With Elysburg in the rearview, I started on the last leg of this whirlwind tour of the Valleys’ coffee scene. Well, most of it. Actually, I didn’t get to a few of the places that I wanted to, but that was a function of timing. No, not the timing of the impending storm, the timing of the hours of the coffeehouses themselves. All told, more than a few had truly bizarre hours, or at least they were advertising as much. The Grindstone, for example, sounded awesome, but it was only open Wednesday through Friday, 8 AM to 11 AM. Hard to tell if it’s a function of safety regulations, a weird hiring market, or a lack of demand. It could honestly be the latter; after all, as we’ve seen before, this is a land in transition and a coffee culture that’s just beginning to find its footing in a growing and changing landscape.
When I pulled out of Elysburg and headed towards Sunbury, I passed through a few other small towns and villages on the way. I just recently learned that one of those towns (Paxinos, which you’ll see below) was home to some of the first members of my family to settle in Pennsylvania, back in the mid-to-late 1700s. No matter how small the towns are here, there is always an amazing amount of history. There isn’t, however, an amazing amount of coffee, at least not the kind of shops we’re looking for on this journey. Dunkin Donuts and diners rule the day here. Some of the non-college towns are actually shrinking as more young people head to the cities looking for work and adventure.
Sunbury is one of those shrinking towns, unfortunately. However, it’s also growing in many ways. The population is decreasing, but the people still here might be of a changing character. As I drove through the center of town, I was struck by the number of head shops and other places catering to a more bohemian set than one would expect in the center of Amish country. Oh, they had euphemistic names of course. Specialty glass, metaphysical shop, CBD oil. Wink wink. The point is that the attitude on the counterculture seems to be changing. Or perhaps it’s that, in a town of fewer than ten thousand people with farms all around, the free spirits really do stick out more. Maybe they want to stick out more.
Anyhow, on to the coffeehouse. I trudged down the ice-rimed streets to Little Addy’s, a cafe built into one of the rowhome-style buildings in the bustling downtown. It was really cozy, and I was immediately greeted by Addy herself. I asked a barrage of questions about the place. She was only too happy to answer. This venue was, like the entire area…in transition. She said that over the next few months they planned to move the coffeehouse from its current abode to a nearby space with around three times the square footage. From 900 to 2600 I think she said. Now that’s progress! I asked Addy if there were any plans for live music (keeping my fingers crossed invisibly) and she said yes. Once again, a return trip to this area in the near future is in order.
The coffee she gave me was a single-origin Nicaraguan, courtesy of Stockton Graham & Co., a specialty wholesaler out of Raleigh, North Carolina. Now, this was one that I unquestionably liked. It behooves a taster to grow to appreciate the art of coffees they wouldn’t personally purchase, but this one I would definitely get again. It had exactly what I look for in a ‘normal’ Central American roast: that rich, nutty-but-not-earthy quality and buttery consistency. If anyone out there has been to Stockton Graham & Co. I’d appreciate any feedback on your experiences with the brand.
And with that, I headed out as the first cirrus heralds of tomorrow’s storm began to filter into the afternoon sky. On the way back to Harrisburg, I whizzed past another coffeehouse that I’d visited a few years ago before I dedicated myself to doing an actual, systematic tour of the Valleys area. It’s called Eagle’s Wind. Really beautiful place, located right on the Golden Strip outside Sunbury, where many years ago young people drag-raced up and down the empty road which is now crammed with traffic headed north and south. My next mission will be to head west into the Allegheny Mountains. I’ve only been up there for coffee once, to the Guante Cafe in Millerstown. Next month, I plan to go a little farther afield. Until then, stay caffeinated!