From the South End to the South Shore, serious coffee is suddenly swirling through Boston. “Three years ago, there was one shop in town doing anything progressive. Now there are a dozen,” says Jamie van Schyndel, general manager of Barismo, a small-batch roaster in Arlington that supplies beans to a handful of local cafes.
Thinking Cup, Render Coffee, and Barrington Coffee Roasting Co. are part of a new breed of coffeehouse that’s dedicated to coffee’s complex flavors, its origins, and, of course, its preparation, joining the very few stalwarts like Simon’s Coffee Shop in Cambridge, which has been living up to (coffee) Beantown’s name for a decade. Out-of-town coffee roasters and suppliers are starting to notice.
Durham, North Carolina, wholesaler Counter Culture Coffee hired Jake Robinson eight months ago to help the company establish roots here. “I feel passionately that Boston is one of the next big coffee towns,” says Robinson, who has worked at Espresso Royale and Pavement Coffeehouse in Boston. The trend is decades old on the West Coast and has more recently drifted east. Counter Culture is building a training center here to school the cafe pros known as baristas in latte art — designs made with just the right mix of steamed milk and espresso.
Back in the thick of things is local coffee godfather George Howell, who this winter opened a place in Newtonville after a hiatus from our cafe scene. The founder of Coffee Connection — one of the East Coast’s first independently owned companies to source and roast beans — took over Taste Coffee House in February. The crowds followed to his new George Howell Coffee. “Boston is still getting started compared to the West Coast,” he says, “but there are many places that are on the edge.”
WHERE TO SIP
169 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, 339-368-7300, barismo.com
> WHAT TO TRY Coffee roasted in-house in small batches and brewed in a suspended cloth filter (water temperature varies by bean) to minimize bitterness and maximize the fruit and floral flavors. $2.95 for 5 ounces
BARRINGTON COFFEE ROASTING CO.
346 Congress Street, Boston, 857-277-1914, barringtoncoffee.com
> WHAT TO TRY An espresso brewed from the Barrington Gold blend or a single-origin espresso. $2.10 for 1¾ ounces
1642 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-879-2500, cafefixe.com
> WHAT TO TRY Espresso from a rotating menu of guest roasters such as Novo, Stumptown, and Gimme! Coffee. $2.57 for 1½ ounces
GEORGE HOWELL COFFEE
311 Walnut Street, Newton, 617-332-6886, terroircoffee.com
> WHAT TO TRY Chemex pour-over (so you can witness the alchemy) from one of several kinds of Terroir Select coffees, which are ground on the spot. $4 to $5, depending on the coffee selected, for 12 ounces
1096 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-236-1500, and 44 Gainsborough Street, Boston, 617-859-7080, pavementcoffeehouse.com
> WHAT TO TRY The Spanish Latte, made from espresso, steamed milk, and a little sweetened condensed milk. $4 for 12 ounces
3 Otis Street, Hingham, 781-740-2545, redeyeroasters.com
> WHAT TO TRY Cold-brewed iced coffee made from house-roasted specialty beans. $2.80 for 16 ounces
563 Columbus Avenue, Boston, 617-262-4142, rendercoffeebar.com
> WHAT TO TRY Pour-over coffee. Choose from one of the single-origin Counter Culture Coffee selections to see this chem lab-meets-cafe in action. $2.50 to $5 for 12 ounces
RIDE STUDIO CAFE
1720 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, 339-970-0187, ridestudiocafe.com
> WHAT TO TRY The cortado, two shots of espresso and an equal amount of steamed milk. Here it’s made from Stumptown espresso and milk from High Lawn Farm in the Berkshires. $3.20 for 4 ounces
SIMON’S COFFEE SHOP
1736 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-497-7766, facebook.com/Simons-CoffeeShop
> WHAT TO TRY A Gibraltar, the Simon’s name for a cortado. Here it’s served in a rocks glass with fancy art on top. $2.75 for 4 ounces
165 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-482-5555, thinkingcup.com
> WHAT TO TRY Hazelnut latte with house-made hazelnut syrup, two shots of Stumptown Coffee’s Hair Bender espresso, and foamed milk. $4 for 8 ounces
VOLTAGE COFFEE & ART
295 Third Street, Cambridge, 617-714-3974, voltagecoffee.com
> WHAT TO TRY A specialty latte. Try the Atticus Finch, slightly sweetened with homemade vanilla and burned brown sugar syrup, or Beyond the Sea, with homemade caramel and sea salt. $3.75 for 8 ounces