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ISO good coffee

  • b

With 183 Dunkin Donuts and 61 Starbucks locations in Boston, is this a case of Gresham's law (bad money drives out good) applied to coffee? Is anybody serving good coffee in Boston (apologies to DD and *$ fans)?

Cafenation website looks like they are on the right track. I found one good review of Flatblack Coffee. 1369 Coffeehouse and Cafe Pamplona also acheive good notices on various web sites. Where's a discriminating coffee drinker to go for a good cup of joe in Bean Town?

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  1. Yes, there is good coffee, check out:

    Torrefazione Cafe on Newbury St., down towards Arlington.

    Also, Cafe Paradiso in the North End and in Harvard Sq

    10 Replies
    1. re: El J

      Didn't Torre. close? I thought it looked it when I walked by a few weeks ago.

      I always recommend the Red Barn in the Longwood Galleria and the non food court building at Fanueil Hall (plus one out Rt. 9).

      1. re: Joanie

        Yes, Torre is closed and another cafe is taking its place. The Virgin Megastore cafe *used* to serve TorreFazione coffee, but I'm not sure if it does anymore.

        The cafe that is replacing TorreFazione has a really lame faux-Italian name. Names say a lot, and I'm not optimistic about that place, sadly. But, the proof will be in the pudding, of course. Or coffee in this case.

        1. re: Alcachofa

          To spread another likely false rumor I heard that the replacement for TorreFazione is going to be run by some of the same people that ran TF. You used to be able to get TF coffee at Wine and Cheese Cask.

          It's a shame, after Copa Cafe closed, TorreFazione was my favorite.

          1. re: g

            New name is L'Aroma.

            Coworkers were regulars at the place. They went in a couple of months ago and asked for an explanation, here is what THEY said HE said: Torre used to be part-owned by Starbucks (supposedly they do this in some markets?). The relationship ended, but the manager/non-Starbucks owner decided to keep the place running. Legals/logistics of the "split" meant he had to briefly close down to get the proper permits, change the name, other paperwork, and then they could reopen. He says nothing about this place will change other than the name; indeed he felt so bad for my coworkers when they were there and without coffee that he offered to make them a cappuccino, since all the machines were still up and running.

            Could be more rumors feeding the flames....

            1. re: seekaltroutes

              Yes, "L'Aroma", that sounds right....that name is not THAT bad. I must have been in a bad mood when I saw the sign. Or most likely just cranky that Torrefazione was closed. Plus, it took me about a year to figure out how to pronounce Torrefazione.

              1. re: Alcachofa

                Jus tried "L'Aroma" yesterday. Coffee is better than TI. Tough for me to say that 'cause I use to love TI.
                You should check it out.

      2. re: El J

        ok, i feel i have to object. caffe paradiso (in harvard sq) has some of the worst swill i've ever had in my life. maybe if you get an espresso-based drink, it's better, but for regular coffee--come on. boston coffee has been pretty excreable in my experience, though i haven't tried that many local places yet-- centre street cafe (ok), junebug cafe (horrible), caffe paradiso, 1369 (forgettable--and the insufferable atmosphere!) and maybe one or two others i'm forgetting. makes starbucks actually look decent.

        on the other hand, peets usually makes a fine cup. i've yet to try diesel, in davis square, which brews intelligenstia coffee from chicago. i used to live a few blocks from intelligentsia and went there literally every day. i have not found a coffee that even comes close to theirs in terms of richness, depth of flavor, smoothness and so on, so i take that as a positive sign for diesel.

        1. re: autopi

          I love Intelligentsia coffee and that is usually what I brew at home. However, I find the coffee at Diesel to be barely drinkable, probably because they use burners instead of airpots. The best beans in the world can't fix burned stale coffee.

          1. re: autopi

            I'll agree with you on Diesel, but I object to favorable characterizations of Peets. The place is filthy, I mean gross dirt ew, and the coffee tasted about the same when I went last week.

            1. re: sharpless

              Oh, come on, how on earth does coffee taste "filthy"?

        2. t

          There are plenty of indie coffeehouses that aim to please--any particular locale?

          2 Replies
          1. re: tatamagouche

            Let's see... I'm fond of JP Licks right now (considering they roast their own and their 10th store went into BU Hillel, where I spend 20+ hrs a week). Espresso Royale on comm ave is good... 1369 is great... Trident Books on Newbury is good... Cafe Appassionato in Newtonville used to be good (I think they went downhill when they sold out three years back)

            1. re: PhotoGeek

              Cafe Appassionato WAS good, but now it's something else. Now they are horrid.

          2. I think Peets is tops -- locations in at least Harvard Sq, downtown, Coolidge Corner, Newton Center, and Lexington.

            For drip coffees at least, 1369 (both locations) is a favorite, as is Quebrada in Arlington, Diesel in Davis Sq, and the Danish Pastry House in Watertown. Cafe Arpeggio in South Boston is pretty good, too.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rlh

              I second the Diesel Cafe in Davis. They serve Intelligentsia Coffee (an award winning roaster in Chicago I believe), and I love its flavor. The decaf to me has a lot of chocolate flavor to it. Yum.

