It’s no secret that the third wave coffee movement has made an impact on cafe culture in New York; with an abundance of coffee shops popping up around the city, New Yorkers seem to have their pick when it comes to carefully crafted cappuccinos. But three hours away, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the craft coffee culture is quietly making waves of it’s own.
The Sawhorse Cafe, owned by husband-and-wife team Jesse and Hannah Darrow, opened it's doors in April of 2015 and has since become a Williamsport favorite. The cafe serves farm-to-table eats, homemade pastries, and Buzzsaw Coffee, roasted in-house. My boyfriend Joshua (a former Williamsportian…Williamsporter?) and I stopped by for a bite to eat and a chat with his friend Jesse.
When we met up with Jesse he was roasting coffee in the back office, holding his less-than-a-year-old son, Timbre, in his left arm while sorting through the freshly roasted beans, picking the burnt ones out of the batch, with his right (so let’s just put that whole “men can’t multitask” thing to bed right here).
Growing up Jesse always loved food and farming - a passion that’s evident in his approach to the cafe’s ever-changing menu. They source their ingredients locally, allowing the menu to shift with the seasons and reflect the Central Pennsylvania region. Jesse’s approach to coffee is similar: find the best beans he can and don’t mess them up, roasting lightly to highlight the work that nature and the farmers have already done.
In the coffee world there seems to be the perception that a roaster with success in a larger city has higher quality beans, but that’s not always the case. Roasting out of cities like Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, heavy-hitters like Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, and Blue Bottle often get more attention in mainstream coffee conversations, but more and more often quality micro-roasters are popping up in places like Williamsport. In Pennsylvania alone Square One (Lancaster), Alabaster (Williamsport), and Passenger (Lancaster) have already gained traction; and in nearby Ithaca, NY Gimme! Coffee has established a presence in New York City, proving that these smaller roasters can hold their own.
Having worked as a sales rep for Gimme! Coffee and as the head roaster at Alabaster - where he took their beans far in the America's Best Espresso competition - Jesse understands this industry well. And through Sawhorse Cafe he hopes for Buzzsaw to continue to grow, and ultimately develop into it's own entity.
When it comes to the cafe itself, the space is bright, open, about three times the size of any shop in Manhattan, and very Instagrammable. Offering Kalita Wave pour-overs and espresso drinks on a shiny La Marzocco espresso machine (also Instagrammable), Jesse and the baristas take great care in using brew methods that compliment their coffee beans.
If you're lucky enough to live nearby, stop in for a quality cup of coffee at a community-focused cafe. And for those of us in New York, the three hour drive is probably a faster commute than trying to maneuver the L train during rush hour. If we're being honest.