The Coffee Was The Only Thing That Sucked

My sister and I have made a semi-regular practice of taking our dad on special dad-and-daughter trips to commemorate his “big” birthdays. He’d kill me if I noted his age here, so let’s just say they’ve been hallmarks. The first time — a few years ago — we took him camping on the coast of Oregon and Washington, since my sister lives in Olympia, Wash. (he flies up from his and my mom’s house in Berkeley, Calif., and then my sister and I split the trip up so I get him for half the time and then she gets him for half the time). For this latest trip, we decided to be more exotic and take him to the San Juan Islands in Washington (about 260 miles north of Portland).

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So my sis collected Dad from the Seattle airport last week and they cruised up to Anacortes, Wash., and caught the ferry to Orcas Island for their trip together (the only way to reach the San Juan Islands is by ferry or float plane).

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Pertaining to the title of this post, the coffee didn’t suck for them because my sister brought her French press. They were staying at a place called Doe Bay Resort, and they had electricity in their cabin, so they could heat water for coffee and use the French press. But at the place I stayed with my dad, called the Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island, we were to be provided with breakfast each day, and the website promised our morning cuppa would be San Juan Coffee Roasting Co. beans. So I thought I would — for the first time in my adult life — not bring a French press on a camping trip, especially because what my dad and I would be doing was “glamping,” i.e. staying in fancy tent cabins with real beds, and of course, breakfast provided.

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I met up with my dad and sister on San Juan Island, and my sis handed my dad off to me and headed back home. We were sad to see her go — she and my dad had had a wonderful time on Orcas going kayaking and hiking. But it was time for my part of the trip, and after waving good-bye to her as she drove onto the ferry, my dad and I headed for the Lakedale Resort. It was just as beautiful as the brochure had promised, with three lakes on 82 acres of property, a great lodge with a scenic deck, and of course, the awesome canvas cabins, where Dad and I would be staying.

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So we settled in, exploring the property and then relaxing in our deck chairs by the lake to read our books and watch the rowboats floating by. I had brought a ton of great food from my very favorite market in the world — Portland’s New Seasons Market — and we made a fantastic dinner followed by a chocolate hazelnut torte as his birthday cake.

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The next morning, we got out of our comfy beds and headed up to the longhouse for the promised, included breakfast. And it was fine — tasty even. But woe was me when I saw that the coffee was actually simply Tullys. And lord, was it bad. I was pissed.

After, we hopped in my car and headed for “town.” Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is the biggest town on all of the San Juan Islands, and it’s still pretty tiny. There is also this weird planned community called Roche Harbor Resort, which is where we went that day after stopping by the Westcott Bay Oyster Farm to pick up oysters to have for dinner that night. Yum yum yum.

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At Roche Harbor, we stopped at a cute little outdoor cafe with a sparkling Linea, and I was all excited til I saw the sign that said, “Proudly Serving Starbucks.” Ah, well. Better than Tullys. I basically just needed to mainline coffee at that point.

Besides the coffee, it was a pretty awesome trip. We went whale watching (though we didn’t see any whales) and we ate lots of amazing seafood. We spent tons of quiet time around the campfire reading and talking. We watched movies on my laptop (Dad loved “Superbad”) and we even visited with some adorable alpacas at the alpaca farm. Here I am with the one I wanted to put in my car and take home:

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On the last morning, after we’d left my car in line for the ferry, we strolled around Friday Harbor and found a cool little cafe called Mi Piace where they were doing a pretty good job with the coffee (Caffe Vita). It was nice to relax with a satisfying espresso in a cozy cafe. Note, though, one of the baristas was pretty snooty. That just always pisses me off because there are so many awesome baristas who work so damn hard to make specialty coffee accessible to everyone. Even if they’re clueless tourists on San Juan Island, why not make their espresso experience a good one? This was still on my mind when I saw this billboard from the side of the road as my dad and I drove off the ferry back in Anacortes:

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Look for an article in an upcoming issue of Barista Magazine, to be written by Michael Brooks of The Fresh Pot, about how baristas with attitude problems are a disservice to our industry… and why it’s really important to be an educator, not a hater yo.

OK, anyway, in conclusion, it was a really, really awesome chunk of time with my dad. Dad, I love you so much! Thank you for the wonderful memories, and next time, I promise to bring my French press and some freakin bitchen coffee.

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About the Author

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.