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Archive for the tag “coffee”

30×30: Lesson 24: Wavy hair, curved hips

Dedicated to Emily Orner.

I didn’t believe that life was black and white, but I did prefer it black and grey. When going shopping for dorm room supplies the summer before I began at Susquehanna University, I picked out a set of storage cubbies made of white wire, a black and silver phone, a silver laptop, and a black and white poster of the Eiffel Tower in the rain. After furrowing my brow at the dull colors stacked neatly in my shopping cart, I wheeled back to the bedding section of Bed, Bath, and Beyond and thoughtfully added a moss-green comforter. Black and silver (okay, and green) felt simple, chic. Probably even safe.

For the majority of college, I loved lines. College-ruled notebook paper, books stacked horizontally, the glossy straight hair in the Pantene Pro-V commercials. As a ballet dancer, I wanted the perfect grand jeté where the dancer’s legs extended a flawless 180 degrees mid-air; I wanted a straight-edged body without muscles, curves, thighs, or hips. I respected the hierarchy of freshmen below sophomores, the ordering of the cafeteria lines, the borders between ideas. The only concepts that I needed to challenge were those that claimed there were no right answers: I would somehow agree with that this was true without believing a single word.

Over the years, my straight-lined world crumbled slowly, breaking off in chunks and smoothing into powder. And I, too, crumbled at the edges, not know how to face a life so unclearly defined, so concrete-rough.

My senior year, two-cups-of-coffee dazed into my day, I was at the Kind Café in Selinsgrove where I wrote all my papers before I graduated, staring into the darkness of my third refill. Into my coffee, I poured a dash of cream. In caffeinated slow motion, the white entered the coffee, hit the bottom of the porcelain cup, billowed up. It swirled and knitted into an enormous set of wispy curls. As I watched, the cream faded into the coffee, leaving it a smoky, gorgeous, comforting brown.

Later that afternoon, I ran into my friend Rachel Fetrow in the basement of Degenstein Hall. Still caffeinated, I seized her. “Rachel — life is a Van Gogh painting. I get it. There are no borders. It’s amazing. It was in the coffee.

For who else could I be but a woman with wavy hair and curved hips and wild passions and an open mind? The unstraightened is sometimes not meant to be smoothed. Beauty can be found in the unvarnished. I can maybe even accept the chaos that is mine.

Find an introduction on this series here.  Dig into other life lessons here.

The Princeton: Ginger, lemon, and honey cappuccino, Little Amps, Harrisburg

It is a coffee that I’ve been waiting since August to taste — since I left Harrisburg for a semester in Pittsburgh and only came back on the weekends.

Known as the Princeton, this drink is the downtown cousin (only available on weekdays) to the Uptown Ginger Brown at Little Amps, Green Street.

It’s a cappuccino featuring a shot of espresso pulled into honey then graced with lemon zest and ginger. (The Uptown Ginger Brown swaps in brown sugar and orange zest).

On this December day, the bright citrus dances through the foamed milk and rich espresso, more reminiscent of ocean shores than snowdrifts on Second Street. Well worth a semester’s wait.

The Princeton, Little Amps, Harrisburg

The Princeton, Little Amps, Harrisburg

133 State Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
(717) 635-9870
Mon–Thu 6:45am–5:30pm
Fri: 6:45–9pm
Olde Uptown:
1836 Green Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 695-4882Mon–Fri: 7am–2pm
Sat: 8am–9pm
Sun: 8am–2pm

Kyoto drip, Bank Square Coffeehouse; Beacon, New York

koyto drip

Bank Square Coffeehouse. July 2013

Okay. I cannot say that I actually tasted this coffee when I stopped at this gem of a coffeehouse in Beacon, New York — but the sheer appearance of the brewing apparatus of Kyoto drip coffee certainly caught my attention. At Bank Square Coffeehouse, founded in 2009, this Kyoto drip steeps coffee through a thick bed of grounds at one drip per second.

Since they were out of Kyoto drip when I was there (although they were brewing more, IV-style), I turn to In the article “Some Like It Cold (Brewed),” writers call the process of Kyoto drip “breathtaking,” “mad-scientist-style,” and a “spiraling one-drop-at-a-time” method of cold brewing.

