue Coffee. I look forward to one of his espressos, now with a local roaster.

  2. *sigh*

    Now whaddameye gonna do to get me my Black Cat?

    I do love Luce’s Dolce Mora, and the Espresso Mazzo, but it was nice to have a local source for something different.
    I’m gonna miss that ol’ trailer. Getting a bag o’ beans from Jason (whether it was the PT’s Panama Esmerleda, or Intelli’s Black Cat) was just a little like a B movie drug score. I’d hand him the cash, he’d bag up the goods and slip ’em to me form the back of a trailer in a parking lot.
    Them were the days.
    Hopefully, he’ll make a few bucks selling the trailer and the kit to someone with the nouse to pull a decent cuppa.

  3. Hey Chris, I am sure with a couple of years (perhaps less) he can craft coffee on his own, as good or better than the black cat you love so much. After all, his will have the advantage of being fresh. You will see.

  4. Hey Ron and Chris,
    Just to let you all know, I will no longer be supplying avenue coffee as they have decided to use other out of state roasters to try and develop a “third wave” cafe in Tucson. We at Caffe Luce wish them the best of luck with their new direction.

    Michael Foster
    Caffe Luce Coffee Roasting Co.

  5. Luce has been my steady supply of beans all through my time here, pretty much since I heard about them. While they will always be my fave, and receive my support for local roastery, a boy gets tired of steak every day, ya know? ; >
    Lessee what kinda pork Avenue will be dishing up.

    (C’mon Hairbender…)

  6. Talked to Jason yesterday. The Clover has landed with him at Avenue, as has the Black Cat. He still has the trailer, and it might get used for events and such as they come up.
    Avenue has plans on having a rotating menu of beans from a buncha roasters, and yes, the Hairbender seems to be in the plan at some point!
    ; >

  7. I was at Avenue Coffee on Friday and had a nice trifecta of espresso drinks with Black Cat (espresso, macchiato and a cappuccino) plus they just received samples from PT’s Coffeeas well and Jason prepared a nice Chemex of the Finca los Planes from PT’s. I really like what they’re doing…

  8. Just to let people know we are now offering Black Cat espresso from intelligentsia. We also have coffees from PT’s Coffee out of Kansas we will be bringing in other roasters to feature on a second grinder… In the near future we will be brewing coffees from the Clover and V60 pour-over.

  9. Ron

    I am sure that Avenue being a local supporter of the community in Tucson will also accept coffee samples from all the other very good Tucson/Phoenix coffee roasters such as Adventure, Savaya, Cartel, Arbuckles, to mention some. In fact you guys can find the phone number for all of us here in this blog. I know that it will a shame for you guys not to give a chance to the local Arizona people to compete in your roaster supplier evaluation process.

  10. Renee

    Adventure, Arbuckles???????

    Now that is just insulting Ron. Jason, keep your bad mojo going. Look forward to anything and all you bring to the Tucson community.

    Three cheers for the local boy!

  11. I’d love to see Adventure and Arbuckles get involved, and Old Bisbeee Roasters, too. Do I think that they’re in the same league as some of teh other roasters in the state? No, not really. They supply a different demo. I do think that it would be good for them to see a side-by-side comparison with other roasters in the state, as well as other roasters with reps like CCC, Intelli, Blue Bottle, Barefoot, well, you get the idea.
    On a scale of one to ten, we’ll still be deciding between eights and high nines with most of these roasters.

  12. If there are local roasters who can provide the same quality as Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Ritual Roasters et al then we all benefit from a gem in the desert. Personally, I think if you’re only selling point is being local that’s not enough… quality and value need to be there as well.

  13. Hey Psyd/ Luis,
    I think that is a great idea and I would personally enjoy going head to head with any of the above named roasters…. anytime, anyplace….bring it!

  14. Michael, there are rumblings of something sort of just like that coming soon. I’d love to see AZ coffees get some press outside of these few pages. I’ll be chatting at you when I know stuff.

  15. Of course they are people that will craft a batch of coffee as good or better than all this third wave coffee companies. The problem is the actual coffee (which is what is being discuss) I never done side by side as it shoud, leaving the judgement of who has better coffee to marketing strategies. It is kind of sad actually.

