QUEST FOR COFFEE: Tempe man turns his intense passion for coffee into a thriving business

A Valley man's passion for the perfect cup of coffee has led him around the world, from his base in Tempe. Now, this man is a world-renowned coffee expert, with a cafe in his own backyard.

The distinctive and delicious coffee at Infusion Coffee and Tea in Tempe starts, one super-powerful sip at a time. The cafe, next to Four Peaks Brewing Company on 8th Street, near Arizona State University's Tempe campus, is part of owner Patrick O'Malley's never-ending quest to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

"I have one or two cups," said O'Malley, when asked whether he drinks coffee in the morning. "I have a couple at home, then have two or three. I don't think anybody drinks more coffee than I do."

It's likely no one studies it, tests it, and experiments with it more rigorously than O'Malley does. What makes the place really different and distinctive is there is actually a laboratory inside of the coffee place.

The lab is complete with microscopes and all kinds of testing and tasting equipment, and it is pretty much the only one of its kind, anywhere.

On the day FOX 10 Phoenix's cameras were at Infusion Coffee and Tea, a test on varieties of Ethiopian coffee was underway, and it started with green coffee beans.

The coffee been went into a coffee roaster that was imported from Turkey, with Paul Oberg working with computer programs to get the roast just right.

"Very scientific," said Oberg. "Constantly calculating, doing math, never-ending. Science-based, before, during and after the process."

Precisely 12 minutes later, the beautiful brown beans are out, and headed to the lab.

What followed was a process called "cupping", which began with water purified to exacting international standards. and then brewed in the cup. The coffee is then tasted over and over, with a powerful sip-slurp, so the senses are engaged immediately and completely.

"We taste it, and we evaluate the flavor, the aftertaste, the acidity, body, balance, overall score, and then quality assurance," said O'Malley. "Five cups, 300 gram on the table give us a good representation if there is a defect. So, we have uniformity sweetness and clean cup. If we find a taint, we kick it out. We don't buy it."

These professionals can pick out every subtle shading of flavor in a coffee sample. They learn to pick out flavors, with the help of these little fragrance training bottles from France. It takes a long time to educate the palette.

If a coffee makes the grade, it stays, and if it doesn't, it's out. That uncompromising approach has helped O'Malley build not just this cafe, but a wholesale coffee company called Espresso Italia that selects and supplies coffees for over 250 fine restaurants and hotels, around Arizona and outside of the Grand Canyon State.

As well as a thriving espresso machine business, O'Malley also trains baristas who come to his cafe in Tempe, from all over the world. O'Malley also hits the road, seven months a year, to work with baristas, farmers, and coffee companies on their home turf.

O'Malley has come a long way. From a childhood spent in Bisbee, in Southern Arizona's Cochise County, to stops in Hawaii and Northern California, before winding up in Tempe, all due to an absolute, mad passion for coffee.

"I love my job," said O'Malley. "I think I am the luckiest man in the world. Cafe wholesale, travel around the world, teach people, work with farmers, see places, eat food, meet wonderful people. I am a lucky guy. Very lucky."

While O'Malley is a coffee expert, he is not a coffee snob, as he prefers his coffee without cream or sugar. O'Malley did say, however, any way people choose to drink their coffee is fine with him. He said, afterall, if you pay for something, you should be able to drink it the way you like it.