Of the taste of the Kyoto drip at Blue Bottle Coffee (Oakland, San Francisco, Brooklyn), they wrote: “Kyoto’s brew is an intense, flattish-tasting brew that has that guilty pleasure flavor of canned iced coffee. The cup we tried was a bit ice-cube flavored, but the sturdy, almost woody quality to the brew suggests it might get better and better as that melty ice goes on.”

Road trip to New York, anyone? (Coffee’s on me.)

Bank Square Coffeehouse
129 Main Street
Beacon, NY 12508

Sunday-Thursday, 5:30am-9:00pm (6:30am on Sunday)
Friday-Saturday, 5:30am-10:00pm (6:30am on Saturday)

28 years abroad: All about…the Netherlands {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by my aunt Colleen Savelkouls, who was born in Pennsylvania and has resided in the Netherlands since 1984. Staying at Colleen’s house in the Netherlands has been the way I’ve slept off jetlag for every single trip I have taken to Europe since 2000. Still strong to her Pennsylvanian roots — and accustomed to welcoming family visitors of all ages — Colleen is a great reference for explaining Dutch culture to Americans and expressing what she loves about both countries.


As an elementary school child growing up in central Pennsylvania, I still remember an older Dutch woman coming to talk about Holland. All I remember was her talking about wooden shoes and windmills. After all, isn’t that what most Americans think about when they try to picture Holland today — windmills, wooden shoes, and maybe tulips?

But having lived half my life in Pennsylvania and the other half in Holland, I know that there are many misconceptions that exist. First of all, Holland Dutch and Pennsylvania Dutch are not the same. The latter derives itself from the German immigrants who moved to Pennsylvania and introduced themselves with their “Deutsch” language. Second, most stories about Holland that exist in the U.S. are not necessarily about modern Holland, but the Holland that existed during or after World War II. This was the case with the older Dutch lady that I met as a child, who had left Holland to follow her love, an American soldier. Third, the country’s official name is the Netherlands. North and South Holland are actually provinces of the Netherlands from which ships used to sail with spices and Delft porcelain to sell around the world.

Here are a few differences that I have compiled to explain modern Holland, as well as the trials of living an immigrant life.

Learning languages, learning cultures. One month after receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree in 1984, I followed love to Holland. I believed I could conquer the many cultural differences and was willing to try. I was accepted easily by the Dutch, as most people my age learn English at school. Languages abound in Holland: Dutch students begin learning English around 5th or 6th grade, and in high school, they study Dutch, English, and have at least two years of both French and German. (Students going to college often also study Latin and Greek, for a total of six languages at a time.)

However, for me to learn Dutch at age 22 proved to be more difficult than I had thought. While I am now fluent after 28 years of living in Holland, I still cannot write a letter without asking someone to check my spelling. I now have more compassion for immigrants than I once did, especially a husband and wife team who are trying to learn another language as adults. My Dutch husband can correct my writing, but, as it often does with family immigrants, it often lands on the children’s shoulders to translate. After learning Dutch, I was also surprised to find that my language skills would continue to disable me in a job. I have a university level of thinking on how to approach a job, but my language skills have decreased how I can work. I can think and speak myself into a management level, but especially at the beginning, I could not write at a management level. This was limiting and, at times, very frustrating.

Old windmill near Waspik, the Netherlands, 2010

Old windmill near Waspik, the Netherlands, June 2010

Low skies and cloudy days. The first years of living in Holland, I was always asked where I was from, what I missed most about the U.S., and what was the most difficult about living abroad. My first answer was obviously learning Dutch, but the second answer — what I missed — was the mountains. Holland is extremely flat. I also did not expect to be so affected by how far north in the hemisphere Holland is. Holland is as far north as Alaska’s most southern islands, meaning that you get short days in the winter and long days in the summer (in June the sun sets at 10 PM). Due to the Atlantic Ocean, Holland has a sea climate with rain and low clouds. All together, the winters are usually cloudy, rainy, and have only 7 to 8 hours of light! If we get snow, it usually melts fairly fast. In winters, I yearn for sunshine, although I am grateful that neither summers nor winters in Holland are extremely hot or extremely cold. I tease the Dutch that they only have spring and autumn instead of four seasons.


