Last week NMJ sent a team of coffee experts, specially hired for this dangerous mission, on the road for one day of driving and sampling the ambience and coffee of establishments in our five county region.
Dr. Java: I awoke in a hotel room from a vivid nightmare involving Juan Valdez, seventeen percolators, and an enraged bear. Shuddering, I made my way blearily to the in-room coffee pot. Thankfully, it was filled with freshly ground Tahitian Pony Express, which I affectionately refer to as "the Rocket." I drained the pot at a gulp, and stood around on the hotel dock waiting for the Scarab speedboat that was supposed to carry me to Leland. Apparently, that boat was a figment produced the combination of severe jet lag and airline coffee. Sometime later than expected, as I believe is usual, Andrew McFarlane showed up in a station wagon, of all things. He informed me that the Maserati I had been promised to make the jaunt was as non-existent as the boat.
I feel that my agent has betrayed me.
Nonetheless, I remain dedicated to my mission.
Maryanne Mocha: I just love this darling magazine, and I'm thrilled to have been asked to participate. I'd been staying at the most charming resort on the bluffs of Yuba, enjoying impeccable service and yummy iced coffees, when one of the NMJ's charming staff members approached me. I was ready to give it a sporting try, and only hesitated a moment when I saw the station wagon I was to be driving. Go for it, Maryanne, I told myself, and go for it I did. Oh my, I felt so native, so rural behind the wheel of that beast!
Lady Snootful de Folger: When I entered the office of this quaint publication, I was greeted by an unfamiliar aroma. My sensitive nez told me that is was some form of coffee, but I could not place it. I forewent my usual practice of hot water over fresh grounds because I had left my heirloom gold spoon on the bedstand. Blissfully unaware I poured myself a cup. Regrettably, it was not until I had drunk the liquid that I noticed the black and white can beside the coffee machine. I plead with the fine roasters of the area -- send real beans, fresh coffee, please, I beg of you...
(editor's note: Lady deFolger suffered a severe breakdown immediately following this unfortunate episode and is convalescing at her family estates in Costa Rica.)
Maryanne Mocha: Sweet Sam's Java Joint, what an absolute dream of a name! They roast and brew and sell as a family, how positively romantic!
Dr. Java: "Let me talk to Sam," I barked. "She's at school," her alleged father replied. I've seen this before. Tiny tycoons, masquerading as children, trying to control the world. Top quality beans though.
Dr. Java: As we entered the kaleidoscopic universe of the Milky Way in Petoskey, I found the colors to be brighter and my sense of anticipation growing without bounds. Perhaps here my quest would end. Martha prepared for us the hallmark drink of the establishment, The Milky Way. I felt myself floating amidst constellations of chocolate and caramel. 'Decadent, quintessential cappucino', I heard one of the patrons (Alan Smith or the mythical fifth Beatle, I cannot be sure) exclaim as I was towed out the door like a balloon on a string.
Maryanne Mocha: Roast & Toast in Petoskey was an absolute charmer! Tasty cappucinos, deli sandwiches to die for, and plenty of reading material make this a perfect spot to idle away the afternoon. And a peppy crew, too! I don't know how they do it, really, all that roasting, toasting, cooking, serving, and smiling.
Dr. Java: Common Ground they called it, and instantly the reggae flashed me back to my days with the Maroons in the Blue Mountains. We were in a hurry and had time only for a cup of Eyan Sumatra roasted by the Kalani Organic Coffee Co. of that java mecca, Seattle. I was tempted by the Underground Cheesecake, even after I was informed it was strictly legal. By the time we had left, the name had changed to Uncommon Ground. I disavow all responsibility.
Maryanne Mocha: What more could we ask for than a fresh, airy cafe on the banks of Elk River? Tasty flavored coffees, light luncheon faire, weekend jazz, the work of area artists on the walls? Bravo, Jennifer!
Maryanne Mocha: Ah, the spunky, ever-glowing Danielle. Proprietress of Ray's, the area's first coffeehouse, she has created a gathering spot with that certain je ne sais quoi that speaks of romance, of intellectualism, of gay Paris. And that angel created for me an iced mocha with banana that was positively dreamy!
