Insomnia. What an ironic ailment for a caffeine addict to suffer. Yet, suffer I did for a week at the beginning of December. I get it sometimes when the nights are long, the weekends are cold and dull, and life starts getting dramatic. All of those things have been happening in my corner of Pennsylvania lately. On Thursday the 8th, however, I finally crashed after one-and-a-half sleepless nights. The one thing I needed more than coffee was an escape. I searched for somewhere to go that wasn’t too far and could be part of the Journey (since writing relaxes me). One Google search was all it took. I found Brew Boxx Coffee.
Finding this place was a shock. I thought I’d effectively scouted the surrounding mountain valleys of Dauphin County for new coffee joints. They don’t pop up every day out in the countryside! Low demand and a lifestyle emphasizing farm life over art life out of necessity conspire to make coffeehouses rather rare north of the Kittatinny Range that bisects Dauphin physically and culturally. I’ll cut right to the chase: Brew Boxx is a beautiful exemplum of cultural fusion.
As soon as I pulled my weary self into the parking lot of Smucker Gardens, I knew this would be fascinating. OK, first of all, “Smucker” and “Garden” both scream “Amish” and there were indeed Amish folks around tending to the plants and tractors near the entrance. I soon learned that this was not the only entrance…and that to get to the coffee, I’d need to take a walk on the wild side.
I strode around to the greenhouse portion of the establishment and after a few tries found the side door. The fact that there was coffee here was obvious due to the massive signage. That was another odd juxtaposition. The signs looked trendy and upscale; they could have been beckoning Harrisburg hipsters to the new hotspot of the month. There was no hint of a nod to the country heritage of the rest of Smucker Gardens. I liked that. They could have done something kitschy but knew they didn’t have to.
In fact, Brew Boxx needed nothing but its surroundings. Upon entering the gardens I was treated to a summery wonderland of sorts. The “coffee shop” was actually a large kiosk in a shaded alcove of the verdant greenhouse. I spoke to the owner/barista Lorraine (I hope that’s how she spells it).and she said that this had been a long-time dream of hers. It looked like a dream. By that I mean there was a dreamlike quality to the surroundings that clearly showed its provenance in someone’s fantasy come to life. This fantasy came to life only a few months ago, as the world opened up again. It’s always a pleasant thing to see a dream persevere through hard times and succeed so brilliantly in execution.
The coffee was another surprise. The brand was Colina. If that name sounds familiar to any of my nearby readers, it’s because they’re a brand local to Harrisburg. The byline of the company is “Good coffee that does good,” and what’s not to like about that? There wasn’t anything not to like about this particular brew. The baristas are quite skilled too, as evidenced by the balanced scent and flavor. The particulars of the roast were proprietary (since this blend had been explicitly commissioned for Brew Boxx) but a few distinctive qualities allowed my taste buds to make an educated guess. The label said ‘cocoa and citrus’ and that was pretty much on the money. The citrus was pronounced but was indeed mellowed with a quasi-chocolatey richness. The cocoa actually came through as a general yet pronounced earthiness. I’d imagine this was an Ethiopian and a savory one. Update: It was a New Guinea!
And with that final note, there’s a new leg of the Journey beginning to manifest. I didn’t have the time or the energy to explore the rest of northern Dauphin county. I did notice a few promising search results, but they were a bit ambiguous. Some ‘coffee’ places looked more like family restaurants or antique stores. That doesn’t mean I’m writing them off. If anything, Smucker Gardens has demonstrated that coffeehouses don’t have to look like coffeehouses on the outside to be authentic beneath the surface. Sometimes the best treasures are well-hidden. Until next time, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Io Saturnalia, and stay caffeinated (but get a little sleep, too…)
March 24, 2023 at 3:41 pm
It’s actually Papua New Guinea 😉 Glad you enjoyed it! (The Colina Coffee Team)
March 26, 2023 at 1:03 am
Haha I stand corrected! And just updated 🙂 I did enjoy it. Hope to sample more of your roasts soon!
March 26, 2023 at 1:41 am
No need to correct it! Just figured you’d want to know because I can tell you care 🙂