              I'm forgetting the name of the cafe in Ball Square in Somerville, sorry, but it serves Terroir coffee which is supposed to be great.

              1. re: dillard

                True Grounds.

                And yes, the coffee is great.

                BTW, Terroir coffee is also served at Flora, an upscale restaurant in Arlington.

            2. Now I like my DD and 'bucky's once in a while, but prefer:

              Diesel Cafe

              For something sweet, I like:
              cappuccinos at Casal Bakery in Inman Square
              Iced Vietnamese coffees from Pho Pasteur

              Also, recently I had a really fantastic latte at Espresso Royal (isn't that the name?) on Newbury Street - great flavor that reminded me of my morning cappuccinos in Italy last year. Really.

              I recall fondly the turkish coffee at the Helmand as well.

              1. b
                Bob Dobalina

                Red Barn Roasters in the historic Faneuil Hall (and other locations in and around Boston and burbs) has excellent coffee downtown.

                1. Anyplace that sells George Howell's Terroir line of coffees!!

                  One such coffee house that I frequent is True Grounds in Somerville. (http://www.truegrounds.com/


                  Link: http://info.terroircoffee.com/content...

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Stiv

                    I tried some of them recently at a tasting and found them way too acidy for my taste...I like strong coffee, but this was unpleasant....

                    Link: http://www.bistrodraw.com

                    1. re: galleygirl

                      I, too, like strong coffee, but hate excessive bitterness. Bought a cup at the Whole Foods in Wellesley, and had to throw it out. (don't know if it is Terroir coffee that they serve..)

                      1. re: threedogs

                        I don't think they do, but you *Really* have to double check at WF, I've often gotten the end of the pot....

                        Link: http://www.bistrodraw.com/

                    2. re: Stiv

                      I really love the coffee at Cafe Golden Horn, near NEC (corner of Mass Ave and Huntington).

                      1. re: L

                        Am I blind? I've never seen another cafe in this area besides Espresso Royale. Right on the corner? I wait for the bus at that stop all the time.

                        1. re: Joanie

                          It's to the left diagonally across Mass & Huntington from the back of Symphony Hall.

                    3. Toscanini's is great. They have George Howell Coffee.

                      1. Simon's in Porter Sq. is very good. They have a reputation of being coffee fanatics. Also serve George Howell's coffee (Terroir?).

                        1. I love the coffee at Casal Bakery. I get the regular coffee - not cappuccino.

                          1. The scoop on the TorreFazione/Starbucks web of evil: http://tinyurl.com/tyfjg

                            Was that the place with the gelato and the patio? If so I felt like I was in a brigadoon: a friend and I discovered, went back and it was gone, and then, poof! there it was again.

                            1. Another vote for Red Barn, although I have only been to the one on Rt. 9 in Framingham. They have a concoction, I forget what its called, but basically its a cup of freshly brewed coffee w/ a single or double shot of espresso. Wonderful enough to wake the dead and not bitter at all. I'm psyched to know there are other locations as mentined above.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Food4Thought

                                Sounds like a "Red-Eye" - or at least that's what we called them at the cafe I worked at in college years ago.

                                1. re: heathermb

                                  I've also heard it called "A Shot in the Dark".

                              2. ah, a post i identify with. the ubiquity of dunkin donuts is the most depressing thing about boston.

                                naturally, it depends on what kind of coffee you like--i'm partial to thick, relatively strong and flavorful. not a fan of most drip coffees, though there are exceptions.

                                so that said, i still think peet's has the best all-around regular coffee i've had in boston. simon's, b/w porter and harvard is pretty good, and i like darwin's as well. i haven't tried at either location, but i imagine burdick's and hi-rise (both in harvard) would also be pretty decent. went to 1369 on mass ave once and didn't like it, but i'm told the other one is better. i really want to try true grounds in somerville b/c of the raves it's gotten here, but it's kind of hard to get to for me.

                                i've only been to diesel once and it was ok, but they have the potential to be far and away the best for coffee (if not for atmosphere) in boston, if you catch them with a fresh brew of intelligentsia. i used to live very close to the intelligentsia cafe in chicago and went there every single day. the house blend is deep and chocolatey, with berry notes. i can't believe i just wrote that, but it's true. in fact, i mail order all my coffee from them on a regular basis, and brew it in a stovetop espresso at home. nothing i've had in a cafe in boston so far comes close. but that may just be what i'm used to.

                                oh, and i like cafe pamplona a lot, but i don't think much of their coffee. i remember reading once that they were the first cafe in cambridge to get an espresso machine, so you'd figure they'd know how to use it by now.

                                i posted a similar question a few weeks ago: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: autopi

                                  Yeah, agree re: Pamplona coffee quality -- I found it too thin and bland the one one time I tried it.

                                  1. re: limster

                                    Agreed. I wish I could use Pamplona as a place to study, but I need good coffee, and their espresso is thin and bland.

