Erin Eminhizer, the manager at the Pump Station, poses in the Boalsburg shop. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com
Erin Eminhizer, the manager at the Pump Station, poses in the Boalsburg shop. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Food & Drink

Checking in with Centre County’s coffee culture

By Holly Riddle

March 03, 2017 09:14 AM

UPDATED March 03, 2017 09:22 AM

For the java-enthused, caffeine-addicted, “Gilmore Girl”-esque coffee lovers out there, not much beats a good cuppa Joe. And luckily for the residents of Centre County, the region offers plenty of options, regardless of how you take it.

You can go for a vintage vibe, which is what the Pump Station Cafe provides. Located in Boalsburg, it began its first life in 1946 as a Texaco Station. But since 2005 it’s been serving up your traditional cafe fare, with a side of regional flavors, plus a large variety of vegetarian and vegan options. The coffee beans are sourced from W.C. Clarke’s The Cheese Shoppe in downtown State College and Standing Stone Coffee Company in Huntingdon.

According to Standing Stone manager Erin Eminhizer, one of the can’t-miss items on the menu is the Brainfreeze, a frozen coffee drink that can be flavored to fit your tastes. However, she points out, the drink menu is much more than just coffee. While the chais are top sellers, coming in three varieties (spiced, vanilla and raspberry), the fresh fruit smoothies deserve a try as well. Eminhizer also hints at some spring-inspired drinks to come.

For a venue with an even longer history, make tracks to Lemont, where The Lemont House was built in 1834, and has since housed a hodgepodge of businesses. The meeting between the structure and the Cafe Lemont owners was a little bit of a chance encounter.

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“The day we found ourselves pulling up to the light in Lemont on our way to the Art Alliance and noticed the ‘For rent’ sign in front of the old Victorian-era building started us off on a new path,” Michael Beck said. “We weren’t actually looking to open a new business per se, but the space in a historic building with (a) quaint front porch seemed to cry out to be (a) neighborhood cafe.”

Since then, Beck and his co-owner, Jodi McWhirter, have been serving up a delightful menu that embraces the local vendors just as much as the community has embraced Cafe Lemont.

“Herbs and spices are sourced through Belladonna Herbs, who we work closely with. The proprietor and expert herbologist, Charlene Williams, is our neighbor right here in the Lemont House,” Beck said. “Our milk comes from Meyer Dairy ... eggs and produce from Green Heron Farms, and sausage from Hogs Galore.”

Cafe Lemont has been roasting its own coffee since 2013, carrying organic varieties from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia. The espresso blend is smoother and nuttier than the citrusy profiles found in many coffee houses, and there are quite a few tea and chai options.

Somewhat like Cafe Lemont, Saint’s Cafe on West Beaver Avenue also got its start when a new opportunity happened to fall into one lucky couple’s lap. The owners, Mary Kay and Craig Avedesian, were frequent patrons at a cafe in the same location and when it closed its doors, the two opened Saint’s Cafe in the fall of 1999. Now, the 1930s building is transformed into a gathering place for Penn Staters and young professionals to meet and enjoy the world-class drink menu, from espressos to pour-overs, teas to chai.

The beans are sourced from around the globe, with the cafe partnering with a myriad of popular and posh brands, such as Intelligentsia Coffee out of Chicago, Madcap out of Grand Rapids and Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz. Try a brew you particularly love? The cafe keeps many types on hand for purchase, always guaranteed fresh and just roasted within the previous week or so.

A large theme at Saint’s, which is one of several coffee shop options in downtown State College, is keeping the purity and quality of the coffee front and center, without disguising it behind flavorings, toppings and other similar additions. The menu is inspired partially by the owners’ son, who now works in the coffee industry, as well as the baristas, who provide input. The lattes, espressos and pour-overs are all popular, as are the baked goods, sourced from nearby Spruce Creek Bakery.

If you’re headed to Bellefonte, you’ll find yourself in Cool Beans Coffee and Tea territory. Though switching ownership several times, the cafe has been in business for more than 20 years, making it one of Bellefonte’s oldest businesses to remain open.

“The inspiration behind the Cool Beans menu is being original. Everything is made from scratch and we have all the original recipes. ... We strongly believe in making everything homemade and in-house to please our customers,” owner Sherry Nelson said.

Nelson brought with her ownership some new flavors and options, but the favorites still remain. The cafe is famous for its baked oatmeal, topped with fruit, nuts, steamed milk and whipped cream. For guests with a sweet tooth, the candy bar lattes are sure to please, with flavor profiles from everyone’s guilty pleasures, from Twix to Almond Joy. Other crowd pleasers are the quiche and jumbo chocolate chip cookies. The baked goods are different nearly every day, and it’s not uncommon for the cafe to sell out.

Not sure what you want? You can always order the Surprise Smoothie, and see what the adventurous baristas throw together for you.

Speaking of adventure, that’s part of the inspiration behind Rothrock Coffee, named for the state forest. The State College roaster is influenced by the owners’ international travels.

“Rothrock Coffee is a little bit of all the cool, comfortable and awesome things we have seen in coffee shops around the world,” said Ronnie Napolitan, co-owner of the brand. “Everything ... the lights we choose, floor we installed, reclaimed barn lumber throughout the shop and equipment we are using. ... We wanted to do it right and create the best coffee shop and coffee around.”

Unlike some of the other cafes in the area, Rothrock produces its own varieties, with new options constantly on the horizon. Napolitan particularly points to the new Kenya Peaberry as one of his personal favorites, but also mentions several other new menu items to watch for.

“There are three new coffees coming out probably throughout the next month. We have a couple things as well coming out for summer beverages and a couple new seasonal drinks,” he said.

One of Rothrock’s best sellers is its latte, made with a unique roasted espresso blend topped with micro-foam latte art. For coffee connoisseurs, Napolitan recommends the Nicaragua Los Congos, served as a Chemex Pour Over. Those wanting a great after-dinner brew are encouraged to try the decaf, which he references as “confusingly good.”

Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at holly.ridd@gmail.com.

IF YOU GO

Pump Station Cafe, 103 Boal Ave., Boalsburg. 466-6202, pumpstationcafe.com

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Cool Beans Coffee and Tea, 141 West High St., Bellefonte, 355-1178, coolbeancoffeeandtea.com

Hours: 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Rothrock Coffee, 1736 S. Atherton St., State College, 510-9119, rothrockcoffee.com

Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Cafe Lemont, 921 Pike St., No. 103, Lemont, 321-4337, cafelemont.net

Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday

Saint’s Cafe, 123 W. Beaver Ave., State College, 238-5707, statecollegecoffeeshop.com

Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday