EXO Coffee is coffee shop and roaster within biking distance from the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. I was down at the college for a football coaching clinic, and wanted to make sure I explored the Tucson coffee scene while in town. Choosing coffee shops was a tough decision because I had a long drive and lots of cafes between Prescott Valley and Tucson. Ultimately, I decided to visit Peixoto, in Chandler, on my way to the clinic. That meant I had time for one other stop- and EXO won out.
Location. Finding EXO was easy, and there was sufficient parking in a small lot a half a block away. Had I been riding a bike, it would have been even more convenient to get to. From the outside, you can’t miss EXO’s political leanings- they’re plastered to the front glass. Once inside, you see the cafe is shaped a bit like an L around a coffee bar and roaster. When I visited, they were roasting and it was very cool. The cafe is in an older building, and the exposed brick gave it a lot of character. Since I visited, EXO has expanded, opening a larger work space and a breakfast menu.
Service. EXO’s menu sat next to the register and was set up as a grid. If an offering was not available, that grid space was covered with a magnet and piece of paper. The top left spot was given to pour overs in two tiers: Tier A, $4.50, and Tier B, $3.50. I thought it was very interesting to group pour-overs together like this based on the type of beans and charge accordingly.
They didn’t have any food when I visited, but the cashier was very friendly and directed me to where I could get some lunch before my clinic. Both he and the barista were willing to talk about their unique menu, their coffee, and Tucson in general. The barista’s name was not Parker.
Coffee. Parker was the barista name displayed on the front side of their La Marzocco espresso machine. But alas, Parker was not behind the bar. I don’t remember his name, just that it didn’t match the name plate. Still, the coffee was terrific. I had a shot of espresso in a demitasse that came with sparkling water. It was flavorful and satisfying. It was even more satisfying to drink it while I watched the roaster work his magic on their Probat.
I also ordered a mocha to go, so I would continue to be highly caffeinated throughout the coaching clinic. It also did not disappoint. It wasn’t too sweet, as you could actually taste the coffee in the drink. The to-go cups were stamped with the EXO brand, which of course made me happy. I gladly carried their little mini billboard all over town.
Conclusion. Because I was in such a rush, I hadn’t eaten all day. By the time I made it to EXO, I would’ve been grateful for a small food menu. Normally, I’m not this way- I like my coffee shops to focus on coffee and leave the food out of it. But that day, I was sympathetic to all the coffee drinkers who visit a cafe and want a little food. It certainly made me rethink my position.
The coffee stayed my hunger long enough for me to make it to the clinic. I didn’t have time to stop and eat. Parking my car in a garage on campus, I ran to the football building to make it by 2PM, the listed start time. When I came huffing and puffing through the door, the folks at the registration table looked at me like I was crazy. Why? Check-in started at 2. The clinic didn’t start until 4PM. I was two hours early, the first clinic attendee to arrive, and still hungry.