Monthly Archives: August 2021

The Ragged Edge Coffee House

The Ragged Edge. This is a blast from the past. I’m taking a bit of a detour from my stated objective of checking out coffeehouses to the north, especially to the west of 11/15. Actually, it’s technically not too much of a detour since the town of Gettysburg is indeed to the west of 11/15. I was in this most famous of towns not to explore its deep/painful/beautiful history, but to attend a yearly bluegrass concert. On the way home, I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t take in the town itself while I was here. It was then that I recalled The Ragged Edge.

This coffeehouse was one of my first introductions to the art and poetry scene. Let’s dial it back to the heady days of 2002. I was in college at Shippensburg U, experimenting with dangerous, stupid things like postmodernism, and feeling homesick for the city. Unlike my very diverse high school, here you only had a few cultural options. Not being much of a line-tower, I fell in with the poets and goth kids. I still came home a lot, and after one Saturday night at a hangout called The Why’re in New Cumberland, found myself the next weekend at an awesome poetry reading here at Ragged Edge, a longtime epicenter of Southern Pennsylvania’s bohemian culture. It was awesome coming back and walking up the stairs to the exact room where I drank coffee, read poetry, and gawked awkwardly at the elegant brunette who’d been the real draw for me to make the trek that evening. Those were the days.

Oh and I suppose you want to know about the coffee. The coffee here was spectacular. A few of my reviews recently have been a bit ‘meh’ I know, but really, not everyone is going to be a standout. This coffee was, and I’m not just bending for the sake of nostalgia. The mingling of the various citrus and flower flavors didn’t hit me immediately, but when they did it was a nice little symphony. I had to do that slurpy aeration thing with my tongue several times in a row as I walked down the street (looking odd to passersby I assume) just to get the full impact. I swear I caught hints of hibiscus and lime. This was a light-to-medium Ethiopian, and more full-bodied than its stated attributes and source might suggest. Ragged Edge is its own roasting company, and partners with nearby 82 Cafe where it’s prepared. This is all fair trade coffee and apparently it’s sourced in the most direct fashion: the owner of the coffeehouse physically visits the farms. The degree of care is most evident.

I don’t know when I’ll be back in Gettysburg. The next coffeehouses I visit should be somewhere up north as I’d planned. That being said, there’s a beer festival I might go to in Lititz late in the month so there could be a coffeehouse in the works there. I’ve heard that Lititz is one of those up-and-coming small towns in PA, so it might be worth a look. That being said, I do like finding art in unexpected places. Either way, it’s the journey that matters. Until next time, stay caffeinated.

the sunlight…

the seating…

the art room…

art everywhere really…

the garden…





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Posted by on August 31, 2021 in Uncategorized


Buffalo Brew

Perry County, Pennsylvania is a land of contradictions. It’s right next to Dauphin County, which is home to the capital city of Harrisburg. It’s also one of Central PA’s most rural counties. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the rolling mountains and dead-quiet backroads that make up most of the county’s land. On the other hand, it’s one of Appalachia’s most economically successful counties, with a growing population and burgeoning arts scene. The young, progressive townsfolk rub elbows with the overwhelmingly conservative farmers of the countryside. The opposites play on each other unselfconsciously, with both sides often crossing the line from archetype to caricature. But the lure of identity is strong in a rootless world, and so Trump stickers and rainbow flags can both be found plastered to the cars lining 4th Street of Newport, PA where Buffalo Brew is located.

In that context, I didn’t know quite what to make of Buffalo Brew. It didn’t seem to take a side in the culture wars, and it this part of the state, that set it apart to the degree that I wanted to learn more about it. After all, the fact that I want to learn instead of shill ideology seems to set me apart these days. Perhaps I’d find a few kindred spirits here. When I walked in, what I found was a very neutral space. There were community bulletins aplenty, but little of the avant-garde art (or attempts at it) that typically crowd the walls of a coffeehouse. The simple tables and chairs could have belonged to an agronomist or an artist. The only kitschy object of note was a toy buffalo sitting on a comfy couch in the corner. Note: Everything around here is buffalo everything. Buffalo Ridge, Little Buffalo Creek, etc. It’s all named after the buffalo that were thought to once roam the area. Evidence seems to come up scarce.