Dr. Java: 'Instant cappuccino, that's bull. Either do it right or don't do it at all,' Danielle pontificated as we sat at the counter while a bean dealer perched on the corner. She did it right.
Dr. Java: I walked into Horizon Books and was faced with a wall of books. I spent some time searching for my own, belatedly realizing that I had never actually got around to writing any. "Over here," Jeremy whispered. A coffee bar. In a bookstore. I may retire here.
Maryanne Mocha: We took the little jog down Front Street to Good Harbor Chocolates, which I affectionately call Alice's Restaurant. Alas, the car was four feet too long to park in the Scone Zone, so we left it a bit down the block and walked in to sample the delicacies of the day.
There was light jazz in the background, the smell of fresh candy wafting through the air, and two lovely ladies, Alice and Rosie, beseeching us to try a few of their specialties. Rosie whipped up a delightful foam on our cappucinos while we munched on a tasty scone and sipped the Good Harbor Blend...fantastic!
Dr. Java: Bachus & Brie was first on our list. Imported beer, local wine, cheese, sauces, beans, beans. I turned to the counter in a frenzy. There. Espresso machine. Coffee thermoses. The lady behind the counter seemed to know me. "House blend, no flavors," I rasped. "I know," she replied. Reincarnation? ESP? Deja vous?
Dr. Java: Cafe Bliss, still Suttons Bay, not open till 5 PM. Hah! I threatened the owners with styrofoam and we had a cup there anyway. Real food, real cafe atmosphere. "I'll be back with the boys I ride with," I told her as we left. Let her worry over that!
Dr. Java: Northport, a huge beech tree. The Beech Tree. The demons of infinite regress threaten. Fresh coffee. A sandwich. A fabric art gallery. The quilts upon the wall beckoned. Sleep, they said. I laughed and moved on.
Dr. Java: Leland. River and Main, a double shot of espresso. More beans. More wine. Trellised courtyard.
Dr. Java: We followed the setting sun to Glen Arbor. "Faster, faster you huskies!" I called. "Get off the roof of the car, doctor," my companion chided. When we arrived I came out of the car like a Spumanti cork. I grabbed a passerby and subjected him to a stream of nonsense. "What's that burned chocolate smell?" his wife asked.
"I knew it was roasting coffee and gave my nose its head.
the sign shrieked. I heard its call and went in to claim my share -- Columbian, Sumatran, Mexican organic, French roast, roasted Italians, foothillsblend, regularwaterprocessdecafexpressoccino and it's all mine,minemine!!!!!!!"
(editor's note: At this point Dr. Java had to be restrained and was rushed by the proper authorities to an undisclosed, secure location.)
Maryanne Mocha: I was on my own now, and steered the dragon west to the sleepy little hamlet of Beulah. There I found the cool, clear waters of Crystal Lake, and hidden in a shady little nook, the Sundance Cafe, where the coffee and the food are organic, and the mocha latte orgasmic.
Maryanne Mocha: Northern Delights Cafe sits atop the hill in Benzonia, welcoming natives and tourists to its distinct, homey atmosphere. The dears asked me if I found my assignment 'stimulating enough,' served me a hot, perky espresso, and invited me to return in the winter to warm my bones with coffee, and my soul with some good acoustical entertainment. What sweeties!
Maryanne Mocha: I just had to stop in Folgarelli's in Frankfort for one last cappucino. A market after my own dear little heart, they carry the dearest gourmet treasures and fine wines from the area.
Maryanne Mocha: The journey was quickly coming to a close. I aimed the bus toward Yuba, and as the moon rose over the Bay, a charming little bungalow caught my eye and I wondered if Daddy would buy it for me. I thought of my companions. I wonder what they are doing under this early summer moon, where are they now, and why I was the only one to survive the trip?
Decaf, I guess.
Editor's Real Note: This article was originally published in the Lake Country Gazette several years ago. Some of the places have since gone and (of course) many more have appeared.