In 1773, Bostonians dumped tea in the harbor, switched to coffee, and have never looked back. Today, coffee is a serious business round here, and opinions on where to get the best cup vary wildly. It's not always just the quality of the coffee that keeps customers coming back to a certain venue; it might also be the inviting ambiance, the friendly service, or just a certain vibe that feels right.
Here’s what we learned when we polled staff at WGBH about their favorite coffee shops.
Neighborhoods Coffee & Crepes, Boston
Digital Producer for MASTERPIECE, Anna Remus’s number one spot for coffee is Neighborhoods Coffee & Crepes in the Fenway.
Why is it her favorite?
- They serve George Howell Coffee, super high quality, but also local, and there's a host of other interesting drinks besides coffee. Try the London Fog (An Earl Grey tea latte with vanilla), or the Beestinger, (a latte with nutmeg, honey and cinnamon).
- The baked goods are phenomenal; from homemade cookies, muffins, croissants and cupcakes to oatmeal cream pie, and cheesecakes, they're all made in-house.
- The interior is adorable, Instagram-able and intimate.
- It's open late—10pm most days.
- It’s right by the Fens, so you can get your coffee and go for a nice walk.
96 Peterborough St., Boston, 617-262-7700, neighborhoodscafe.com
Boston Common Coffee Co., Bosston
For his coffee fix, Digital Campaign Manager, Michael Strassman stops by Boston Common Coffee Co.
- The coffee is a head and shoulders above the mass produced product you'd get at a chain. It's rich and complex, without being bitter.
- The baked goods are made on site, and they’re awesome; The 'Healthy Scone' with oats and dried fruit will make the visit worth your while.
- The staff knows the coffee and they are friendly, genuine and fast.
- As an added bonus, the sandwiches—on cuban rolls, baked daily on site—are excellent.
103 Canal St., Boston, 617-248-8801, bostoncommoncoffee.com
Recreo Coffee, West Roxbury
Catherine Burke in Marketing and Communications says Recreo Coffee in West Roxbury is a Sunday morning must.
- It's just such a welcoming place, from the decor to the friendly staff. They've got books and toys for younger kids, but my teenagers also like to hang out with friends at Recreo.
- The coffee is fabulous— good and strong which is how I like it. It's owned by a local family, and the beans are all grown on their family farm in Nicuragua!
- There's an incredibly hip and inviting outdoor patio for the warmer months.
- The pastries are so, so good, but you better get in early as they do run out!
- The owners host community events that unify the neighborhood. Recreo Coffee truly makes us all one big family!
1876 Centre St., West Roxbury, 617-553-2379, elrecreoestatecoffee.com
For Marion Westgate, a Senior Development Officer, Intelligensia in Watertown hits the spot.
Marion says that Intelligensia, out of Chicago...
- Is that place where "slow coffee" is hand-crafted on stylish coffee machines.
- Has tables by large windows, where she can sit and unwind, watching the world go by.
- Offers an excellent selection of pastries.
- Serves the most delicious coffee, but also has a sophisticated menu of gourmet coffees and teas
810 Mount Auburn St., Watertown, 617-607-7193, intelligentsiacoffee.com
Café Pamplona, Cambridge
Whenever she can, Sadie Roosa, Project Manager in the Media Library and Archives, stops for coffee at Café Pamplona in Harvard Square.
Here’s what she has to say about it:
- It’s open daily from 11am to midnight! I love going there for lunch after spending time at the Cambridge Public Library, or for a late night coffee before heading home from a show at the the Sinclair.
- The owner is super great. He's the same guy who owned it when my in-laws lived in Cambridge in the 70s, and I love that he's kept it pretty much the same since then.
- The cappuccino and the Cafe Pamplona are both delicious. The Cafe Pamplona is also one of the prettiest drinks I've ever been served. They also serve delicious tea by the pot.
- The atmosphere is really comfortable. There's an intimate feel, and it almost always has a good mix of people studying or chatting, which gives you that awesome white-noise effect, where you feel like you're surrounded by people, but not distracted by them. I've sat there and read a book for half an hour, but I've also sat there and had good conversations with my friends. They have a really nice patio space in the summer.
- The food is also really great. My favorites are their Spanish tortilla, chickpea soup, and chocolate mousse.