There’s plenty of evidence for a strong coffee culture here in Newport. I counted no less than three on the town square alone, one of them close to Perry County Council of the Arts headquarters. The coffee itself wasn’t too strong; I got the tail-end of the breakfast brew I think. It was a Colombian Sur de Huila coffee, an Arabica bean, and it did have a nice, characteristic nut flavor to it with an airy bit of citrus. The chocolate wasn’t as noticeable to me as the packaging made it out to be, but I’m starting to think I’m the only person who likes a nice chocolate aftertaste to my coffee. That can’t be true, can it?

The muscular gent who sold me the coffee questioned my motives for taking photographs of the place. We live in skeptical times, and people around here are still pretty insular. Rivers have always been highways, but mountains are walls, and we’re surrounded by them up in the center of Perry. I reassured him that it was for blogging purposes only, and the prospect of free advertisement seemed to win him over. On my way out of Newport I almost got lost. I’m thinking that’s a testament to the fact that Newport, although barely registering over 1,500 citizens, is a spot of growth surrounded by townships that are slowly losing their citizens to nearby cities. Like those brand-new Newporters (Newportians?) I came here for a reason. I came here because I need a balance between the city life and the country. Between the liberal and the conservative. Between the political and the apolitical. Between needing art in my life and needing nature. Let’s hope that the center holds in this little town, or that it at least remains a place of many voices. After all, isn’t that what coffeehouse culture is all about? Until next time, stay caffeinated.

the signage…

the view…

the seating…

the beans…













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Posted by on August 25, 2021 in Uncategorized


John Brown Coffee

It’s arguable that no man in American history was as committed to the cause of freedom as John Brown. A radical abolitionist who met his end at the end of a hangman’s noose for organizing a daring raid against slaveholders in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. As I drove through Maryland this weekend, rather aimlessly after missing a crucial turnoff on the beltway, I spied the John Brown Coffee sign at a random intersection outside Cockeysville and just had to stop by, even though I was already well-caffeinated by that point.

I have no idea to this day whether the name referenced the hero or another John Brown. The website offered no clue, and as I stood there in the middle of Civil War country, I kind of just assumed. I’m sticking with that assumption because the cause of freedom for all was just one of many ‘radical’ notions discussed in coffeehouses across Europe and beyond during those heady days in which humanity was evolving by leaps and bounds in terms of consciousness. What could be more fitting than a coffeehouse named after the great abolitionist himself?

The cafe itself is beautiful. It’s a brown stone building within a complex of several other brown stone buildings which seem to collectively be part of a park. You order from a window and sit outside at one of several tables, and I could see a few travelers taking advantage of that shady little spot they concocted. Boy is it necessary in a Maryland summer! Apparently they’ve been there since 2017, serving the massive number of tourists who come through on their way to Baltimore and points south.

They also find their beans locally. Well, local-ish. John Brown Coffee gets their coffee from Pipe & Tabor Roasting Company from Germantown, New York. These folks in turn source their actual beans from Red Fox Coffee Merchants, which is known for working closely with local farmers. The particular coffee I ordered was a Kenyan. It absolutely had the citrus quality for which African coffees are known. The floral/fruity was immediately evident when I took a sip before putting the milk in, and that’s not generally my cup of tea (wait, I mean coffee), but you know what? This worked because of the complexity. The floral flavors had a range to them that I’d call a veritable bouquet. I wanted something special and new and I got it. The point of all this is to have an adventure in each cup. Capital job!

I hope that anyone traveling through Maryland gets as lost as I did. You might just run across this little outpost. As for me, I’ll be heading North for my next exploration. Technically northwest. Remember how when I was reviewing Susquehanna Coffee, the land to the west of 11/15 was like another world? I’m going back to that world. Until then, stay caffeinated.


the outside…

the inside…
















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Posted by on August 8, 2021 in Uncategorized