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Monthly Archives: December 2021

A Christmas Coffee Break

Hey readers, just checking in to say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Joyous Yule, a beautiful Solstice, and Io Saturnalia. Did I cover all the bases? Yeah? OK, good. Well, due to the general craziness of the holiday season, I’m waiting until the second week of January to kick off Leg Two of the journey into the valleys of the Susquehanna River’s tributaries and the unique coffee culture that’s developing in fits and starts within this bulwark of Appalachian insularity. The hope is that a week after New Year’s, things will be calm enough around here to hit the road with a fresh stock of supplies and a new set of potential spots.

Lucky for me (and you) that I still managed to find exotic coffee right in the suburbs of Harrisburg in an unexpected place: Zimmerman’s Candies. Few Harrisburgers even seem to know where it is, but when you explore the winding streets of Paxtang, you never know what you’ll find. This place is a throwback to the old days of Harrisburg in the 1960s when there were shops everywhere and potholes nowhere. It’s a serious candy lover’s candy shop, with beautiful, multicolored treats and a melange of smells that must be something akin to what Santa’s workshop smells like.

And then there’s the coffee. Unexpectedly, there’s a whole shelf of their proprietary coffee called Zimmerman’s Rose Garden Coffee. Who the heck knew? Well, now I do, and you do too. This particular one was a Guatemalan. Obviously, I went for it because of my proclivity for South American blends, especially new or rare ones. I expected the typical richness and full mouthfeel, but instead, I found something quite different and wonderful. It all started when I opened the package and had to do a double-take (or double-whiff). There was an unmistakable scent of citrus, burned wood, and flowers. Citrus you usually see in African blends, but here it was, smack-dab in the middle of the bouquet of a Suramericano. Funny enough, it vanished in my first sip, replaced by those floral notes. They were persistent and they sort of rotated on the tongue. It was truly unique. Just when I think this city has run out of secrets…

So there we go. A little treat to tide you all over until I head back up the river and into the mountains to seek new brews and new adventures. Until then, stay caffeinated and have a happy holiday!

 

the brew…

the storefront…

the signage…

the grounds…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on December 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

D.C. Coffee and Tea Co.

Happy Thanksgiving, caffeine fiends! It’s time for leg two of this sojourn up the western valleys of the Susquehanna. The leg in question has already been accomplished of course, but with the holiday craziness it’s taken me until now to have time to do the trip justice in writing.¬†From my last port of call in Middleburg, I decided to go over the hill to the next valley where lay the town of Mifflinburg. I have no idea what that valley is called. Before getting to the town itself, while I was still atop that hill, I took in a really incredible sight: a bright yellow valley stretching out before me with a massive, blue ridge rising in the distance. Ironic that this ridge is called “Little Mountain” because it’s anything but little. In fact, it basically marks the end of the Valleys region of Pennsylvania and the beginning of the Pennsylvania Wilds. That’s a journey for a future day.

Mifflinburg is another Pennsylvania contradiction. While Middleburg belongs firmly to the world of the rural proletariat, Mifflinburg is a town with a foot in two different realms. A land of bucolic farms on one hand and the recipient of regular travel from the burgeoning college town of Lewisburg. There are artistic murals…and people who don’t care much about hippies. There are trendy breweries (more on that later)…and people who like their beer and everything else traditional. The thing about towns in the process of change is that they tend to produce excellent coffee. Mifflinburg is no different.

The location of this coffeehouse gave me a bit of a pause for concern. It was in an otherwise nondescript little shopping plaza part of the way between Mifflinburg and Lewisburg, but much closer to the former. How classy could a coffeehouse in a shopping plaza be? Well, plenty classy actually. You walk in and emerge into a sort of garden party in media res. There’s greenery, pretty hardwood decor, and an upscale dining room. It was like a venue you’d see on an episode of Gilmore Girls. Not that I watched Gilmore Girls. No, of course not. So, I walked up to the spacious counter and in a lovely departure from the all-too-common medial paranoia, the barista Katrina gave me a choice of several coffees that I could dispense myself.

I find that I overuse the word “buttery” to describe very smooth and rich South American blends and non-harsh French roasts. Well, too bad, it fits the profile of the mouthfeel here to a T. It’s a mark of good coffee when it complements the condiments that you add. In other words, if, when you put in milk and sugar you get an enhancement of the flavor rather than tasting sugar and milk alone, you’ve got yourself a well-crafted brew. D.C. makes a well-crafted brew. This one actually was a French roast by Dilworth Coffee. Dilworth itself is based in North Carolina, so to find it in Pennsylvania is somewhat surprising. They’re one of those up-and-coming outfits slowly spawning new locations; if they’re considering Pennsylvania, that would be nice, but I’ll certainly take running into their fare randomly.

Having had my uppers, on the way back out of town, I went on a side quest for downers. By that, I mean beer. And by beer, I mean the Rusty Rail Brewing Company. I had to try it because it’s famous. And here’s another example of the dual nature of many Central PA towns: I found a gorgeous reclaimed factory building loaded with absolutely scrumptious craft beer and staffed by kind, responsive, committed hepcats who surely know bands I can’t pronounce. Upstairs, however, stood a frankly horrifying display of stuffed trophy animals that were clearly hunted for reasons other than food. The cat was, at least. The moose might have become a steak, but not the kitty. I’m painting a mental picture of the person responsible as I look at the bodies. Bet you are too.

Contrast. Light and shadow. That’s what Mifflinburg is. Progressive, regressive, equal, and free. It’s agrarian and urban and trying to find itself in an ever-shifting world. I find a strange brew of ideals in these small towns. I found some strange and wonderful brews of other sorts too. I hope that I’ll be able to head up the other side of the river, into the valleys around Herdon and Dalmatia in a few weeks. Haven’t heard of those places? You will. Until next time, stay caffeinated.

the awning…

the seating…

the cozy nook…

the good stuff…

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2021 in Uncategorized