12 Bow St., Cambridge, 617-492-0392, cafepamplona.weebly.com
Diesel Cafe, Somerville
Producer for On-Air Fundraising Andrew Hicks misses Curious Liquids, which used to be right across the street from the State House, but closed down years ago. “The tables all had Edward Gorey drawings on them. There were books everywhere, and a fireplace. They had board games and card games that you could borrow and play, way before that was “a thing” everyone did. They had old apothecary equipment hanging everywhere… words cannot describe how great that place was. Great coffee and tea, too.”
Now to capture that same vibe, he goes to Diesel Café in Somerville.
And this is why:
- It's independently owned, Diesel has a funky and relaxed vibe. They've cultivated a local/artistic/found-object feel to the place, that is really inviting.
- They hire a friendly, eclectic group of employees who know how to make a great cup of coffee.
- There’s a pool table and a photo booth.
- The coffee is fantastic (Intelligentsia out of Chicago), as is the food; the soups are consistently delicious!
257 Elm St., Somerville, 617-629-8717, diesel-cafe.com
George Howell, Greater Boston
Carlos Colon, an assistant scheduler in Broadcast/Editorial, goes to coffee spots for a change of pace, for a nice conversation with a friend, or even just to get warm during a winter stroll. Also, he likes to write, which requires focus and inspiration, so he's kinda picky when it comes to selecting a coffee place but for him, George Howell meets all the requirements.
- Being in the heart of downtown crossing, the location is very convenient. I like that it’s very accessible from any point of the city, so going there can be part of any day’s routine.
- We all know most coffee shops are kinda tiny, but this one has good space with a pleasant modern ambiance. Lots of natural light helps it feel less tight when it’s packed. And the good view to the street is ideal for city-vibe lovers like me, who enjoy working in a comfortable environment while observing life’s movement outside. There's free wifi and, if for any reason you don’t get a seat in the shop, there are comfy couches right next door in the lobby of The Godfrey Hotel .
- I’m mostly a latte/cappuccino person, and the coffee there rates really high in quality, and in presentation. I also enjoy the variety of products offered at George Howell. As a tip, the Chocolate Mousse Cone is delicious!
- The service is quick and efficient, and the staff is friendly.
Various locations around Greater Boston, georgehowellcoffee.com
True Grounds Coffeehouse, Somerville
Elizabeth Walbridge, A Digital Production Coordinator in Children’s Media says, “When I need a cuppa and I’m in my home turf of Ball Square, I go to True Grounds in Somerville.”
Elizabeth loves it because...
- It’s a quiet spot with WiFi, and the vibe is hip and neighborhoody, with a university feel.
- There's always interesting art by local artists hanging on the walls.
- The quality of the coffee (George Howell) and the the food is superb. The pastries are all made from scratch and the snacks are yummy and local. Great sandwiches and wraps are on offer if you're hungry.
- The folks who work there are consistently friendly and accommodating.
- It's perfect on a weekend, when you want some good eats and a coffee, but want to avoid the crazy lines at some of the other Ball Square brunch establishments.
17 Broadway Ave., Somerville, 617-591-9559, truegrounds.com
Haute Coffee, Cambridge
Senior Digital Producer for MASTERPIECE, Bruce Kohl, was positively eloquent, when talking about Haute Coffee in Concord.
He extols the virtues of his favorite haunt:
- Need a break from your coffee chain store in a strip mall? Haute Coffee is conveniently located in Concord Center, but enticingly tucked away just off Walden Street, giving you the sense you’ve found something special and unique. (You have!)
- From drip coffee to lattes, all the coffee beverages are made fresh. Even if all you aspire to is a plain cup of coffee, you’ll be able to watch as the Haute baristas bring your pour-over coffee to life with care and attention. Fancy something different? Check the board to the right of the baked goods for interesting and off-beat craft-brewed lemonades and other special beverages.
- Let’s face it, finding baked goods that match the quality of the coffee can be an impossible challenge. Haute Coffee offers homemade, scratch-baked goods that are the best you’ll find anywhere. I defy you to tell the difference between these baked treasures and your own home-baked items.
- Move past the ordering area and you’ll find yourself in a warm, inspiring and comfortable seating area. The room retains the centuries-old charm of Concord, and you can easily imagine Henry David Thoreau joining you for a conversation of the day’s events.
- While you’re there, don’t miss a few of Concord’s other treasures in close proximity to Haute Coffee: Nesting, an eclectic and utterly unique gift store in a loft above Main Street; The Concord Cheese Shop, a local institution (that also offers great sandwiches); and The Concord Bookshop, founded in 1940 and still a repository for the best of local and national authors.
12 Walden St., Concord, 978-369-9900 // 1 Canal Park, Cambridge, 617-945-0588, myhautecoffee.com