Before I left on vacation, I took the time to review one last cafe before leaving Central PA for a few weeks. I was asking friends about cafes on the west shore, given that I’ve reviewed all there is to be had on this side of the river. No one mentioned any that I hadn’t already heard of, so I decided to just drive around a bit through Camp Hill and points west. From the road, going 30 miles an hour, I saw this little place out of the corner of my eye. I just had time to see the sign and remember the name, which I promptly Googled when I got home. I resolved that before I left for Florida, I’d give it a shot.
I had my misgivings. The store seemed small, and was not well advertised from the road. Mention of Kauffman’s was utterly missing from local magazines downtown. I had just been burned by a place advertising coffee and tea; it turned out to be a local wholesaler only with no brewed coffee on the premises. My Mom went with me on this trip actually! Over the past few years she’s become quite a coffee aficionado (not my fault whatsoever, I promise…) and was game to be my co-pilot on this adventure. We went in, and it had the look of an old, long-used and genuinely “homey” coffee shop.
Turns out they have three rules in this place. First, you aren’t allowed to use the “F-word.” Folgers, that is. All of their coffee is of the exotic and diverse variety, and is ground on the spot. Second, and this is the one that took me aback initially, there is no to-go coffee sold here unless you buy it in a bag. That’s right, gone are the paper takeout cups that are ubiquitous in so many coffee shops in the bustling city. Third, no cell phone conversations allowed. My knee-jerk reaction was to take umbrage at the inconvenience of no takeout, but since I was in no hurry, we both sat down and gave it a chance. I am certainly glad that I reserved judgment that day.
The mandatory sit-down is part of a whole, encompassing philosophy at this shop. The owners truly believe that coffee should be part of a self-consciously civilized experience, not unlike that of a British high tea. In fact, our whole experience there resembled a high tea, with table service and light snacks like Biscotti to accompany the coffee. The people who own this coffee shop have a love of the old and the treasured, right down to the beautiful old cash register that is about a century old.
All of the coffee is French press. I’ve said before that French press coffee is not for everyone, especially those who like their coffee a bit on the gentle side, and I stand by that; but let it be known that this was a truly good French press, augmented by the fact that the customer was allowed to press the coffee themselves and brew it to their own tastes. Their cream (served in a little glass cup no less) was obviously real, chilled cream, a fact which earned them some extra points from me! The coffee was also less than two dollars for the equivalent of a medium cup; far less than most coffeehouses in the area charge, with far more attention to the little details that make a well-crafted cup of coffee.
I had no idea that this little wonder even existed. And shame on me for not looking until now. After all, as I left I learned that they had been in operation for over twenty-five years. I thought that Ambreen’s operation on Third Street in the ‘Burg (Cafe Di Luna) was the only hidden gem in the metro area, but I will have to amend that statement to include this fine little cafe. There will be many return visits.