Tag: Phoenix-area

Tempe Chai Tea at Cupz

Phoenix (Tempe) Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix-area coffee shops for anyone wondering where to eat in Phoenix. Today I am highlighting one of my favorite spots for Tempe chai tea, Cupz Coffee, which is was my favor coffee shop while I was working at ASU. The cafe is just a stone’s throw from campus, and has a great atmosphere for anyone who likes to get some work done at the coffee shop.

The Tea!

Tempe chai tea

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Big Train Chai

Flavor: The chai tea that Cupz serves is very sweet. I would actually say that I don’t get much of a spicy hint at all when I drink this tea, but for anyone that loves sugary drinks (like myself), it has an amazingly rich flavor. It is a great, milky drink for cold mornings and I find that it is also more hearty than many of the other chais I have had. If you prefer sweet, rather than spicy, this is definitely a chai that you might enjoy. I love this tea, but I’m giving it a 2.5/5 just because it strays so far from the classic chai flavor.

chai tea in phoenix

The Locale

tempe chai tea

Location: 777 S College Ave # 101, Tempe, AZ 85281

WIFI: Free

Atmosphere: Cupz has a classic coffee shop atmosphere, and it is one of my favorite places to work. There’s lots of original art on the walls, and a nice couch corner for anyone looking for a comfy place to enjoy some drinks and food. The area near the cash register is also home to some really cute coffee humor that I always appreciate while waiting for my chai.

tempe chai tea

Staff: A bunch of the staff at Cupz are ASU students, so stopping by here is a great way to support the community in more ways than one. They are also some very sweet people, which may not be quite as outgoing as Starbucks employees, but I always enjoy chatting with them. A few of the baristas here are also very good at their jobs, and I often get a cup of chai that is artfully put together.

Pros: Cupz is super close to campus and has a good atmosphere for working, with free wifi, lots of tables, and couches. They have plenty of breakfast food options , and a very nice selection of drinks besides chai. Their staff is genuine and its a generally a welcoming place that’s great for regulars.

Cons: The quality of the food can vary here, depend on who’s working, but I likely only noticed this due to the fact that I visited 1-2 times a week for 5 years. They also don’t have a bathroom in the shop, which can be a bit problematic if you plan on staying there for a long time.

tempe chai tea

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures for more information on Phoenix and Tempe coffee shops.

tempe chai tea

Mummy Mountain Preserve of Paradise Valley

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Every journey begins with a story of discovery.

I have lived in Phoenix my entire life, and I grew up on the northern edge of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so I have been exploring the Phoenix-area wilderness since I was a young child. Despite that fact, I knew nothing about Mummy Mountain until I picked up a Green Trails map of the Phoenix Mountain Preserves from REI a couple years ago. Amid the detailed trails outlined on the other mountains in the area, Mummy Mountain was a mystery. The map didn’t indicate anything about the location other than its name.

An online search informed me that the mountain was the only summit in the Phoenix Mountains that did not belong to the larger preserve, and was, in fact, owned by the Town of Paradise Valley as a conservation area. Some of this land came from the county, and the rest came from land donations from the wealthier citizens of Paradise Valley. I couldn’t find any official website for the mountain, and outside of a short Wikipedia article and official records of the Mummy Mountain Preserve Trust the most detailed information I could find was on Hike Arizona.

Curious, I decided to explore the mountain by car one Saturday afternoon, in the hopes of perhaps finding a trailhead or some publicly accessible grounds in the preserve. For the most part, this involved driving through the classic, wealthy neighborhoods in Paradise Valley that have been built up around the base of the mountain. The roads here weave up and down the mountain base, and more often than not I found myself having to turn around on steep, narrow neighborhood roads as they morphed seamlessly into someone’s private drive. Usually the only indication of this change was the foreboding signs warning that I was entering private property.

I was about to call it quits on my exploration when I wandered onto the grounds of the Camelback Inn, a posh resort tucked into the side of the mountain. It was by a dumb stroke of luck that I happened to see a little sign along one of the resort roads pointing to a hiking trail.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Reminded of the Hike Arizona entry on the mountain, I followed the sign to a back parking lot, and then into a little mock up of a western ghost town. There was no further direction after this point, and seeing hotel staff working in the otherwise deserted theme area, I felt certain that I was going to be asked to leave.

As it was, the trailhead was at the back of the ghost town, behind the stage, and everyone in the area simply ignored me. After feeling increasingly anxious about the unique setting surrounding the trail, I couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of accomplishment as I crossed the little wooden bridge behind the Camelback Inn’s ghost town to the trailhead sign informing me that I had reached Tyner’s Hiking Trail.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

The path itself was rather short, and not particularly well maintained, but the views of Camelback Mountain from Tyner’s were unreal. I was also quite happy to have the chance to experience Mummy Mountain from outside of the tangle of houses that creep up its sides.

After my little exploration, I went back to reread Hike Arizona’s post on Mummy Mountain to see if there were any other, more accessible trails, but outside of a couple cul-de-sacs that open onto the hillside, there are no public access points (Tyner’s Trail is owned by Camelback Inn), and anyone who hopes to summit the mountain is pretty much on their own, as Tyner’s is the most developed trail on the mountain.

Link: Hike Arizona’s Entry on Mummy Mountain

Fountain Hill’s Chinese Lantern Festival

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

There was a new cultural event to grace the stage of the Phoenix-area’s celebrations this year: The Chinese Lantern and Folk Festival. The festival was hosted by Fountain Hills, in the city’s namesake park, and the Universal Cultural Organization, which works to created cultural understand and friendship between the United States and China.

The main attraction of the festival, as it’s name suggests, were the large, beautiful lanterns that lined the Fountain Hill Lake’s shore in honor of the Chinese New Years, and the arrival of the Year of the Horse. The lanterns themselves were like nothing I had ever seen before, and even from the pictures of the festival online, I had little understanding of what I would see. About the size of parade floats, the lanterns were beautifully lit depictions of Chinese folk tales. A mix of painted, translucent materials, and sculpted figures, each and every lantern was a piece of art in its own right. I couldn’t help but try to take pictures of them from all angles. Every photo told a different story, as each lantern had been carefully, lovingly created, and each small detail from the clouds and plants of the lantern base, to the painted faces of the figures that strode across the stage of each one told a different story.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

In conjunction with the artwork celebrating the new year, the festival hosted dancing, martial arts demonstrations, puppet shows, and traditional music performances. Unfortunately, I came to the festival too late to catch anything other than music performances; so I can’t account for this aspect of the celebration.

In my opinion, seeing the lanterns with Fountain Hills’ massive fountain in the backdrop was well worth the price of $12 that was charged on entry. That being said, I was aware of several visitors who expressed disappointment at what their money bought them. Being its first year, the festival did have a few things I thought could have been improved, especially in light of what I have seen in Phoenix’s Aloha Festival and Matsuri. For one, there was only one stand serving Chinese food. Part of what I really enjoy about cultural festivals is the chance to try different foods, and in the case of foods that I am familiar with, I enjoy learning about new restaurants in the Phoenix area. This isn’t something that happened at the Chinese Lantern Festival. There was also a distinct lack of shops, which was similarly disappointing.

It may be that more was going on at the festival earlier in the day, but even if it wasn’t, I know that the first year that these sort of things are organized can be somewhat bumpy. I am looking forward to seeing how the festival evolves and grows in the coming years.

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