By Shawn Foust
With the Greenville Brew HaHa! porch Christmas tree in the background, I snap pictures of my girlfriend with her Greek parents and grandparents. Red and silver ornaments. Green and blue pine. I take candids before they’re ready. They’re giggling. No cares in the world. These will be my favorite shots.
We head back inside. Meadowoods and debate abound: sourdough versus multi-grain. My girlfriend and her mom on team multi-grain. Me an island of team sourdough. We talk about recreating the Meadowood back in Pittsburgh but never do. Wouldn’t be the same.
The bartender is kind enough to unman the bar and take care of our group. We order cappuccinos, lattes, more Meadwoods. My girlfriend’s grandparents order a Florentine then cut the sandwich in half.
I speak little Greek. Fake Greek as her Papouli calls it. He says it in jest. And to keep me humble. But they’ve taught me how to say “do you want a coffee,” “my love,” “please,” “I’m sorry,” “thank you,” and “I love you forever,” and although these phrases drip with something of syrupy sentimentality, they say most of what a person needs to say.
My first trip to Delaware I was welcomed by Brew HaHa!. My girlfriend had worked at the Concord Pike store before she moved to Pittsburgh. She was showing me her old stomping grounds.
Brew HaHa! even made an appearance in our first Christmas as a couple. In Pittsburgh, I remember opening a box. In it a Brew HaHa! shirt light blue and maroon with a sketch of a cat drinking coffee.
We had taken bags of coffee with us from our last Delaware visit. Smithbridge Road and some blends with a deer print on one and a tiger print on the other. Gifts from us to my parents, and to my brother and sister-in-law who would take theirs back to Boston.
This morning we watched the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” about Mister Rogers. From a Pennsylvanian to a Delawarean I thank you all at Brew HaHa! for being a good neighbor. For fostering a welcoming place for those of us who’ve traveled cross-state from one half of family to the other.
As someone from someplace else, it’s a comfort when I come to Delaware. To see family, to meet my girlfriend’s friends from high school, to see the stone walls lining the small hills. The creeks and the trees. Cattails in the water at the forest edge. Their coffee-colored pods cottoning and opening and the seeds releasing into wind.
Back in cloudy Appalachia my girlfriend grinds up some beans from our favorite east coast coffee shop and puts the coffee pot on. In my imagination Delaware is as we left it: sunny, blue, and with her grandma standing on the top of the garage stairs waving goodbye as we pull out of the driveway and head back to here. And for the length of a cup or two I forget where I am.
Beyond the Beans
By Ashley Murphy
It started with a want of connection, more so than a love of coffee. There were 2 am coffee runs in college, when someone found a Dunkin across state lines that was open 24 hours and we decided that we needed the adventure as much as the caffeine. Tuesday afternoons were spent sipping lattes on a sun soaked quad and exchanging updates: who switched majors for the fourteenth time, which RA was found in a compromising position, where we could go for the weekend on $20 and half a tank of gas. What was in our cups was over-sweetened and a little watery but that was never really the center of our attention.
As life moved forward, tastes began to refine. When I was twenty, I stayed in town for a summer, taking classes after most of my friends had returned home. I spent most afternoons avoiding my too-quiet apartment at a coffee shop down the street. The game we played was simple: the barista would choose two flavors from a wall that was overflowing with bottles of syrups and I, after tasting, would guess what he had chosen. That summer, I learned two things: first, that I am terrible at identifying flavors. Second, that a coffee shop could become the central hub for a community. So many different stories walked through the doors on any given Sunday— dozens of lives brushing up against each other, if just for a moment.
At twenty-three, I began to understand how a cup of espresso, enveloped in steamed milk, could transform into a work of art. In a small café outside of a piazza in Florence, I watched baristas use melted chocolate to sketch out sunsets and profiles of the Ponte Vecchio on the blank canvas of a cappuccino. Coffee became something to experience for the sake of itself rather than for the energy boost it offered.
