If you have ever been to Alaska it is unlikely that you haven’t noticed the small cabins (mostly wooden) located within blocks away one from another. In case you haven’t yet, this is something that will stand out to you when you do visit the northernmost state.
Being used to traditional European style coffee shops or chains like Starbucks, it was hard to imagine that those little “houses” were actually serving coffee and other warm and cold beverages. After a month or so of living in the “Last Frontier State” I had decided to give it a try. So, I pulled the car close to the sliding window, and in counted seconds the smiling face of barista popped out asking me about my day and whether I knew what I wanted to order. The menu was hanging on the wall next to the actual window where I could easily read it. Even though it was still September, that day’s weather was quite chilly, so I thought “why not a hot vanilla chai?”. By the time I was looking for my card to pay she had the blend ready for me. I thanked her, grabbed my drink and headed further.
The surprise came with the first sip of my drink. The chai did not have the taste I was expecting for, but it was delicious. Having in mind the big coffee shop chains, where the variety of beverages taste the same at any given location, it did not hit me that it might be more than one way to prepare a certain drink. Later, I learned that every stand is specializing in a particular brand of beans, that some serve only organic, others import from Hawaii or serve local roast. Each one has its own way of preparing its drinks, and that’s why the chai, for example, will have a slightly different taste at every stand. Also, each hut has its own punch card and offers a free drink after a certain number of purchased beverages. Goodies like muffins and cookies are available too. They have cute names and most of their decor represents Alaska’s spirit and values, as you can see in pictures.
Now, probably is the good time to tell you why I prefer to stop at those drive-through’ over other large chains of coffee providers. Because these small boxes are located almost at every corner it is very easy to access them. Most of the time there is no real waiting line, and if it happens that there is one it moves fast, which is important for someone who is chronically 2 (two) minutes late everywhere (No pride here. I am working on that). Also, I like that each of them has its specific theme and shape, representing a piece of the state’s culture. The thought that I am paying for the coffee inside the cup and not the label on the cup is also somehow gladdening. And finally, with the snow and cold weather coming on the land it is very convenient to just roll down the car’s window and get your dose of happiness.
To see more pictures of the Alaskan Coffee Hut across the state click here.
With all that said, I want to mention that the traditional coffee shops have their own charm, and when I plan to meet a friend or read a book that is exactly where I will choose to go. But when I want to have my drink quickly and with a personal touch the Coffee Hut is the place that will benefit from my carvings. When I first moved to Alaska I thought that there was no possible way for me to enjoy living in this state full of wilderness, but now I know how mistaken I was. It is merely interesting how each place has something to offer to anyone who chooses to open up its mind and soul.
Best Wishes from Alaska,