Sunny view from the bell tower of Oude Kerk, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

Breaking bread and drinking coffee — together. Another aspect that I had to get used to in Holland was the coffee breaks and the eating of so much bread. The average Dutch individual — blue-collar and white-collar — eat an open slice of bread or sandwich for breakfast, have a 15-minute coffee break coffee sometime between 9 and 10 AM, eat a sandwich for lunch, have 15 minutes for coffee or tea sometime between 3 and 4 PM, eat supper, and have coffee or tea again around 8 PM. In the beginning, I thought that, with so many breaks, I could never get any work done! Now, I have come to love this time. Visitors usually come to visit for coffee or tea instead of a meal; and they usually only accept one or two cookies when sweets are offered. Taking more is considered greedy. The Dutch also have the most delicious (and healthy) bread I have ever tasted, and the aroma of Dutch coffee is phenomenal! I am addicted! Coffee time is also a time to discuss how your day has gone and to plan the next few hours. This must be why Hollanders are known to be good managers!

In addition to bread, the Dutch export excellent cheese. Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

In addition to bread, the Dutch export excellent cheese. Central Market, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

Windmills and wooden shoes?  I would assume that maybe only 1% of the Dutch still wear wooden shoes on a farm or around the house to keep their feet dry. In contrast, the Dutch are very fashion-minded and follow the latest styles. Amsterdam is getting world-wide recognition for designs and models. Also, while there are still some old wooden windmills existing, many are not in use. Instead, there are a few provinces, especially Flevoland, filled with modern 80-yard-high windmills. This tells you how windy it can get on some days! Don’t try to keep your hair neat!

Not exactly fashion-conscious, supporting the Dutch "football" team in the World Cup. Rotterdam, 2010

Not exactly fashion-conscious, supporting the Dutch “football” team in the World Cup. Rotterdam, 2010

All in all, I have come to love Holland. I would probably have culture shock if I permanently returned to the U.S. after 28 years abroad. In Holland, I don’t have to worry about the violence of guns, and I strongly recommend the Dutch multiple political party system instead of a two-party system that divides the nation. The news in Holland is more international, whereas in the U.S. the media seems to focus just on America’s own problems. There are truly good and bad things in every country, no matter where you live.

Friday Photo: Americano, like rust, Tazza d’oro, Pittsburgh

Americano, like rust

Americano, like rust, Tazza d’oro, Pittsburgh

I’ve already claimed that this café near Highland Park has some of the most nuanced espresso I’ve found in Pittsburgh. This Friday Photo is dedicated to the beauty of their americano, gold-tinged, bubbled, haphazard – beauty.

Tazza d’Oro
1125 North Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3676

Monday-Friday, 7 AM-10 PM
Saturday-Sunday, 8 AM-10 PM

Carnegie Mellon
Gates Center 3rd Floor
Computer Science Building
Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Monday-Friday 7 AM-7PM
Closed Saturday-Sunday

‘Uptown ginger brown’ cappuccino, Little Amps, Harrisburg

Uptown Ginger Brown, Harrisburg, January 2013

Uptown Ginger Brown, Harrisburg, January 2013

The “Uptown Ginger Brown” ($4.25) — a not-too-sweet cappuccino from Little Amps in Uptown — is made with ginger, fresh orange zest, and brown sugar. The first two ingredients bring a subtle brightness to the rich coffee, a tartness hidden in the rich and foamy mouthfeel. As for the third, owner Aaron Carlson prefers brown sugar over white sugar because it’s not as “clawingly sweet”; the molasses in the brown sugar better complements the espresso.

This drink for me is the brightness of summer enrobed in the coziness of winter.

(Plus, it’s worth it just to hear Aaron announce, “Uuuuptown ginger brown!” as he pushes your drink across the bar.)

Little Amps
1826 Green Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102

Monday-Friday: 7am-2pm
Saturday-Sunday: 8am-2pm


Aaron Carlson, January 2013

Caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, Linglestown

Hand-crafted caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, October 2012

Hand-crafted caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, October 2012

If you want to celebrate fall but are sick of pumpkin beer, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin wing sauce, try the classic caramel apple latte at St. Thomas Coffee Roasters in Linglestown as reported by The Patriot-News in late September 2012.

