Coffee Tasting

14 Amazing coffee shops in Boston you have to try! Number 6 will blow you away! 

Hooks aren’t my strong suit, so I went with the good ole’ clickbait! Anyways… In August, I made it a goal to visit every cafe I could find in downtown Boston, try their coffees, and write reviews about them. I’m not sure what inspired me to do this, but I’m glad I followed through as I got to experience the big city in a new way. So much so, in fact, that I highly recommend you take 15 minutes out of your busy day to walk outside and visit someplace new. I guarantee you’ll feel destressed and be more productive and happy overall. I learned this trick from one of my coworkers. #lyfehaxx

Taste Testing Rules

To make things super official (super’fficial for short), I laid out some ground rules for the tastings. Gotta be scientific to be perceived as somewhat credible, amiright?

First rule, a bit of background and the tasting rubric. I have little to no coffee tasting experience. Before starting this journey, I viewed coffee in three tiers: office coffee, average joe coffee (à la Dunkin’), and “fancy feast” fancy coffee. This meant I needed to do some research. I found the Starbucks Coffee Tasting guide to be helpful in getting started and also found this website with cool-sounding adjectives to describe coffee. I particularly enjoy the word alliaceous. Ironically, Starbucks did not make the cut on my coffee list.

Second rule, I ordered the same thing from every shop: drip coffee. Some places had some fancy ass-coffee making contraptions, but it didn’t seem fair to compare these coffees with drip from the less bougie places. My wallet thanks me immensely. One day when I grow up, I may try those fancy ass-coffees.

Third rule, I did not do a pure ranking of the coffees. Instead, I identified the most memorable places and wrote reviews for them. However, I encourage you, YES YOU, to get out of your seat and try these places out for yourself. After all, it’s the journey that truly matters, not the destination. Shout out to my high school bio teacher for that quote!


Disclaimer: I had a lot of difficulty distinguishing different flavors due to my unrefined palate. Therefore, I went with what the coffees reminded me of. As a result, my mood/feelings at the time of tasting likely influenced my notes. Also, many of these coffee shops change the beans they source frequently, so you likely won’t be tasting the same coffees I’ve tried.

Favorite Atmosphere and Interior Design

Jaho Coffee Roaster – $2.50
Located on the outskirts of Chinatown, this coffee shop looks like the perfect place for students to hunker down and study. The decor is the perfect mix of traditional and modern that allows for both comfort and intrigue. Toward the back of the shop, there are some interesting contraptions that look straight from the industrial revolution. It’s definitely a cool place to visit, just for the decor! Now about their coffee..
2-3 Scale
The smell of this coffee reminds me of toffee and walnuts. Upon taking a sip, the coffee lingers a bit on your tongue but has a very soft taste as if the water were filtered. Overall, this coffee is pretty good, but I’m in love with the place more than the coffee. They do have cool sleeves though. #spunky


Best Value For Ya’ Daily Cuppa’

Thinking Cup – $2.15
I can see myself coming to this place to regularly for my morning cup of coffee. Serving Stumptown coffee, it is one of the few coffee shops with a high-quality product at a reasonable price. Although it can get a little hectic in the mornings, you are generally in and out the door in a jiffy.
3-2 Scale
I really like how this coffee has a nice toffee-like flavor that coats the roof of your mouth. It would go really well with sweets like pecan pie or baklava. The coffee also has some nice nutty and earthy notes to it which really rounds out the flavor. It is definitely a coffee I would enjoy drinking on a regular basis, especially since it doesn’t have many strong flavors.

Coffee for the Dark Chocolate Lovers

Ogawa Coffee – $3.21
This small Japanese coffee shop, located on Milk Street, had a very clean and artisanal feel to it. The first time I visited, they had a cool camera rig set up for filming latte art from above. Unfortunately, I did not get to see what they were filming, but it definitely caught my attention.
2-4 Scale
Their coffee was notably one of the heaviest coffees I’ve tried. It has a toasty smell and tasted of dark chocolate. One thing I really liked about this coffee is that although thick, it was not sludgy. The price is a bit steep, but it’s a nice treat to have once in a while.

