Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mmmm. Coffee.

One of my fondest childhood memories was coming downstairs in the morning to the smell of coffee. My dad drank it every morning. Black. I loved the smell, but hated the taste. Didn't start drinking coffee until I was in college, and then became more "addicted" to it when I began working overnights in radio. Not black. Cream and sugar, thank you.

In the years since I began drinking coffee (late 70s/early 80s) there has been a real boom in the coffee culture. I imagine that Starbucks gets much of the credit for that, but I have to admit up front that I'm anti-Starbucks. I really don't like their coffee ("overpriced swill" is usually how I refer to it) or the way they do business. Having said that, I will also admit that I am a huge fan of Dunkin Donuts. Not the atmosphere, just the coffee. I think their coffee is really the best thing going.

But working in Central PA I've gained a real appreciation for small, independent coffee shops. I've visited quite a few throughout the region and I love sending my business their way. So my criteria for what makes a good coffee shop? 

First, and foremost, it's the coffee. I like a good selection of coffees, though I'm more of a medium/mild blend kinda guy. Not really into the strong stuff. 

Second, I really appreciate if the coffee is Fair Trade

Third, the atmosphere is very important. I like to be comfortable and have room to relax and converse with others. 

Fourth, it's always nice to have free Wi-Fi. Makes it easier to get some work done and have meetings. 

Fifth, good music. Always like a place that either plays XPN or XPN-ish kinda music. Good indie music. Perhaps even hosts live music events from time to time. And a general appreciation of the arts and culture, in general, is also nice to have. 

Finally, a nice selection of teas and food. I'm the only coffee drinker in my house, so it's always nice if the place provides things that my wife and kids can enjoy.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite coffee shops throughout Central PA, followed by some others recommended by friends that I haven't had the chance to visit yet:

Lancaster County
Prince Street Cafe - probably my favorite coffee shop in the area. Nice size and great atmosphere as well as great music from Jed's iPod. Live music and gallery space. I like that they have long hours (and are now even open 24 hours on weekends).

Square One Coffee - smaller shop featuring some nice of their own custom roasted coffee. All the coffee is certified organic Fair Trade. Nice alternative when Prince Street is too busy, though this shop can get packed as well.

Dosie Dough - Haven't been to this one in Lititz but a lot of my friends speak highly of it. There is also one in Lancaster city.

Chestnut Hill - this is Lancaster's newest coffee shop, with a great atmosphere in a nice neighborhood setting. Would love to have a place like this within walking distance of my home

S. Clyde Weaver's - This shop in East Petersburg is more of a deli/butcher/bakery kind of store, but has a nice coffee shop at one end.

The Coffee Company - live music and a good vibe at this Lancaster shop according to one friend.

Harrisburg Area

Crimson Frog Coffeehouse - this nice little shop in Camp Hill suffers a little from being in a strip mall, but the coffee and atmosphere more than make up for it. They often feature live music, but otherwise they play XPN and offer discounts to XPN members.

Famous Reading Cafe - This one isn't quite open yet, but is part of Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg. The shop is supposed to open sometime this month and will feature a nice food menu and live music. I'm really looking forward to checking this one out.

Cornerstone Cafe - This Camp Hill cafe is Fair Trade certified and wins all kinds of regional "best of" awards. Comes highly recommended from a number of friends.

Caffeine Connection - small little shop on Third Street in Harrisburg. Nice atmosphere but has limited hours. One plus is that they play XPN!

Bridge Street Coffee - New Cumberland
The Hard Bean - Camp Hill
Juice & Java - Mechanicsburg
Your Daily Grind - Mechanicsburg
St. Thomas Roasters - Linglestown

Hershey Area

Cocoa Beanery - Located in an old house in Hershey, this is the newest addition to the Hershey Resorts & Entertainment empire. Fortunately, it doesn't have that corporate feel. Nice and roomy with several "living room" areas for meetings or just relaxing.

York County

Sparky & Clark's - Several locations throughout York and Central PA with more on the way. Some feature live music.

Other Central PA Locations

Casa Mani Cafe - Carlisle

I hope to eventually try all of these shops. Am I missing any? Comment on your experiences at any of these places (positive or negative) and let me know of any other places in Central PA I might be missing.


Jimbo Lamb said...

You missed MJ's Coffeehouse, adjacent to the Allen Theatre in Annville. A great memory I have of that place was from last winter on a snow day where my house had no power. I had work to get done, so I went to MJ's for electricity and internet. Spent 5 hours there drinking eggnog latte's while getting grading done.

Ken said...

Thanks for including that. I know that one has been mentioned to me before but I don't always think in terms of that part of central PA since I never really get up there.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin said...

I have to say that my favorite coffee shop was in Mountville, but closed. It was called True Espresso and the man knew coffee. He roasted his own and he made a mean macchiato. And I don't mean that fakey Starbucks sugary concoction, I mean the espresso with just a dollop of steamed milk froth on the top. No one makes that around here as far as I know. So I am sad that he is gone, but he apparantly sells his coffee for home consumption at Eastern Market (a little too far for me to go just for coffee, but I may try soon).