“In my opinion, apple is more of a fall flavor than pumpkin is,” says barista Andrea Musselman. “What we think of pumpkin is usually just a particular spice blend.”

In this drink, two espresso shots are blended with caramel and apple syrups, topped with steamed 2% milk, whipped cream, and a delicate caramel drizzle, creating a drink that’s like a caramel apple without the crunch. The in-house roasted espresso blend keeps this decadent latte from becoming too sweet.

Sip while looking out the large windows of this historic coffee shop in downtown Linglestown to truly drink in the beauty of fall, and pick up a pound or two of in-house roasted coffee or gourmet tea to take home.

St. Thomas Coffee Roasters
5951 Linglestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112
(717) 526-4171

Monday-Thursday: 7am-8pm
Friday-Saturday: 7am-10pm
Sunday: 9am-4pm

Friday coffee cupping at Tazza d’Oro, Pittsburgh

Director of coffee Kirke Campbell, September 2012

Director of coffee Kirke Campbell, September 2012

Tazza d’Oro’s website claims that it has been brewing cups of gold in Pittsburgh since 1999, and I would agree. While I’ve not been in Pittsburgh since 1999, I can at least attest that this coffeeshop serves some of the most nuanced espresso I’ve ever tasted, a fact that the website attributes to Tazza d’Oro’s rigorously-trained baristas (I overheard one potential barista set up a time to take his “written coffee test” during one of my visits) and their careful attention to the act of purchasing and preparing coffee.

On Fridays at 10 AM, patrons can now learn how to better appreciate coffee both as a bean and a beverage during a free cupping held at the Tazza d’Oro on Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh. According to the authors of a Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Cupping, “cupping” is the term used to describe the professional process of evaluating different coffees to better understand their specific characteristics. Coffee traits often vary depending on regions of growth, roasting, and processing, and evaluating these qualities — especially in the form of a formal cupping — is an act usually done to ensure a good brew, as one would formally taste and evaluate a wine or a good beer.

At Tazza d’Oro, the 45-minute, hands-on, and in-depth presentation is lead by Kirke Campbell, the coffeeshop’s director of coffee purchasing and quality control. He first begins with a discussion on the origin and processing of three different coffees; then he leads into a fragrance comparison of the coffees’ dry grounds and the same grounds when poured over with hot water. Next, participants are given time to taste the coffees and talk extensively about the coffee’s flavor, acidity, body, and finish.

The coffees I tasted were from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. from Olympia, WA, and included “La Gloria,” a washed-processed coffee from El Salvador; CODECH Tesoro de Concepcion, a washed-processed coffee from the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala; and Gedeo Worka, a natural-processed coffee from the Geodeo zone of Ethiopia. Aromas and flavors — which varied per coffee during each stage of the cupping — ranged from deep chocolate and citrus to woodsy blueberry and tart pomegranate.

After you finish the cupping, hang around at Tazza d’Oro for your own cup of coffee to sip with that dog-eared novel you’ve been wanting to read. Whether you doctor up your coffee with milk, cream, and sugar is up to you, but the flavor you find just may astound you.

Tazza d’Oro
1125 North Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3676

Monday-Friday, 7 AM-10 PM
Saturday-Sunday, 8 AM-10 PM

Carnegie Mellon
Gates Center 3rd Floor
Computer Science Building
Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Monday-Friday 7 AM-7PM
Closed Saturday-Sunday

Friday Photo: The cozy and chill Té Café, Pittsburgh

Té Café, Pittsburgh, September 2012

Typically, my posts on this blog unfold around coffee, whether it be a review of the shakerato-style “cold jar” at Little Amps, Harrisburg, or my description of visiting a café con piernas in Santiago, Chile. For once, however, I found myself stunned by tea at the Té Café on Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh, which — amid plush cushions and a large, sunny storefront — serves more than 100 loose leaf teas along with a smattering of biscotti, muffins, and banana bread. Ranging from genmaicha, a Japanese brown rice tea, and kokeicha, a green tea made of matcha powder, to more-accessible options like chai and Moroccan mint, most teas are available in single-servings or full pots and are served with an hourglass timer to alert tea novices, like myself, when the delicate leaves have steeped long enough.

