I’m actually in the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from here. OK, that’s hyperbole. But south of Carlisle, PA it certainly feels like that. It’s where the Appalachian Trail crosses into the Cumberland Valley, and you can see the first of many big green foothills of South Mountain which connects to the rest of the Appalachians stretching from here to Georgia. It feels like you’re ready to travel somewhere, even if you’ve just come for a quick breath of fresh air…or to try some new coffee.
The Java Junky isn’t actually a stand-alone coffee shop. In fact, the owner, Barb, doesn’t stand alone at all. Rather, her store is part of the Carlisle Country Market, which is run as a co-op. There is literally a store in every corner of that market (and there are far more corners than a building of that size would suggest), with most of them containing everything from candy to country artisanry to antiques. If it hadn’t been a very early morning those stores might have been open, in which case I might have left a bit lighter in the wallet. As it stood, I quickly bellied up to the bar for some much needed waking-up.
Now the coffee itself was something interesting as well. It was called Market Street Blend and constituted a mix of Costa Rican and French-roasted Arabica beans. Not a common combo! The roaster (which I think was Lancaster County Coffee Roasters, but Barb left me a mystery there…) is located right in down in Lancaster, which surprised me. It actually shouldn’t have; Carlisle has a nice little underground coffee scene wherein local roasters take center stage. Barb also described herself as extremely picky when it comes to coffee beans. Gave poor Starbucks a tongue-lashing. You know what else hit my tongue right away? That classic Arabica acidity. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that Arabica is quite a gamble. It’s more expensive than the common Robusta that makes up the lion’s share of coffee in the US. It has more acidity but it also a more complex profile than less pricey coffees. That means it’s easy to do right and wrong. Barb did it right. Yes, there was a little bitterness but only a little, and it was mellowed out nicely with some buttery smoothness. That’s how you can tell that both the roaster and the brewer actually care.
I’ll be heading out more over the next few weeks. The big question is whether I’ll be going north or south. South is the REI store in Timonium that I have to go to for a backpack fitting. There will be a plethora of coffee in the outskirts of Baltimore. On the other hand, north is where the unique small towns of the Susquehanna valley and Alleghenies lie. I think we’ll agree that there’s something unique about those small town coffeehouses. After all, they have to exist in a place where it’s hard to survive on art. But they do have to exist. I’ll write more on that later. For now, in spite of tremendous odds, Barb and her cohorts keep existing. You’ll be grateful for that if you’re ever heading into the hills in need of some extra energy.