Written by Angela Muniz | Photo credit Mark Lipczynski
Located just east of the Arizona State University Tempe Campus, Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters may seem like an unassuming, local coffee shop. Surrounded by college apartments, a sleepy historic neighborhood, and one of Arizona’s original craft breweries, the café is a popular spot that brings this unique cross-section of the city together for that always-essential cup of joe.
But Infusion is also a bit of a secret passage leading the curious into the deeper realms of coffee and tea. Windows inside the café hint at the connection, offering glimpses of a world-class training facility and the many ways owner Patrick O’Malley is linking Tempe with the international coffee community.
Just as a coffee bean makes a journey from fields in distant countries to the cup in your hand, Infusion is the latest stop in O’Malley’s own coffee journey. It’s a trek that started more than 30 years ago, when he first got the coffee bug repairing espresso machines in Hawaii.
In 1999, O’Malley founded Espresso Italia in Tempe, providing wholesale coffee and teas to Arizona’s emerging food scene. By 2010, it was a fixture with the state’s restaurants and chefs, and O’Malley expanded operations to roasting. He also expanded his reputation internationally with certifications in roasting, Q grading for coffee bean quality, and education.
O’Malley has an equal passion for the teas that stems from his family’s Irish and English roots. He became a certified tea master in 2005 and crafts an evolving list of teas for both wholesale and the café, including blends that are a nod to his parent’s favorites.
In 2012, O’Malley built the International Barista & Coffee Academy (IBCA) next to the Espresso Italia warehouse. One of only 31 certified coffee labs, the IBCA is a training facility that attracts coffee professionals from around the world for education and also preparation for international competition.
A sense of curiosity and willingness to learn are all Arizona locals and visitors need to take advantage of this hidden Tempe gem, though. Infusion offers a range of introductory classes and experiences on Saturdays at the facility for both coffee and tea. Classes are not happening now due to COVID-19, but check their website and social media for updates.
The café, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in the middle of a pandemic, brings O’Malley’s decades of experience and global travels full circle, providing coffee and tea drinks and a spot for the neighborhood to gather. Even in the midst of upheaval, O’Malley sees the important role coffee has to bring people together.
“Coffee shops bring that Third Space,” he says. “Where workers and locals become a community.”
Infusion Coffee & Tea
1300 E. Eighth St., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 968-2533
*Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters is currently open but classes are currently on hold.