READERS' PICK: Raging Sage prides itself on fresh roasting the coffee served daily in its Campbell Avenue café (the roasting facilities are a stone's throw away on Copper Street). In addition to the omnipresent house blend (see Best House Blend, above), these coffee connoisseurs have 13 unique whole beans and blends, which are poetically detailed on the wall next to the self-serve freezer. Here, coffee is treated as seriously as a vintner treats wine, with distinctions ranging from mild to earthy, nutty to fruity, smooth to acidic. Shade grown, coop vs. family harvested, water-processed decaf, organic ... whatever makes you feel good, they've got it. Never again will you wonder the difference between a French Sumatra or Dark Celebes; between Columbian Supremo and Peruvian organic. But our favorite roast here is the novel Bird Song, an exclusive bean that hails from an estate in Panama that's also a designated bird sanctuary. Inspired by its example, Raging Sage donates 50 cents from each sale of this blend to protect wild birds here in Arizona. Earlier this summer, the café owners were consulting with the local Audubon society for an active recipient. Stop in and ask how it's going. (And pick up an eight- or 12-ounce bag, vacuum sealed in heavy plastic, to bring that fresh taste home.)
LOOSE CHANGE: Wilde Rose Coffee Company, 216 E. Congress St. The best locally roasted coffee in Tucson is a mere stroll downtown to Wilde Rose's. Between the black, white and red walls there is a delicious ambiance that makes you want to sip, sip, sip, your brew. Hey! Look behind you! It's the oldest coffee bean roaster you'll ever see! Refusing to sell this antique roaster to certain corporate coffee meanies, Wilde Rose has succeeded in keeping this small business the most deeply appreciated roast in town.