Quest Four: Animal Kingdom
One of the funny things about coffee is that most of it is produced in third world countries, and in those same third world countries it's nearly impossible to get ahold of the real fresh thing. The funny thing about Animal Kingdom is that while other parks represent places the average American would perhaps want to find themselves, Animal Kingdom is all about you being in a third world country - with no shelter and no air conditioning. You could think that the intersection of a theme park about nations which also produce coffee would result in some exciting coffee experiences, but you'd be depressingly wrong. Of course there's good news and bad news, but I'll be upfront here and tell you that fifty percent of the news at all isn't even inside the turnstiles:
Yeah, that's a Joffrey's coffee and it's actually outside the park turnstiles, in that little village of gift shops and souvenir stands and Rainforest Cafes you have to traverse to even get to the thing. This particular location is very useful if you happen to be entering the park in the morning on a not very hot day and haven't yet had coffee, but for the rest of us who are planning on schlepping around the biggest, hottest, emptiest park in the Disney roster, it's not a very appealing proposition. Still, I'm the one who's been known to leave the Magic Kingdom to walk over-and-back to the Contemporary just to use Contemporary Grounds, their coffee shop, so I shouldn't be making fun. There's option number one, folks.
Option number two is significantly more appealing, and it's a humdinger, actually one of my biggest motivations to visit Animal Kingdom to begin with: the tea stand across from what is now the Yak & Yeti, as you approach the Everest area. I'm not much of a fan of Everest's design principles, but if the barely-there story about the train being run by a tea company can justify the existence of this shop, then I say all's the better. Yes, you can get coffees of all stripes here also, but why do that when you can get a fine tea for the save amount of money?
Now I know that Americans in general don't drink much tea, and those who know enough about tea to recognize Dragonwell, Sencha and Silver Needle when they see it won't need much coaxing here, but these are some great teas and deserve your time while you're in the park. If you're looking for something like what we think of as being "just regular" tea try the Keemun or Assam - the first two options on the tea menu - and as for the rest - be brave and try something new, I assure you nothing on that menu is going to hurt you.
Yeah, so neither of these options are 100% covienent, but that's the price of going to Animal Kingdom - it's so big you don't want to go anywhere remotely out of the way. And there is a third option right across from the tea stand, served from the exterior of the Yak & Yeti inside that establishment's outdoor seating area. I took a close look at the coffee served there and it looked about par for McDonald's - which is actually not bad coffee, you know, but the location of two sensible coffee options within stone's throw of each other still leaves the rest of the park high and dry. I was surprised to see that even the coffee shop window outside Tusker House, when it was operational, sold Nes'Cafe, so these two kiosks of recent advent have removed another embarassing spot of bad coffee karma from the Disney Parks. Now Disney just needs to get on getting something good in Magic Kingdom.
My Advice & Summation
A recent item of interest which has been percolating for some time now is that Nestle may be pulling out of Walt Disney World as a sponsor presence, which has been known by Disney for long enough now that they're refurbished most of the signs mentioning the company by name so that Nestle's name can literally be removed overnight by taking down a single panel. That this news coincides with another rumor that Disney may open a Starbucks-type coffee shop branded by their own silly coffee line currently sold in gift shops around the resort adds a further wrinkle to the situation, one even further compounded by the fact that Walt Disney World is currently populated with a fleet of coffee makers not in use but not yet removed. Was Nes'Cafe a quick fix for Walt Disney World?
If Nestle pulls out then WDW has a number of intriguing possibilities open to them. Here's a handful with commentary by myself.
Joffrey's Coffee - is the "cheap" option since the company is already an operating participant of Walt Disney World. Of course their business model isn't exactly suited to the Disney food courts - having a full scale coffee bar operating in, say, Pecos Bill would be disaster itself - but just buying their coffee and turning on all those dormant coffee makers haunting kitchens around Walt Disney World is a fairly appealing notion. I recently spoke to a Joffrey's salesperson at the Contemporary and was told that the company would be greatly expanding their representation throughout Walt Disney World in the next few years - could this be what was spoken of? The problem with Joffrey's is that what makes them special in the WDW equation is the grinding of fresh coffee on the premises, and pre-ground freeze dried coffee from them would likely be neither here nor there. It could also create a strain on the supply chain of the still fairly small company if Disney were to need coffee in the quantity required for just one park, never mind four, plus the food courts for nineteen resorts.
Starbucks - is a popular choice, especially since their coffee has somehow gotten the reputation of being very good. Starbucks buys fairly cheap beans and proceeds to roast the living daylights out of them, which results in grounds which yields the bitter, smokey flavor we associate with a green mermaid today. While the quality of the beverage is questionable the company has a sparkling public image at the moment and the union of Disney and Starbucks would likely move much more coffee at Walt Disney World than any number of prominently-placed Nes'Cafe machines do now.
Green Mountain Coffee - is the most unexpected choice here, but is my preferred one. To begin with, some of Disney's operating participants - namely McDonald's - already use Green Mountain coffee at their locations, and the company provides coffee to some surprising places - like Ben & Jerry's mall locations. The coffee found in these locations is best described as "what you want", which is to say, good. Green Mountain also provides the beans for Newman's Own Organics line of coffees, and those beans are great, by far the best corporate bean available in a variety of stores.
So that's it, folks. Thanks for sticking with me on this nonsense and I'll see you next week back at my usual blog. And now, the printer-friendly cheat sheet:
Where To Get OK Coffee -
A Cheat Sheet for Frazzled Guests, Annoyed Snobs & Theme Park Bingo Players
Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, Liberty Square (espresso only!!)
Kiosk in front of Universe of Energy, Future World East
Kiosk near Mexico on the Future World side, World Showcase Plaza
Kringla Bakery, Norway Pavilion World Showcase
Kiosk near American Adventure, Italy Side World Showcase
Tangierine Cafe Desert Counter, Morocco Pavilion World ShowcaseBoulangerie Patisserie, France Pavilion World Showcase
Kiosk between UK and Canada, World Showcase
Disney Hollywood Studios
Kiosk to the immediate right of Main Entrance, inside park
Writer's Stop, Commissary Lane
Kiosk to the right of Main Entrance, back towards tram stop & outside park turnstiles
Royal Andapur Tea Company, Asia
Far Right Side of Yak & Yeti, Asia