Tucson is no stranger to specialty coffee. Yet as the scenic Arizona city has grown, extending farther into the desert and the foothills of the surrounding mountains, the opportunities for specialty coffee have grown along with it.
Crema Coffee is greater Tucson’s newest specialty coffee enclave. Owners Aaron and Amy Wilson, whose primary backgrounds are in psychology and education, respectively, opened the shop in July at the North Pima Center Plaza on Ina at Thornydale, close to the commuter-filled interstate on the city’s north side.
“We always wondered why there aren’t there any cafes farther north of Tucson,” Amy Wilson recently told Daily Coffee News. “So we began to make plans to open one.”
Crema’s beginnings can be traced even farther back to Aaron’s college days, when he took a job with Stella Java, which has since become Presta Coffee Roasters. Aside from that brief education, the Wilsons are largely self-taught. Prior to opening Crema, they spent countless hours researching while also attending cuppings at Tucson’s Exo Roast Co., Presta and Savaya Coffee Market.
“We were basically teaching ourselves,” said Aaron. “And we learned so much with the help of the coffee community here, and by exploring and seeing what else was around Tucson.”
All of Crema’s coffees are now coming from Exo before they pass through a two-group Nuova Simonelli Aurelia espresso machine supported by a Mazzer Major grinder, while Bunn equipment provides the daily drip coffee and a Toddy system handles the cold brews. The range of coffee offerings is changing on a weekly basis.
“Our customers have been loving the different coffees,” said Amy. “They’ve been learning more about the origins and the processing methods and figuring out what they like.”
Aaron and Amy said they spent every waking moment building out the space to be ready for the summer opening. Aaron constructed, stained and finished the wood panels on the bar and installed a raw steel countertop that provides a contrast to the dark blue walls. A stained cement floor adds to the shop’s comfy vibe.
“It took us three days of work and two sleepless nights, but it was worth it,” Aaron said. “It has a rustic feel and there are a bunch of imperfections but it matches the aesthetic we were going for.”
While their passion for coffee grew later in life, the Wilsons have always been people people, both in work and at home. Thus, they’re striving for unabashedly friendly coffee service with a mind toward education. The shop promotes social gatherings such as a “kids morning,” a twice-monthly game night, and local art events.
For those bleary-eyed, crack-of-dawn commuters, the shop also opens at 5 a.m. every morning. Said Aaron, “I really [enjoy] getting up early and serving people.”
Crema Coffee is now open at 3725 W Ina Rd #120 in Tucson, Arizona.
Craig Batory is a writer, marketer, and coffee professional working and
living in Detroit.