Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alaska: a spot of latte

When the dotter first moved from Northern Arizona to Alaska last year, what was the biggest change in the scenery that she noted? No, not moose. Certainly neither mountains nor conifers. No, it was the espresso shacks. Everywhere. In the city. In the burbs. Along the highway. In the woods, yet. I don't have nearly all my Alaska photos home with me (hint, hint, dotter), but I certainly had enough photos of latte stops on my flash memory stick to illustrate this post.

I am a naif about many current crazes. Do expresso shacks proliferate on the Left Coast like mushrooms in rainy weather? Is Alaska a special case or does it share certain characteristics with California (along with union power)? I wouldn't know; I haven't been on the Coast for a good 15 years.

I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense. With only 5.5 hours of daylight (of sorts) in midwinter, a lot of folk are commuting in the dark. A good zap of caffeine would be in order on the way to work.

What surprises me (and the dotter) is the contrast between fancy-dan lattes and the frontier image so carefully cultivated by Alaskans. In all the sound and fury about Sarah Palin, not one of the legions of intrepid reporters bothered to note this curious cognitive dissonance.

I think the only place there was a notable absence of latte shacks was in the immediate vicinity of McDonald's stores. But then McD is serving up fancy coffees these days and exercises enough muscle to keep any competition at arms' length.

If you think I'm making a mountain out of a mesa, bear in mind that we have but one -- count 'em -- one drive-up espresso stop here in Prescott (above). At least as far as I know. The contrast with the Anchorage area is astounding. Based on our population, we could support anywhere from 25 to 50 of those little shacks. But then we have a bit more sunshine on the solstice.

Later Note: Out of curiosity, I went to The Google using the phrase "latte shack". Guess what I turned up: a Flickr page from an Anchorage resident who, at this point, has photos of 169 such java joints, from Juneau to Homer to Fairbanks. I'm truly outclassed!

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Logging on from the Left Coast! We saw the same drive-thru phenomena up in Washington state. (It's been years since I've been in Oregon, so I can't report on latte shacks there.)

We surmised that the over-abundance of coffee shacks in western WA was due to the abundance of clouds, rain, and the lack of sunshine.

What also amazed us: Outside of Seattle, the coffee shacks were independents. Or, small chains not affiliated with *$ at all.

~Anon in AV.

Granny J said...

anon av -- OK, so this is a derivative of Washington State -- that makes sense. No doubt British Columbia is saturated with the same. Every one that I saw, BTW, was a independent.

worldphotos4 said...

I guess there is a need for more coffee shops in the colder climates. Logical to my way of thinking.

quilteddogs said...

Fascinating stuff.

TomboCheck said...

I bet a nice hot cup of joe really hits the spot in the winter up there. :)

Granny J said...

steve -- it certainly is logical & a 16 oz container of espresso will certainly wake one up...

QD -- but how did Alaska of all places get hooked on those fancy beverages?

tombo -- you can bet it does. It hits the spot here, as well. At least with me.

OmegaMom said...

Mamasan--Actually, some of the Palin background articles *have* taken note of the impressive array of java joints. Of course, I can't find one right now...

Re the pics: they are all loaded up on flash drives. Now the question is, how to get them to you!

meggie said...

Goodness! Who knew?

Granny J said...

dotter -- these things always slip out of the fingers, like watermelon seeds...as for the flash drives, perhaps they might travel OK in one of those Express Mail envelopes, if padded up a bit. Or in a small box. Whatever -- you'll have to make a trip to the PO in any event.

meggie -- answer: none of us Lower Staters.

Catalyst said...

There's another one on Sheldon. Can't remember the name of it right now. Also sandwiches and stuff.

P.V., by the way, has at least half a dozen!

TomboCheck said...

I believe Catalyst is talking about Spaghetti Western, which just recently closed.

Soon to be replaced by 'Buddies Food'. With a name like that it is bound to be classy. :) Not sure if they are keeping the coffee or not.

Granny J said...

cat-A -- actually, what I saw in Alaska were little portable buildings strictly for drive-through service; no seating like the place on Sheldon, which is a permanent, sit-down place.

tombo -- that was my surmise,as well. a different critter. I suspect that is one lousy location there on sheldon, tho the Waffle Iron has made it all these years.

Catalyst said...

I WAS talking about Spaghetti Western. Sorry to learn that they've closed but I'm not surprised. It's not a great location. So it goes.

Granny J said...

cat-A -- I'm sorry that place didn't make it. I found their gelato quite yummy.

Avus said...

I noticed the same proliferation of cafes, etc. in Australia. There always seemed to be somewhere to stop for "coffee and cake" (and very nice too!)
"cognitive dissonance" - I like that!

Granny J said...

avus -- mind you, what is unique about the Alaskan latte shacks is that they're these tiny little buildings with just room enough for one or two employees to churn out the coffee-and. All drive-through business; no sit-down at all. For example, we do have a number of coffee houses here in town (which I applaud), but only one drive-thru java joint.

 
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