Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Alaskan coffee shacks

July 20th, 2011 7 comments

From what I can tell, Alaskans really love coffee.  And ice cream.  Maybe both at the same time.

The Raven Wolf Java Joint, a coffee shack on the Glenn Highway

As evidence of this, one needs look no further than the prevalence of coffee shacks lining the roads.

For the uninitiated, coffee shacks are simple buildings, typically about 10 ft by 20 ft, which have drive-through windows on one or both of the long sides.  They are drive-through only, with no seating space.  As a rule, the shacks sell espresso and ice cream.  Curiously, drip coffee tends to be a rarity at such venues.

Traditional sit-down coffee shops do exist, but they are nowhere near as common as in the Lower 48 or the western provinces.  Not even the Yukon Territory appears to have many coffee shacks.

I stopped at the Raven Wolf Java Joint along the Glenn Highway while driving away from Anchorage.  The Java Joint was slightly atypical in that it appeared to have some seating in the back, but it was still primarily a drive-through coffee outfit.

I asked the owner for her opinion about why coffee shacks were so common in Alaska but nowhere else.  She couldn’t muster any good theories, but she did surprise me by mentioning that she found it difficult to find coffee when in the Lower 48.  It seems that she was so accustomed to getting caffeinated from shacks that she had trouble locating the “more traditional” types of coffee purveyors.  A suggestion of “Starbucks” was met with a chuckle.

Here are my theories about why drive-through coffee is so popular in Alaska.

From the supply side, it seems like it would be easy to set up a coffee shack.  All that is needed is some land near a road and access to utilities.  The building itself would be inexpensive to construct, and the staffing requirements would be minimal.

From the demand side, there is probably significant appeal in getting a hot beverage made for you without your getting out of your warm car in the frigid cold of winter.  I for one enjoy going to coffee shops in winter and sipping coffee by the fireplace, but shacks aren’t conducive to that.  Perhaps Alaskans have plenty of fires in the fireplace, thank-you-very-much, and would rather sip their coffee behind the wheels of their cars?

Maybe it’s just the start of a trend that will eventually expand to the other states.

If anybody has a good explanation for this phenomenon, I’d love to hear it!

Winter deals in Whitehorse

July 8th, 2011 1 comment

I was at the excellent Baked Cafe in Whitehorse a few days ago when I noticed this bit on their menu:

Oh wait, that’s pretty blurry.  Darn camera phone in low light.  Let’s fix the blur and try again:

As you can see, it’s an extra bargain when the temperature is below -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit).  That threshold was met 26 times during the winter of 2010-11.  Good days for hot drinks, if you ask me.