Té Café also serves unique lattes in flavors like Earl Grey or mate; gourmet coffees; smoothies; and specialty ginger, hibiscus, or lavender lemonades. It’s not the place to eat for lunch — the most hearty item on the menu is a grilled cheese — but if you’re here studying, a grilled Nutella panini or almond butter and jelly will get you through the toughest chapters.

Té Café was named the best place in Pittsburgh for “a cuppa” in Pittsburgh Magazine’s”The Best of the ‘Burgh 2011.”

Té Café
2000 Murray Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 422-8888

Friday Photo: Going Dutch (Cookie-wise) in Central Pennsylvania

Jennie Groff displays Stroopie’s cookie press, June 2012

This article first appeared in the August 2012 issue of TheBurg, greater Harrisburg’s community newspaper.

Hold on, biscotti. Take a back seat, pizzelle. And welcome a new international cookie, the stroopwafel, to central Pennsylvania’s confection scene.

A stroopwafel is a traditional Dutch cookie, literally meaning “syrup waffle.” The “stroopie” consists of gooey caramel syrup pressed between two pie-crust-thin, cinnamon-spiced waffles. Traditionally, the cookie rests on the rim of a hot cup of coffee for a few seconds before eating to soften the caramel—an ode to taking time to eat, to drink and to be.

“My customers keep saying, ‘Oh, they’re caramel! Oh, they’re Dutch!’” said Ambreen Esmail, owner of Café di Luna on N. 3rd Street in Midtown. Esmail has carried the cookies since late June to complement her array of small batch, independently made desserts and internationally inspired coffee beverages. “Not many people have heard of stroopwafels, but they’re delicious,” she said.

Domestically, Stroopwafels are made at Stroopies, a Lancaster-based company managed by a husband and wife team, Jonathan and Jennie Groff.

“We both grew up in small family businesses, and we wanted one of our own,” Jennie said, herself the daughter of a dairy farmer. Jonathan is the son of the founders of Groff’s Candies in Lancaster.

Owners Ed McManness and Dan Perryman founded Stroopies in 2008 to make cookies and provide jobs to underprivileged men and women. They operate a branch in, of all places, Moradabad, India, with six full-time workers. Jonathan and Jennie joined the company two years ago and wanted to market the cookies in Pennsylvania. Since then, laboring in the back room of Groff’s Candies, they have made every stroopwafel from scratch.

Four cookie-size balls of homemade dough are placed on an authentic Dutch stroopwafel griddle and pressed for 80 seconds. Each waffle is transferred to a cutting board, filleted in half and drizzled with house-made caramel syrup. The halves are then pressed back together, cooled and hand-packaged.

“Our very clean hands are all over the stroopwafels that you buy,” laughed Jennie.

In addition to traditional stroopies, the Groffs offer stroopwafels dipped in Wilbur’s dark chocolate from Lititz, PA. They are experimenting with gluten-free stroopwafels, fresh pecan stroopwafels and chocolate dipped stroopwafels that are sprinkled with locally roasted espresso from Lancaster’s Square One Coffee.

There’s a balance between keeping it simple and being creative, Jonathan said, “but I do think the espresso stroopwafels are out of this world.” The couple hopes to eventually introduce a new stroopie variety each year.

Like the India branch, the couple hopes Stroopies can provide employment opportunities to immigrants in central Pennsylvania. “Specifically, we see a need among refugees that the U.S. has welcomed,” Jonathan said. “Sometimes they have a hard time finding work. We love working with internationals, so to be able to provide work for people from other parts of the world would be an enjoyable privilege for us.”

That inspires Café di Luna’s Esmail. “I promote Stroopies’ cookies because they bring people together,” she said. “So much is lost these days with the way we rush. I believe we need to go back to our values, and I try to promote products that do the same.”

105 Old Dorwart Street
Lancaster, PA 17603

Café di Luna
1004 N. 3rd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 233-3010

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