The best laid plans of mice and men. Isn’t that what Robert Burns said? He must have been talking about the Mount Gretna Art Show. That’s where I was attempting to go the day that I found this coffeehouse. Let’s start at the beginning. It was August 20th and I had just found out about this amazing art event in the Hershey countryside. I also read horror stories on Google reviews regarding the traffic issues and parking challenges, but I thought there was no way it could be as bad as a few reported. Oh, dear.
I got to a field outside the beautiful town of Mount Gretna. Really, it is stately in the extreme…and that’s where the problem lies. It’s far too small to hold overflow parking for an event like this. We had to park in a field a few miles from the town. That’s how many people came. I had come blessedly late and had avoided the worst of the traffic, but the endless field of cars spelled trouble. I took a glance up the road and saw a large tent holding people preparing to get on two school buses. Yikes. I noped out. Yep, it was a nope. I quickly asked for the best way out of the car farm and fled the scene grateful that I wasn’t waiting for one of those buses in the heat under a tarp like a refugee.
Look, I’m sure the festival itself is amazing. If it hadn’t been, there wouldn’t have been so many people clamoring to get up that hill in whatever vehicle could be mustered into service. As I drove back down the road home with a serious case of FOMO, I spotted something oddly familiar on the right side immediately as I entered the small village of Campbelltown. I do believe I reviewed this location once before when it was something else entirely. Whatever it had been, right then it was a brewery and coffeeshop in the same building. Uppers and downers at once! Brilliant! And with a name like “Ancestor,” a former anthropology student like myself could hardly resist.
Actually, I was in no mood for beer. I don’t like beer on a hot afternoon and after the exhaustion of (almost!) getting to the art show, I needed a pick-me-up. I found one here. I kind of figured that this would be a cut above when I saw that they did their own roasting on the spot in that old-fashioned roaster you’ll see below. It’s kind of a centerpiece to the room (as it should be). Unlike a lot of coffee shops out in the countryside, Ancestor embraces its rural milieu with abandon. Everything is rough wood and the even the counter is unpretentious with few of the artsy cliches that abound in many cafes nowadays. Well, OK, there were a few inspirational words on shelves, but I won’t begrudge them that.
The coffee itself reflects this backcountry authenticity. It was simple and savory. I mean the “savory” part in a technical sense. I got some distinct umami flavors from the initial swig. The dominant flavor was a nuttier taste, and very flavor-forward. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a mouth full of cashews; this didn’t taste like a flavored coffee, but the nutty palate was certainly forward. I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a bit of walnut in the mix, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The coffee went down smooth, but it wasn’t weak. I’d asked for the medium roast and the barista didn’t know exactly what was in that roast bean-wise. If I was a betting man (and I am, but only at horseraces and tabletop RPGs), I’d say this was an Arabica born and raised in Nicaragua or Guatemala. The flavor was too distinctive to be a Colombian I’d say…but I could be wrong. I’ll have to ask the next time I’m headed out Route 322.
I have no clue when that will be. It looks like the next concert I’m going to will be either in Halifax or Shippensburg. That might necessitate a trip back into the South Mountain area. Later this fall I’ll be winding my way through north Maryland and yes, I’ll hopefully be finishing up the long-lost last leg of the Alleghenies portion of the Tour. The tour never really ends, though. As long as there’s coffee and somewhere to drink it, coffee culture will continue and so will my love of it. Until next time, stay caffeinated.