  16. @Ron – Though I agree that roasters certainly have the skill to craft a nice roast as well as any 3rd wave roaster I would disagree with you on the notion that judgement is left to marketing strategies. As far as I can tell most 3rd wave places use their financial resources to source quality coffee and also work towards more transparency in the chain than on marketing – if on marketing at all. The ONLY place I would agree that marketing has influence over quality is in the way Starbucks markets their brand. Sbux’s street level -decidedly 3rd wave- stores (15th Ave. and Roy St. in Seattle) shows how they too want to say their competition is places like Intelli and Stumptown and no longer McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Those 3rd wave roasters built their reputations by not compromising on quality-not by pouring money into marketing strategies.
    I’ve lived in the Phoenix area for 10yrs now-after living in places like Chicago and SF. I actually stopped drinking coffee locally because the quality was so poor. I ordered coffee and brewed at home because it was better than what I could get around here. I’m glad to see more local roasters and coffee houses place an emphasis on quality…
    I stand by my comment that being local is not enough and I love the idea of cupping local against other local areas-as a coffee community we should want to chase the 3rd wave, we should want to be uncompromising and risk being great…

    “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” — Michelangelo

  17. One day we will bench coffees in a giant blind taste and we will see the true result. I am also game.

  18. Charlie

    Buying local, it sounds so great, what could be a more noble cause?
    How about quality, there is the idea of quality in these postings, but quality needs some definition.
    What are qualities the make good coffee? Most pedestrian coffee enthusiasts say taste, that’s a start. Those in the coffee industry know taste can be modified through process, how you think Hills Brothers, Folgers, Eight O’clock, and Yuban have maintained their exact flavor profiles all these years.
    Others would say quality is synonymous with Fair Trade, or Organic, they’d be mistaken. As far as Fair Trade and Organic go, neither of these trademarked certifications guarantees that the beans are have any additional value added to their character or any aspect of their production, other than there is a minimal price paid for things grown Fair trade, and that Organically grown product is pesticide free. Most of the 25 million families involved in coffee production can’t afford pesticides anyhow.
    The more serious of us are more seriously informed, have broader perspectives that include the considerations of Organic, and Fair Trade, but have tendencies that define quality as the details of a bigger picture. Models of quality include everything that Fair Trade and Organically grown encompass and then add a bit of social, ecological, and actual criteria for insurance.
    Any of you who have met Jason can understand the quality that we should be talking about. Through his action, and process he demonstrates what it takes to bring the very best to his client base. Without superior offerings and process a solid client base would have never formed.
    Jason is clear in his responsibilities to the greater coffee community and our community at large. He and others like him are not going to be coerced, cajoled, or intimidated by self appointed and would-be coffee barons decrying trendy politically correct catch phrases bent gently to bolster their egos or line pockets.
    Bullying or attempting to shame him into sacrificing quality over local makes it easier to skip going into locally roasted product shops to see if their qualities have improved.

  19. I don’t think that anyone was bullying or attempting to shame Jason, adn if they were, I’m right behind you, torch and pitchfork well in hand.

    I took it as a plea to not forget, in their rotating grinder guest list, that there are roasters in the state that are doing some really good things.
    And those that are coasting on the fat that they are locals, and that they are better than the local grocery store brand? Those cats will suffer by comparison. There is no need to point fingers, taste will out.

  20. Well stated Charlie-I was remiss in not stating a definition of quality…I thought it was understood given the players involved.

    I also like that your post that illustrated the 3 waves: Hills Brothers, et al=1st wave. The 2nd wave being exemplified by Sbux and then the 3rd wave by Stumptown et al…

    And just to make this clear I am not against supporting local-all things being equal I’ll choose local more often than not and be proud to share local with other friends when they visit…

    This might be helpful for people who are interested in what 3rd wave means:

  21. Disclaimer: I am not a coffee expert by any means.

    Charlie makes a great point. Just because coffee is roasted locally doesn’t mean it should take precedence over out-of-state suppliers. Locality is not an excuse for sub-par coffee. I ran a small business for several years (www.byenaclothing.com), and we sat on the same shelves next to national corporations. No one bought our clothes because we were local, and we understood that.

    All things being equal, I love to support local companies. But let’s be honest, the quality of coffee isn’t equal.

  22. Scott

    I saw Luis just today offer Slayer Espresso a sampling of various Arizona roasters via Twitter. I’d also like to echo his comment on the 3rd wave tendency toward transparency.

    It seems to me that it’s possible to advocate and cheer local roasters and local shops, AND to be honest about our impressions as to quality. When I travel I send home reports of what I see, and my impressions, and bring those experiences to my own prep process. I read Scott Rao’s book recently and considered how his opinions differed from mine. I’ve learned immeasurably from you all here at Arizona Coffee and at Barista Exchange. I try new shops whenever I can. It all contributes to my understanding of quality.

