UPDATED OCT 31, 2019
They say Boston “runs on Dunkin”. But what do "they" know? We'd take a unique, local shop over a chain any day. That's why we put together this list — to help you navigate the very best of the city's coffee shop scene.
If it weren’t for George Howell, you might not be reading this list today. Howell opened The Coffee Connection in Harvard Square in the 1970s and that’s where he invented the famed Frappuccino. Starbucks liked what they saw and bought the business, spreading coffee goodness across the land. (But we know who the real OG is.) Now, you can sip George Howell’s single-origin brews at numerous spots in the city, including the Boston Public Market, the Godfrey Hotel, and Time Out Market.
Hailing from Kyoto, Japan, this roaster has been dedicated to the pursuit of coffee perfection since 1952. They pride themselves on having the finest beans from the healthiest soil and a meticulous roasting process so they can bring you the best cup of coffee you’ve ever experienced. Boston is their first international cafe, and they strive to bring a bit of Japan’s coffee culture to our neighborhood with every delectable brew they serve.
This tiny Coolidge Corner coffee shop is a no-frills affair. But that’s because the owners are fully focused on making a darn good cup of coffee or espresso. All of the beans they use are roasted in-house, so they’re always super fresh. And you can even take a bag of beans home with you to recreate the magical 4A experience anytime the craving hits.
Gracenote is a classic espresso bar in the Leather District, though, you can get other coffee beverages here, too. No matter what you order, you can expect it to be packed with flavor. The company sources some of the best green coffee in the world, roasts it to perfection, and uses the best equipment to brew each cup. It’s this attention to detail that keeps people coming back to this tiny operation for more.
It’s really no wonder that Pavement has grown to eight Boston locations since their inception. This quality-driven coffee house is dedicated to producing some of the best coffee in the city, and we’d say they’re nailing it. People flock to their shops scattered across the city for award-winning coffee, homemade bagels, and a cozy atmosphere. So, expect a warm welcome to go with your brew every time you visit.
If you love pour-over coffee, you can’t miss Render. Visit their shops in the South End or Financial District to experience a super-silky, super-strong cup of joe. Really, if you’re looking for a major buzz, Render is the place to go. Prefer espresso drinks? They serve those, too.
Stepping into any of Tatte’s numerous locations in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge is like walking into the most perfect Instagram feed you’ve ever seen. And the beauty isn’t just in the decor. Tatte makes a mean cup of coffee and tons of terrific espresso drinks. Pair one with a treat from Tatte’s tempting pastry case and sit awhile. This is the kind of place that you won’t want to leave even when your cup is empty, so you might as well order another round.
This multiple-location coffee shop is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Conveniently set up along the Boston Common, in Back Bay, and in the North End, Thinking Cup is hard to miss — and you won't want to. Their claim to fame is that they serve Stumptown Coffee, straight from Portland, Oregon, which has been repeatedly named “The Best Coffee in the World”. Plus, they were the first Boston spot to exclusively serve Stumptown, which in itself is reason enough to stop by.
Whether it’s your first or 50th time visiting, this little shop will make you feel like you’re a part of the Figs Family. 3 Little Figs in Somerville takes their coffee program very seriously, but not in a snobbish way. They bring in a rotating selection of roasters from near and far, so you always get to sample something new. While you’re there, pick up a tasty pastry, the “best ever” spinach pie, or one of the shop’s lunch options. Fitt Tip: in the warmer months, snag a seat outside and soak up a little sun.
This Union Square-based spot has turned a former bank into a must-visit place for just about anyone who enjoys coffee, food, or awesome decor. Of course, that might explain why there’s occasionally a line out the door on the weekends. But trust us — it’s well worth the wait. The baristas behind the bar regularly brew fresh batches of Intelligentsia Coffee, which, if you didn’t know, is one of the finest mid-size roasters in the specialty coffee industry, along with single-cup pour-overs that carry just the right amount of jolt.
This small espresso bar in Davis Square is the unassuming sister to Simon’s in Cambridge, but the baristas who brew their expertly-crafted coffee and espresso drinks are some of the best in the biz. And if you need a little something extra to fill your stomach, Nine Bar’s beverages go perfectly with their pastries.
You can visit this Cambridge-based coffee shop in either Inman or Central Square, which means you’re too never far from strong cuppa. 1369 has been a staple of the scene for a long time, so it’s always packed with people who know and love coffee. Can’t get enough of the shop’s cold-brewed iced coffee? Take some home in a growler to get your fix anytime you need it.
Renowned for treating coffee like a delicacy, Blue Bottle Coffee is the place to go to experience freshly-roasted single-origin beans. Not to mention, every coffee on their ever-changing menu is taste tested (blindly and otherwise) to determine the precise days it will achieve peak flavor. They even have a freshness guide on their website to help customers make the most informed decision before placing their order (it doesn’t get much better than that). Choose from locations in Back Bay, Kendall Square, Harvard Square, and The Financial District to enjoy a cup of joe at its absolute finest.
The moment you walk into KōHi in Boston Landing, you know this is not your average coffee shop. With just a standing bar and booth tucked away in the back, their unique setup urges standing conversation while you enjoy your beverage of choice. As for the coffee itself, it comes from Tandem Coffee Roasters from Portland, Maine and is available in all forms. Whether you’re into espresso, cold brew, or a single-origin pour over, there’s a little something for everyone. You can also find them in Brighton and Provincetown on the Cape.
It's no wonder that La Colombe has over two dozen locations across the US, including cafes in the Leather District and Seaport. This innovative roastery offers everything from cold brew in cans to specialty Oatly oat milk lattes. And if you like to be adventurous when it comes to coffee, La Colombe has you covered. Try their dark chocolate, raspberry wine, and rose water Guatemala light roast for a creative caffeine fix.
Chicago-born Intelligentsia has been expanding its footprint across the country and has now set up its second location in the heart of the bustling Financial District. The modern coffee shop uses ethically sourced, single-origin coffee to brew their flavorful and fresh drinks, which seem to taste even better enjoyed in the midst of their design-forward spaces. And when they say "fresh", they mean it — their menu changes seasonally, so you'll never get bored of the same old French roast.