My Favorite Coffee

Render Coffee – $2.94
This was definitely one of the nicer places I visited in terms of decor. This upscale coffee shop wasn’t too big but had a very bright, spacious vibe to it. Located on the edge of the financial district, I’m sure much of their business comes from those fancy finance people.
4-2 Scale
The coffee smells citrusy and slightly nutty. Upon drinking, I was immediately hit with a sour apple-y tartness. The taste fizzled quickly and left a slightly nutty aftertaste. This coffee reminded me of a sour beer, so I feel there would be polarizing opinions on the taste. Overall, this was my favorite coffee, but it’s not something I would want to drink everyday.

Artisans Dedicated to Their Craft

Gracenote Coffee – $3.00
This small coffee shop with no seating has a hip and millennial vibe to it. The decor is all about natural furnishings and potted plants. I also noticed their coffee sleeves are made of 100% compostable material, adding to that theme.
3-3 Scale
There is no doubt this coffee is good, but it’s a little too fruity for my taste. There isn’t much aroma, but it tasted very tangy like orange juice. It’s definitely worth trying, especially if you are all for supporting small businesses.

Ye Olde Reliable (in terms of locational availability. locatiability?)

Caffe Nero – $2.25
Over the past year or two, a bunch Caffe Neros popped up in the Boston/Cambridge area. In DTX, there are two within a quarter mile of each other! Within the shop, they are all about providing a relaxing experience, as if you’re in a private library reading a dusty hardcover book in a burgundy bathrobe by the fireplace, listening to classical music. When it’s not too crowded, it’s definitely a good place to get some serious studying done if you’re a student.
2-4 Scale
This coffee has a strong raspberry smell with a sweetness to it. It has a pretty thick mouthfeel to it and is slightly tart and toasty. Overall, the coffee is pretty good, but people may not like how heavy this coffee is. I do appreciate knowing that wherever I am in the city, a decent and familiar cup of coffee is just a couple blocks away.

Small Coffee Shop Dedicated to Serving the Community

Boston Brewin Coffee – $2.14
This literal hole in the wall should be on your list of places to try. The staff is always nice, and they are mission driven, donating earnings to various causes. Out on Tremont, you can sometimes catch one of them handing out free fist-bumps. It’s always funny seeing people awkwardly debating whether or not to make eye contact as they walk by.
1-2 Scale
This coffee smells syrupy and slightly nutty. It has mild flavors with a quickly dissipating mouthfeel, making it a decent brew for sensitive palates in the morning. I also like how they give a mint candy with each coffee. That way, you can kill it during your early morning presentation without coffee breath holding you back.


Well-Balanced Flavor

George Howell – $2.94
George Howell was my introduction into higher end coffee shops. I used to think Starbucks was fancy, but George Howell opened up a whole new world to me. Accessible via the lobby of the Godfrey Hotel, this coffee shop is popular with travelers, business and pleasure alike.
3-3 Scale
This coffee smells a bit woodsy like cedar. It has a very nice and well-balanced flavor with a light sourness to it. I did find it a little gritty but not overwhelmingly so. Overall, I enjoy this coffee as a treat but it’s a little overwhelming to drink daily.

Best Overall (Flavor and Experience)

La Colombe – $3.00
This coffee shop stands out in terms of how classy you feel when you walk through the doors and order. They definitely nailed their branding has a trendy upscale coffee shop. They provide a sugar spoon and a saucer with your coffee (even if it’s to-go), which is a nice touch.

Cornerstone (Dark Roast)
2-4 Scale
The dark roast has a deep chocolatey and slightly spicy smell. It has a dark chocolate and fruity (winy?) taste and has a cleaner finish than most dark roasts. The taste was more complex than many of the other coffees I’ve tried, which I really enjoyed.

La Colombe keepin’ it classy


And the Rest

Here’s a list of the other coffee shops I’ve tried on my adventure. They are definitely not places to overlook, so you should definitely give them visit if you can.

  • Milk Street Cafe
  • Ziggy’s Coffee Bar
  • Boston Common Coffee Co
  • PAUL
  • Flat Black Coffee Company
  • Marliave Espresso Bar
  • The Well Coffee House

So there it is folks! Hope you enjoyed mindlessly scrolling through this post, and have a nice day! Bonus points if you start your own mini adventure. I may even give you a fist bump!

The Spoils of War

Next Up, Office Coffee Tasting!
Office Coffee

JK, I’ll let someone else take care of that..

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