    I tried more than 15 roasters this summer, and did shop tours of Seattle, Portland, NYC, and SF. At Bookmans, we settled on Intelligentsia because it was what we all agreed was the most appealing flavor profile. I was a particularly staunch advocate for a local roaster; but forced to admit we’re not there yet. Until we start measuring ourselves against the very best we won’t be. For a community this strong and knowledgeable, that would be a real shame. I prefer this conversational approach to the many years when AZ was, y’know, the desert for decent espresso.

  23. Don’t always bite on the direct purchasing narrative….ever think that may be the missing marketing piece? Stumptown actually prints a little brochure that they circulate at their cafes.

    To summarize: Fertilizer is really expensive but we are good guys and spring an extra .40 cents a pound so “our growers” can provide YOU with great coffee. Buy our coffee so you can do your part in the fight against evil corporations and the bad economy. (Followed closely by everyone in the big office down the hall simultaneously shouting CHA-CHING!”)

    Image in itself is marketing. Marketing and advertising especially in this industry are relegated to informational campaigns that seek to “enlighten” or educate a desired demographic. You aren’t selling anything if you’re an educator right? Not if you are peddling snake oil. But that can’t be going on in the coffee industry can it? I would also find it monumentally condescending if I were ever to be referred to as “our grower.”

  24. Wow, 23 entries. To begin: there is no affiliation commercially between me and Luce (this is for the dude who send me the e-mail) and no Cortez coffee has ever being sent to Avenue or Calhoon for them to sample so no bitter feelings. My intention is always to give the local “quality coffee roaster” a fighting chance when compared to much larger and better funded coffee companies. Some of us in the industry understand the statement I made about a blend by Stumptown, Intelligentzia, PT’s or any other and I said ”the action of anybody that applies extremely well controlled heath to very good quality balanced coffee beans can be duplicated or matched by somebody else doing exactly the same thing”. Of course it does not happen until somebody wants to do that. In the case of Café Luce vs PT’s or intelligentzia, I personally believe that Luce could win in a blind taste and I base my conclusion on an experiment conducted by myself ( a humble coffee professional with 30 years of experience). The thing that cannot be duplicated is the energy and skill applied by Jason in front of a well tuned Spro machine. See, we all very easy to sway in the way we think coffee quality really is. The laws of chemistry do give the advantage to a good coffee roaster that brews an espresso shot 24 hours from roasting, have a very clean spresso brewer with a great source of water and in that case many home roasting enthusiast do have a better espresso quality than many. Perhaps my mistake was to suggest roasters that are a bit more commercial in the eyes of some of you. That doesn’t mean that Arbuckle cannot duplicate a blend from me or anyone else mentioned if they wanted to. The question of who has the best coffee will be answer someday when coffees are submitted to blind judgment, brewed and analyzed by real professionals and scored by a large number of people, until then everybody should phrase it as my own opinion (like Kenneth davis). The original comment about giving a chance to local people is due to the fact that statements by a public figures always endorsing out of state coffees makes the general public regress in time and erases the image that some very good coffee companies are trying to build with quality. There are new players that need to be pushed to compete and demonstrate their stuff. When that contest between out of state coffee and all local coffee professionals takes place: Cortez coffee will be roasting the day before and we will use all our best beans in order to win, I will expect the other competitors to do the same.
    Competition is what makes us better.

  25. I don’t see it as a competition as much as an opportunity for Arizona to enter the larger coffee community. We should aspire to the 3rd wave companies with their attention to detail and pursuits of excellence, collaborate with them and bring our own unique sensibilities to the table. If we do that then we all win. Then Arizona’s reputation becomes better and we all represent each other. What I love about coffee is that it’s such a vast ocean and we each navigate it according to our life experiences, tastes and sensibilities. It’s the second largest commodity sold in the world. We all have our own tastes and there’s room enough for everyone.

  26. Luis,
    I think you are dead on. I believe at this level of coffee there is no “best”; just different. It does all come down to personal preference, which is ultimately dictated by our experiences: and yes, there is more than enough room for all…
    thanks for the insight….

  27. Greatly said Luis. I reed the post on Avenue’s blog, also nicely writen. See, we all learned on this exchange of ideas.

  28. In reference to Scott-I have picked up some coffee from local roasters to send to Slayer Espresso-they are excited to try some of our coffee. If you’re interested please contact Chris and he will forward the information to me.
    I’d like to get a small box together by the end of the week to ship…