                                    1369 makes undrinkable espresso imo (tastes like burnt wood). Darwin's drip is weak but OK. I used to be a Peet's addict, but I think their coffees, though wonderfully full-bodied, lack complexity due to dark roasting. This is why I like the drip coffees at True Grounds and Simon's--there's a lot going on in the cup. And the espresso at Simon's is truly the best I've had.

                                2. Anyone know of a place in the area that roasts their own? I'm desperate for some! The only place I know of is Rao's in Amherst, but that's a really long haul for just some caffine!

                                  Lately I've been into Mary Lou's...their specialty drinks really appeal to my sweet tooth. They're worth the drive to Braintree if you like flavored coffee too - just about every flavor and exotics like Milky Way and Twix.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: twilightx

                                    A few ideas:

                                    Red Barn definitely roasts their own, although I believe this is only at their Milford location.

                                    Possibly Flat Black coffee in Dorchester?

                                    Slightly closer than Amherst is the Coffee Exchange in Providence, my personal favorite in New England, especially their dark roasts.

                                    You probably don't want to hear it, but many Whole Foods locations roast beans on-site. Fresh Pond for sure.

                                  2. I'm a big fan of Terroir Coffee (hey, I moved to the Boston area the year George Howell opened the first Coffee Connection in the Garage), although I find that many places are inconsistent in the way they brew it. I've had good espressos of Terroir coffees at True Grounds and Simon's, but it's a bit of hit or miss. BTW, Simon's has other coffees (e.g., Ecco). After checking out lots of places, I think my favorite place for coffee is Diesel (though I only have espresso-based drinks) - it's always smooth, with good acidity, and not bitter.

                                    A great place to check out coffee is Terroir, in Acton. Every couple of months there's an open house (on a Friday or Saturday morning). You can see the roaster, hear George Howell talk about coffee, and sample coffees from different regions. The real treat is having Peter Lynagh pull exquisite espresso shots. In September he was pulling shots of single origin espresso, the new Yirgacheffe. This was the best espresso I've ever tasted. The next open house is December 1.

                                    1. That's just what I wanted to know...thanks for the replies!

                                      1. I'd second the suggestion for Terroir... I'm a great fan of the Daterra Northern Italian Espresso. It should be noted that getting it retail can be very hit or miss (if you're buying beans) as places that carry it (whole foods, etc) don't turn that much of it over. Also, WFM is extremely expensive ($14/12oz) - which is why I generally buy from Tosci's (Central, Harvard Sq) and pay $10.50/12oz.

                                        Places that pull good espresso (in my opinion) would be Toscinini's (already mentioned) and Simon's (Porter Sq).

                                        If you're looking for beans, there are a lot of truly excellent mail-order outfits, although the shipping can really push up the cost of a pound... Intelligensia (Chicago-based) and Metropolis come to mind...

                                        1. Simon's usually has Terroir for sale. And you can go out to Acton and buy some there, or buy it over the Internet from Terroir's web site (the shipping wasn't terrible for a couple of bags and since we're so close, it came in a day).

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: penny

                                            Clear Flour Bakery also sells Terroir by the pound. They have a nice selection.

                                          2. I've tried most of the places in Cambridge, and Peet's is easily my favorite (but full disclosure, I used to work at a Peet's in SF). I can still remember letting out a whoop of joy when Peet's first opened in Harvard Square...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                              Remember how excited all of us were when we finally had Starbucks as an option over Dunks? Being able to go to Peet's as an alternative to Starbucks is even more exciting. Yes, I would always prefer to patronize a one-off indepenent establishment (my favorite coffee shop anywhere is Lenox Coffee, in Lenox), but that is not always possible. But I'll gladly pass by three Starbucks on my walk to work to get to the one Peet's that convenient to me.

                                            2. I'm partial to Jim's Organic from Espresso Royale... I like the one on Newbury St.

                                              1. Go to the Berkeley Perk. Great coffee, good pastries, friendly staff, and a great place to hang out.

                                                1. In addition to some of the places mentioned above (Peet's, 1369, Intelligentsia, and others), I also like the coffee at Paneficio on Charles St., right near the Charles/MGH T stop. Don't care for the food, but love the Au Lait.

                                                  I have a question to other folks reading this post: Is there any place where I can get a 100% Kona coffee in town? I brew my own but it would be great to be able to buy a cup when I'm out.

                                                  1. Best coffee in Boston?
                                                    The Sherman Cafe in Union Square, Somerville.
                                                    The Diesel Cafe, in Davis Square, Somerville.
                                                    Otherwise: Cafe Vittoria in the North End, and--if you can stomach the bad choices in music--the Cafe Graffiti in the North End.

                                                    1. Second Diesel. Sets a very high standard.

                                                      Would also recommend the espresso at Caffe Paradiso - North End or Harvard Square (almost across from Peet's).

                                                      1. Trident Cafe also makes a good cafe au lait.

                                                        1. I love dark roast coffee and my favorite places to go to find it are Peet's and Cafenation