My wife and I recently made a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Va. Having just started my blog, I thought, "Great! An opportunity to review some coffee shops outside of Az." The coffee shops I went to were...underwhelming. I even went to a shop that did their own roasting in house, but they somehow managed to serve a flavorless coffee. There was one surprisingly delicious cup of coffee and it came from the most unexpected place.
Charlton's Coffeehouse was one of the sites, or experiences, that we visited in Colonial Williamsburg. I saw the sign out front and got excited. When we approached the door, the lady told me it was a tour and it would be about 10 minutes before the next one started. That bummed me out. I was hoping to get some revolutionary coffee (oh yeah, pun intended). We decided to take the tour anyway, thinking it would still give me something to write about and it would at least get us into some air conditioning.
It started of as all the tours did in Colonial WIlliamsburg. The tour guide was building the world up for us so we knew what a coffeehouse was like in Revolutionary War America. It was interesting because the coffee house seemed to be a center for strong discussion, this one specifically around the Stamp Tax. Some interesting facts that I learned:
- Most coffee houses were "trade specific." Meaning blacksmiths went to this coffeehouse and leather workers went to that coffeehouse and farmers went to the one down the road. It was where like minded people met.
- Women spoke freely in coffee houses (for the times). They often partook in the discussion and were fairly active in the Revolution.
- The owner of the coffeehouse was more like party entertainers. They hosted guests and discussed topics with them. A much different feel in comparison to our modern consumerism.
After we toured the two back rooms, they took us to the front of the house for samples of the coffee they drank back then. This was a fantastic surprise. I did not expect to get to try any coffee, especially for free! The tour guide and some of the other people held their characters and discussed heatedly the topic of the Stamp Tax as they served us coffee and sipping chocolate.
I sipped the coffee and it was delicious. It had a nice body, a nutty rich flavor and I wish I could have had more. The sipping chocolate was something new for my wife. I had it once before and thought she would love it. Thick (very thick), rich, dark and very very chocolaty. It was actually a little to rich for my wive (yeah, never thought I would hear that!). There is no reason to ever have more than a few ounces of sipping chocolate. Just a little coats the mouth, almost bitter and sits heavy for a long time before the sweetness comes around.
The tour was more about the Revolution and less about the coffee itself, so I did not get a chance to ask how they brewed it. I did snap a few pics of the brewing equipment in the shop. If I were to guess, it was brewed somewhere between Turkish and a Moka pot.
I was pretty stuck on how delicious the coffee was and wanted to find out what kind it was, what region it was grown in. I was in the gift shop and found that they were selling bags of it. The historic division of Mars (like the candy company) researched what they were most likely serving at that time. The coffee is from the West Indies. (http://us.myflavia.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3807047)
I was so surprised to find such delicious coffee here (not to mention there are some very good beers brewed specifically for Colonial Williamsburg as well). I loved the experience, the information and I plan to take my kids there in the future. I strongly recommend getting this tour if you are there and definitely partake in the coffee!