The Great Coffee Adventure: Just a wedding photographer + her coffee-enthusiast husband on an adventure through Pennsylvania; discovering, photographing and otherwise enjoying the unique, independently-owned coffeeshops and cafes of our great state. Coffee makes us happy.
Have you ever walked into a place and smiled? It’s like finding your “happy place.” Happiness may not be found in coffee (or chocolate), but they definitely help. And when you meander into a little cafe like Helena’s Chocolate Cafe & Creperie in Carlisle, PA and look around, I guarantee that smiling will happen.
The little college town of Carlisle played a big role in our love story. Carlisle happens to be almost exactly half-way between Bellefonte, PA (my hometown) and Sterling, VA (Brandon’s hometown). When we were just friends and deciding to meet-up for a “friendly get-together,” we went to Carlisle. After that first non-date, we graduated to an official real-life long-distance dating relationship… and had more than a few half-way dates in Carlisle. Spent alot of time walking the streets hand-in-hand and talking about our future together. You know, blissful in-love kind of moments.
Several times, we passed by this little cafe. I remember that we were either not-hungry (being “in-love” affects one’s appetite, as I discovered) or walking by after closing time, but it always looked so interesting. I remember noting the Nutella crepes as a wonderful invention and saying “we should go here sometime.” And as it happened, now as a married couple and coffee enthusiasts/photographers, we stopped by in The Great Coffee Adventure.
It’s a little touch of European cafe-style happiness in the middle of a historic town. It’s the feeling of being involved in the community, and yet, somehow elevating the community… adding something special to the recipe of community. A sprinkle of joy + a dash of delectable delights + sunny sentiment = Welcome to Helena’s!
Oh my, but I love these yellow walls. Instead of more somber hipster vibe of most coffee shops (let’s be real–I just adore that every single coffee shop is different. Makes my life exciting!), Helena’s Chocolate Cafe & Creperie embodies happiness. Cheery yellow walls are complemented by primary purple colored accents and lots & lots of butterfly art.
Those butterflies are painted by Helena’s mother. Yes, Helena is a real person! She owns and operates this family-friendly business with her husband, Ryan, and close friend, Ross. Also, closely related to Helena’s are their other foodie ventures; Cafe Bruges, Trattoria Piatto and Argana. Just from a few moments of chatting with one of the owners, we walked away excited that someone else is passionate about quality food and local sourcing!
Full of springy color. Comfortable seating options. High tables and low tables.
Even the kiddies have their own special place.
So much COLOR!
So many butterflies!
Now it’s time to get down to business. Food business.
There are many choices.
Sweet crepes, savory crepes, lunch specials (like soup), fresh baked desserts, hand-dipped specialty chocolates…
Macarons are dainty little French sandwich cookies. They’re meringue-based (made of egg whites & sugar) so they are light as a feather. Filled with a delicate icing and the flavor choices are endless. These cookies are time-intensive for the baker and things must be exaaactly right, or it just doesn’t work out. Making macarons is obviously a labor-of-love at this cafe. Their flavors are varied and intriguing (lavender!).
After my first taste, I envisioned a lovely iced vanilla latte + several macarons as an afternoon pick-me-up picnic.
Chocolates. Perfectly formed. Tiny. Packed full of flavor.
We tried a raspberry chocolate (perfect) and chestnut (so interesting).
But really, this Adventure that we’re on… it’s not about chocolates or wonderful little French cookies. This is about Coffee!
Brandon is bringing the coffee talk now:
Espresso: Helena’s uses Lavazza espresso, a popular Italian blend. This is a very good call IMHO. I spoke at length with Ryan (owner and cool guy), and he made it clear that their passion was crepes and chocolate and baking from scratch. Helena’s wants to put out a good espresso that their customers can enjoy with those crepes and chocolate and baking—not reinvent the coffee wheel. That being said, I reiterate that Lavazza is a great choice. It is an always well balanced, very reliable quality that is imported from those who do it best—the Italians.
Coffee: I’m not gonna say much about Helena’s coffee, simply because Helena (figuratively through Ryan, her husband) didn’t say much about it to me. Their coffee definitely works for them, as it is a store bought, good quality coffee that can lend pleasure to their various confectionary cadeaux. In the words of Ryan, “If you want a thousand roasts from all over the world, go to Starbucks. But if you want local, made-from-scratch chocolates and macarons, come here.”
Mocha: Naomi and I have been to a lot of coffee places on this Great Coffee Adventure. And we’ve had a lot of mochas. But. In my humble opinion. This one. Is the best. No hate to any other coffee shops that might be reading right now—we love you too for your special offerings. But listen to this. Helena’s is a chocolatier. And they insist on everything from scratch. So when Alizabeth suggested “You should try the mocha. We make it with 64% Belgian chocolate that we make from scratch, steamed half and half, and melted down brown sugar” I said “ WHAAAAAAAHH??!?!?” And they refuse to make it any other way—If you ask for any alteration, they’ll calmly tell you no, because they are passionate about their recipes. I cannot rave enough about this mocha. I took one sip and the words fell out of my mouth, “This is the best mocha I’ve ever had.”
Naomi says… “Look at how happy I am about this mocha!!”
The truth is; we were gonna try to be all smart-and-skinny foodies and just taste everything. Not finish everything. The first problem with that is the our mama’s both raised us to finish what is on our plates. The second problem… WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE SO GOOD?!
Oh, we finished it all right.
We finished everything. And smiled. Because that’s what Helena’s does to you!
You should visit this cheery little butterfly-laden, chocolate haven of goodness:
Helena’s Chocolate Cafe & Creperie
46 West High Street
Find them on facebook here!
They’re open for business:
Tue:7:30 am-4:30 am
Wed:7:30 am-8:00 pm
Thu:7:30 am-4:30 pm
Fri – Sat:7:30 am-8:00 pm
Sun:8:00 am-2:00 pm
~ Naomi Elle