The Boston Coffee Shop Guide for the Coffee-Obsessed Emersonian

I’ll just say it: I’m addicted to coffee. I haven’t always been, though. In fact, the first time I had it, I thought it was horrible and bitter. That could, of course, be the fact that I was drinking Starbucks beans with milk, but I digress.

Now, I can’t get enough of it.

Coming from Southern California, there are so many coffee shops to choose from, but most of my favorites are rooted at home and don’t have locations on the East Coast. I probably sound like a “coffee snob” but I’m not a big fan of Starbucks and very few chains appeal to me, so, I’ve had to find new places in the great city of Boston to curb my coffee obsession.

In a city like Boston, where there seems to be no end to the list of coffee shops available to try, it can be intimidating to choose where to start. So, for my fellow coffee snobs, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite shops I’ve found over the course of a year of being in Boston. Each has their unique qualities, so I’ve attempted to choose a variety of shops to attend to everybody’s wants and needs in a coffee shop.

Just as a note, to make it fair, I ordered a Cold Brew at each shop, as it’s my favorite way to drink coffee and the kind I buy the most as a casual coffee drinker.

Best Place to Study: Jaho Coffee

Downtown and South End

Price for Large Cold Brew: $4

Pros: Big seating area to study, open late, closest to Emerson

Cons: Not the fastest service

Being the closest to Emerson, Jaho Coffee is perhaps the most accessible to those living in the dorms or wanting a good cup of coffee to drink on the way to class. There’s a lot to choose from, which is definitely nice for the non-coffee drinkers out there. For complete transparency, I have come across some slow service, as not a lot of people work, but the coffee itself doesn’t disappoint. Studying at Jaho is also a highlight, as it’s easy to find a place to sit, whether at a bar, on regular tables, or on comfy seats. While it does get busy at times, it never gets too loud and the Wi-Fi is also fast enough for all of your homework needs. Overall, there’s not too much to complain about with regards to Jaho; it’s a casual place that fulfills all of the necessary essentials for a great coffee shop, and, as it’s so close to Emerson, it’s a great place to go to if you just want to get out of your dorm room or the library.

Best Outside Seating: Render Coffee

South End

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.30

Pros: Pretty location, outside seating

Con: Seating fills up quickly, long lines

Sitting between the brick houses of South End, Render Coffee has great views as well as great coffee. It also looks the one that looks like the stereotypical “cute neighborhood coffee shop” found in small towns. Taking a step outside of the city sets this shop apart from the others on this list and almost gives it a peaceful quality that the others don’t seem to have. Though it can get busy at times, it’s a great place to study, especially during warmer months where you can sit outside on the deck they have tucked next to a couple of brick buildings. Abandoning the now trending minimalist and modern style that coffee shops have attained over the past couple of years, it’s nice to see a shop that hasn’t left the traditional coffee shop ambiance.

Best Quick Service: Gracenote


Price for Large (16 oz.) Cold Brew: $5

Pros: Great coffee, fast service

Cons: No place to study, most expensive

Gracenote seems to always take the top spot on “Best Coffee in Boston” lists, especially lately, as it was featured in Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston 2017″ list. Though definitely warranted – their coffee has many pleasing notes as well as complex tastes – it is also the most expensive. They also have no place to study, which is another disappointment, but, with the eclectic and stereotypical “hipster coffee” vibe, it’s almost expected to only have one tiny bar next to its barista station. Nevertheless, if you are ever in need of a good cup of coffee fast, Gracenote is the way to go. You can tell the baristas take care in promoting the art of coffee as soon as you walk in, making it also apparent that you will be getting something entirely different than a usual chain cup of coffee.

Best Location: Sip Cafe

Financial District

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.25

Pros: Gorgeous location, seating inside and out, great service

Cons: Not open on Sundays

Tucked at the end of a tiny park in the middle of the Financial District is Sip Cafe. This adorable location is great for those who want to be surrounded by greenery while studying or chatting with a friend or just simply enjoying a good book. It feels as if you’ve temporarily stepped away from the city and into this unique coffee shop. Though it is smaller and not your usual coffee shop, it’s still spacious enough for all of your needs. On top of that, the coffee is one of the best on this list. The cold brew is smooth and tastes great and they serve larger portions as well. Though it may be a little farther than some of the rest on this list, it is definitely worth the walk.

Best Overall: CuppaCoffee

South End, West End, and Back Bay

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.50

Pros: Multiple locations around Boston, great coffee, friendly service

Cons: Only South End is open on Sundays, not open late, cash only when under $5

With the best coffee, a variety of locations that cater to either quick service or long-term needs, and a unique take on the coffee shop, CuppaCoffee is a definite bright spot in Boston’s coffee repertoire. Dedicated to their Australian background, the shops serve not only coffee but also the Aussie meat pies, among other Australian favorites. My favorite part is that their cold brew also has a 24 oz. option, which not many coffee shops offer, rather opting for a singular, 16 oz. size. I’ve never had a bad experience at CuppaCoffee. The friendly baristas are easy to talk to and their cold brew is, by far, the best to drink. I keep finding myself needing to slow down because I drink it so fast. It’s everything I look for in a cold brew and it reminds me of my favorite place back home. Also, as a bonus, they have rewards cards, which is a huge plus if you are a fan of the shop.

Being a person who enjoys studying at coffee shops, the South End location is a perfect place to escape to because it is quiet enough to be able to focus while drinking my favorite cold brew in Boston. In this way, I think it’s grossly underrated. They keep exceeding my expectations whenever I go and I plan on going even more.

Though the preference of a coffee shop and coffee bean itself is entirely subjective, one thing is for sure: as coffee snobs, having a great cup of coffee can make a day great. If you’re new to a city overflowing with coffee shops, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect one, but these choices might, perhaps, be your best bet to finding your new favorite Cup of Joe.

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