New Year, New Coffee…at Red Canoe

05 Jan

Happy New Year to all of my bean-guzzling readers! I have no idea why, but the week between Christmas and New Years Day seems like some kind of temporal no-man’s-land. It’s like a time outside of time where we’re trapped in limbo between the end of the last year and the beginning of the new; between resting at the bottom of the wheel of the seasons and kickstarting a brand new year full of of potentials both good and ill. At least I got a week off of work, and I could not resist the idea of taking some time to travel about and see the parts of the area that I don’t get to see when I’m working. Which is to say all of it.

I did have to actually pick a destination though, and so I thought I’d go down a road less traveled…at least by me. I’m talking about that long stretch of eastbound road east of Hershey that isn’t 422 and isn’t the Turnpike. That would be the Horseshoe Pike; good old 322 which slowly careens its way from Hershey to Ephrata through multitudinous farms and sleepy little towns. One of these is Campbelltown.

As always, I did a search of the area on Google Maps to see if there are any coffee spots lurking about that don’t have names that start with an S or a D. Come on, you know of whom I speak. Anyhow, what I found was a place called the Red Canoe General Store…or Coffee Shop…or Gretna Brewery. I was bewildered, but the photos I saw seemed to depict people getting coffee, so I decided to chance it, not knowing what I’d find exactly.

It turns out this place is a little bit of everything. It’s definitely a store. It’s definitely a brewery. It’s definitely not only a coffeehouse, but a coffeehouse with a giant 40s-looking dieselpunk roaster. The place is easy to see from the road, but a little hard to get to with a car; you have to drive down an alley and then another alley to get to the parking lot, but then it opens up abruptly into this little plaza full of artfully conjoined buildings. I think ‘artful’ is definitely a word I’d use to describe Red Canoe. There’s a backwoods crafting vibe that I really go for at work here. The paneling is mostly in unvarnished-looking wood, as is most of the furniture. It smells of the forest too, and that goes quite well with a craft brewery. Good IPAs do taste a bit like doing a faceplant in a pine tree (a taste that I love because I’m weird).

Oh but back on the topic of coffee, the only brand available was from a local roaster called “Sonder”. By local, I mean the headquarters is in fact at this very establishment (I told you they had everything at once). If the word ‘sonder’ sounds familiar, it’s a neologism (new word) meaning the realization that each random passerby has a life just as vivid and complex as your own. It’s an existential empathy in other words; the ability to see every ‘other’ as a ‘self’ not dissimilar from your ‘self’. It’s an oddly appropriate name for a coffee company. What were the original coffeehouses of Europe but incubators for revolutionary advancements in thought? And what is sonder but a revolution of that very same type; a leap forward in our personal and collective perception of one another? These steps towards enlightenment exemplify coffeehouse culture. The crafters at Sonder must be quite the reflective bunch.

The coffee itself was an Arabica with hints of dark chocolate and plum (or so I was told). I could pick up on the chocolate hints, but not on the plum. In fact, for an Arabica this seemed to lack the fruit-forward palette that’s so diagnostic of Arabicas in general. I actually liked that; it had a really smooth mouthfeel for a higher-acidity coffee. Not as ‘bright’ as such coffees often are, but still nuanced. Not super-distinctive, but refined in quality. They’re good with their craft and it shows.

This whole experience was exactly what I was looking for on that cold late-December weekend, trapped halfway between an old year and a new. Something to kick off a year of going in new directions both coffee-related and not. The weekend that I’m writing this (January 5th) is after all the real beginning of the new year. It’s the beginning of a new decade in fact. The future is now.


The entrance.


Where am I?


Very woodsy.


Like a new house.


The Machine of Glory.


I’m confused…should I enter or not?

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Posted by on January 5, 2020 in Uncategorized


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