My introduction to Brew Haha happened years later. Missing the days of adventuring for the sake of it, a friend and I followed the baristas from a coffee shop we had grown to love to a Latte Art Throwdown in Greenville. It had been an excuse to catch up with someone I had not seen since graduation, but I was hooked after one look inside at the crowd gathered around the counter and screen, erupting into cheers as the judges pointed at the winning cup and a name was pushed further into the bracket.
It happened faster than anticipated– an echo of familiarity turned to a sense of quietly belonging. Slipping into the rhythm of the morning rush. Sunday brunches spent in comfy chairs of Greenville, whether reading a book or planning for the week ahead, become as religious an experience as any church I had been to. The warmth of a well-made cortado matched with that caused by of a spark of recognition, of becoming a part of a community. It was warmth of knowing that you are home.
THIRD PRIZE – TIE
The Brew HaHa! Tradition
By Gabrielle Smith
In high school, Brew Haha! was the after-school hangout spot. My friends and I endured long tennis practices at the Rodney Street courts, only to be rewarded with a fruit smoothie and a scone after (and sometimes during) practice while we waited for our parents to pick us up. Our parents would often stay, too, to chat with each other and catch up on any local news.
High school ended and we all went off to college in different cities, taking many friends and their families to new states. I stayed in touch with one friend in particular, always looking forward to the “Brew Haha at 1pm on Friday?” text I’d get over Thanksgiving break, when we both returned to Delaware for the holiday. That was all it took, and we’d pick up right where we left off, eating our scones and drinking coffees -- as we were sophisticated, collegiate coffee drinkers by then-- at the Brew Haha! in Trolley Square. Same coffee shop, same menu order, and same life-giving conversations.
The two of us went on our separate life journeys but continued our tradition of meeting up at Brew Haha! over Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. We’re both a few years out of college now, and I’ve moved back to Delaware for graduate school at University of Delaware. Our reunion location has now changed, meeting at the Brew Haha! on Main Street instead of Trolley Square. I also now have the privilege of introducing new classmates to Brew Haha!, that cafe on the second floor of the Main Street Galleria. “Why is it called Brew Haha?” a classmate once asked me.
I’m not sure, I told them, but to Delawareans, I think it means “community.”
THIRD PRIZE – TIE
Feet in Paris, Heart in Delaware
By Carol Allston-Stiles
She descended the staircase from her tiny flat on the Rue de Levis. Just outside the iron gate to the shared courtyard was a café. She took the seat in the corner, ordered an espresso, and reflected on her day. Leading student tours in her favorite city was almost everything for which she had hoped. The little markets where she selected fresh fruit, fresh bread, olive oil, and cheese were travel magazine perfect. The Christmas markets with Glühwein, toasty raclette, and elaborate displays of macarons had been a highlight of the season. Now that Christmas had passed, however, and the February doldrums had set in, she realized more than ever that something was missing.
It did not have to do with her appearance for she was wearing a very French sweater from a boutique down the street; her hair was cut in a chic cut; her makeup had been chosen for her at Chanel shop on Rue Cambon. It wasn’t her flat, for although it was small it was cozy, with filigreed ironwork on the windows, vintage linens at the windows, and the cutest little kitchen that she had ever seen. It wasn’t that she didn’t fit in with either the language or the culture; often her students assumed she’d been born in Paris and lived there all of her life.
It was that she was missing something, and while this may seem strange to admit, she missed Delaware. She missed Main Street in Newark with its eclectic mix of people and her favorite table at Brew HaHa!. She missed her espresso affogato at Brew HaHa! in Greenville. She craved the aroma of coffee roasting at the Brew HaHa! in Trolley Square. She missed conversations with her friends on dreary afternoons and how holding a hot mug of coffee could make those dreary days even better. She realized that leaving home may mean leaving with your feet, but never with your heart.
She ate the little biscuit tucked alongside her espresso cup, left two Euros on the tiny metal tray, and quietly pushed back her chair. She left the café and headed back upstairs to her flat. She knew she would be back in Delaware before the year was over, and she knew that one of her first stops would be to a Brew-Haha!. It wasn’t just coffee served there, it was the essence of the life that she loved.