OK, folks, we’re going to be tackling this one in chunks. By “this one,” I mean the whirlwind tour I took of the Lewistown area on March 10th. I’m writing this on March 13th and I still can’t believe that it’s only been two days since I ventured up the road. Once again, I ended up sandwiched between two bouts of bad weather. A few days before I set out, it had been 78 degrees but incredibly windy. Now, as I sit here typing, there’s snow on the ground outside and the wind is fiercely blowing the now-arctic air about. This trip is very much a monument to serendipity.
I took the same route (322) that I did to go to Walnut Cheese Nook. Lewistown is only a few miles further down the road, but that road winds up through the mountains. The Alleghenies loom like grounded asteroids on either side of my car, hazy ridgelines stretching out of sight to places I’ve never been. It’s time to go to some of these places. Lewistown is a good place to start because the town really is a regional lynchpin. It’s the seat of Mifflin County and is located about halfway between the state capital of Harrisburg and the storied Happy Valley and its city of State College. We all know the home of Penn State, and I’d be shocked if some folks didn’t think it was the capital.
What immediately struck me as I made the final few miles was just how cosmopolitan this area is! The billboards advertising diamond rings and other finery reminded me of that stretch of the highway immediately before New York City. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been a surprise given that State College is only a few dozen miles to the northwest. Hundreds of thousands of people pass through this town on their way there any given Sunday of autumn. Whether or not it’s changed the character of Lewistown’s residents themselves is a matter of some debate. More on that later.
My goal was Rich Coast Coffee. Rich Coast has a long history in this area, having been in business since 1978. They supply coffee to several local establishments, both in Lewistown itself and up in State College, where I’m sure the student appetite for coffee must be voracious. Mine was (and is). Hence Rich Coast’s longevity, no doubt. See, it’s rather interesting that there are so many coffee options in a town of under nine thousand people. That made me increasingly sure that the local coffeehouse culture is driven in large part by the economic (and academic) perpetual motion machine that is Penn State University.
When I found Rich Coast, two thoughts came to mind: First, it’s located right next to a brewery which is awesome. Second, there probably wouldn’t be an actual coffeehouse inside. This was confirmed as I walked in and saw the gigantic warehousing system that makes up most of the otherwise unassuming building. The woman at the counter looked at me apprehensively as I gazed around the room looking for any hints that coffee was brewed and was apparently one of the few people within a decent radius who had never heard of it. She came around once I explained the mission and the blog. People like blogs!
I bought the Original Waffle Shop and the Happy Valley. Unfortunately, I had to wait until I got home to brew the coffee myself before tasting and reviewing it. I decided on the Waffle Shop since it sounded especially distinctive. Only rarely in the course of this journey has the package description been spot-on. This was one of those times. I immediately picked up on the peach and citrus flavors lingering in the background. For a Colombian, it was surprisingly light on its feet. Again, the packaging called it “delicate” and I’d agree. I initially thought I’d misjudged and made it too weak. I was gratefully mistaken. I gave it a minute and the myriad flavors coalesced nicely. Fun fact: The Waffle Shop is apparently a fixture in State College. It might be worth a look, though that will be in a different series of posts likely far in the future.
From here, we’re heading into Lewistown proper. Pay attention: This is where the chunks come in. The next two legs of this single journey will play out over the next two posts, consisting of two coffeehouses and a lot of local scenery. I’ll be posting them throughout March, typically a few days apart. April or May is going to take me further into the mountains I hope, around Huntingdon County. I’m not going to Altoona though…because we already know it has a coffee culture! I want to see if any of the small towns in the mountains have little bohemias. I’ve got a feeling that’s where the story is. Until then, stay caffeinated.