In Search of Perfection

Coffee Cherries in Costa Rica

Not only is there no internet access at camp, but the coffee’s pretty bad, too. When I started working there, I was part-time, and also part-time at Starbucks

, so I got a free pound of coffee a week and brought one with me first thing, not feeling very optimistic about the quality of church-camp coffee. In my experience, church coffee alone is pretty terrible. I’m not sure where it says in the Bible that it needs to be, but I’d say that for the average, garden-variety church . . . coffee is not found in that garden. When you extrapolate church coffee out to a camp, where everyone is supposed to be “roughing it,” I just couldn’t imagine that it would even be drinkable.

The next summer I was no longer working at Starbucks, but I had ceased only two months before, so I still had plenty of pounds of coffee left and brought it with me again.

Last summer, we had to resort to Folgers. I’ll tell you something, though. When you’re sleep-deprived and roughing it, Folgers is actually kind of okay. I guess that might be what makes church-camp coffee better than just plain church coffee. Desperation.

This year, though? It was Maxwell House. Turns out I can’t stand Maxwell House. I grimaced my way through a cup a day for three days in a row just to forestall a headache, but on Wednesday the headache came anyway, and Big-Kid-Dave (who is older than I am but prides himself on being one of the kids), who was also not overly enthusiastic about Maxwell House, went out and upgraded us to Folgers. On Thursday I drank the Folgers and said to Big-Kid-Dave, “After half a week of Maxwell House, Folgers tastes like the nectar of the gods!” He laughed and agreed, except I think we both had secret second thoughts about it by our second cups.

And then I took the day campers on a field trip to a farm. In one of the instructional buildings, a pot of coffee had been brewed for the staff, and it smelled artisan-y and organic and not-out-of-a-plastic-can-from-the-grocery-store, and it was all I could do not to catapult myself around (or through) the room dividers and commandeer a cup. When the day camp kids went home that day I was given a mini grocery list from Kitchen-Jean for that evening’s dessert, and I told her and Big-Kid-Dave, “I’m also going to find myself a coffee shop and get myself a decent cup of coffee.” I told Dave I’d get him one, too. Kitchen-Jean didn’t want one.

Once I got off camp property and got a bar or two of service on my phone, I punched something more specific than “coffee shops, boondocks, new england” into the map app on my phone. A bunch of little red dots appeared, one with a name highlighted, and mentioning organic coffee. “Yay!” I thought, “I knew there had to be some form of civilisation around here!” And off I set.

I drove and drove, and drove and drove, and about ten miles and many minutes later, I saw by the little moving blue dot on my phone that I was approaching my last left turn. But when I looked at the actual left turn I had reached, I discovered it was . . . the entrance to a cemetery?

That couldn’t be right. I drove a little further, but the only left turn after the cemetery was a dead-end and the little blue dot had left the purple route line behind. I sat off to the side of the dead end and stared at the map. It looked like the coffee shop was right at the back of the cemetery. Well, surely that wasn’t the only way to get to it, but maybe there really was an exit through the back of the graveyard through which I could get to the place. I turned around and entered the field of dead people, driving slowly and respectfully and probably with a really baffled expression. When I halfway around the circumference, where the mystery coffee shop was supposed to be, I could see a wall of trees and no outlet. I couldn’t even tell if there was or wasn’t a building on the other side of those trees, but I could have sworn I smelled coffee.

Okay, I said to myself, it’s around here somewhere. I’m just going to turn down the next street and keep driving until I find it.

The next street was an industrial park. I mean, relatively speaking, for Boondocks, New England. I was having a little trouble imagining a coffee shop in an industrial park, but hey. Maybe the people working at the industries really like their coffee. I inched my car around the bend, and around another bend, and . . . sure enough! There was a cheerful little red building with a sign out front matching the name in my phone. I parked and got out and walked up the hill toward the front door.

When I got in there, I realised why it was in an industrial park. It wasn’t just a cheerful little red building. It was a warehouse, with offices in the red building part, and huge roasters and other kinds of machinery in the warehouse. I was impressed, but disappointed. Really? Had I come all this way for a finally good cup of coffee, through a cemetery and everything, only to discover I couldn’t have one?

A young man came toward me as I stood bemusedly in the hallway decorated with tribal masks from coffee-growing countries. “What can I get for you?” he asked.

What? He was offering to get something for me? They must actually sell something there then . . .

“You don’t just sell cups of coffee, do you?” I asked.

“Not cups of coffee,” he said, “but you can buy it here by the pound.” He handed me a booklet with a description of the company and the countries they trade with and the different types of coffee roasts and blends they sell. I had kind of been looking forward to sitting down in a coffee shop over a cup, but when I heard that their pounds of coffee cost about four dollars less than most decent Starbucks blends, I found something Ethiopian and bought it. If I buy a pound, I reasoned, Big-Kid-Dave and I can make actually good coffee every day

The coffee did not disappoint. On Friday, Big-Kid-Dave said with something like wonder, “It’s so good, and satisfying, and it actually kept us awake.” He sounded like a commercial, and I want to, too, so now I will blow my whole “Boondocks” cover and tell you that the shop was Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to get what’s worth having.


9 thoughts on “In Search of Perfection

  1. Okay. I am still laughing, picturing you hiking through a cemetery to get good coffee. There is not much out there in Boondocks, New England! I am with you about Maxwell House–it actually gives me heartburn! Promise. Your weekly stint in Hamilton WILL include good Starbucks coffee! Promise! 🙂

  2. Breaking my long history of silent blog following to say: I LOVE DEAN’S BEANS. I designed and co-taught a course about Fair Trade Coffee and Dean’s book Java Trekkers was one of the texts. We buy their roasted coffee and green coffee to roast ourselves. I’m surprised I missed this post.

  3. Pingback: Wouldn’t You Like to Have a Doodle, Too? | That's a Jenn Story

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