Boston is home to a wide variety of specialty coffee shops and roasters. In recent years, the scene has grown across the city with some older shops expanding to multiple locations and new shops popping up quickly. Here at Boston University, Starbucks is a mainstay, with many locations across campus. While convenient, there’s so much more to coffee than Starbucks. Whenever you have a second, take the opportunity to venture away from campus for a moment and enjoy one of Boston’s many great coffee shops.
For the first article of this series, it only makes sense to start with the quintessential coffee shop: George Howell Coffee. The company’s founder, George Howell, began his coffee career by opening The Coffee Connection, which was bought out by Starbucks in the ‘90s. Since then, Howell has opened some new shops across town offering the same, if not better, coffee. The Coffee Connection grew to 24 stores across the greater Boston area and invented the frappuccino, before being bought out by Starbucks in 1994. Despite the buyout,The Coffee Connection served as one of the earliest examples of a high-end coffee retailer and specialty roaster in the United States. Howell himself is still considered a pioneer in the specialty coffee and roasting scene. In 2010, he made a resurgence back into the Boston coffee scene, opening his first new retail store, simply named George Howell, in Newton in 2012, before coming back to Boston proper with a cafe in the Boston Public Market. George Howell’s newest store is in the Godfrey Hotel in Downtown Crossing. This location is the one I recommend most as it offers the most in-depth experience.
As you enter into the perfectly appointed, ultra-modern cafe, a wonderful aroma of coffee will overwhelm you. The menu and coffee rotates frequently, with many different specials and roasts available at different times. Whether you like traditional drip coffee, espresso-based drinks or pour-over, Howell has something to offer. The cafe also serves up delicious baked goods, ranging from muffins to cookies which pair perfectly with their delicately roasted coffee.
Speaking of delicately roasted, you’ll see on the menu all the different roasts available that day. It’s bound to be overwhelming. I’ve been a few times myself and still have absolutely no idea how to choose, but the menu is intentionally designed like that. The baristas at George Howell are excellent, and will help you get exactly what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know specifically what that is. My best advice would be to just ask for help. If you sit in the shop long enough, you’ll begin to realize that most people do wind up talking to the barista about what they want. Howell specializes in single-origin, delicate light roasts, with distinct, unique flavors, and the best way to find the one you might like most is to have a quick chat with the barista.
Once you’re done taking in the place, George Howell offers up another unique opportunity to take some of their famous coffee home with you. Not only do they sell a wide variety, but they also stock a huge amount of brewing devices and accessories. Again, the employees are your friends, and are incredibly helpful in deciding the roast that’s right for you and your preferred brewing method. Howell also offers tasting classes for free almost daily if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge of different roasts and flavors. You might even get to learn about coffee from one of the legends of the industry.
If all of this is seems crazy, it definitely is, and a single article cannot suffice to pull you into this interesting world of specialty coffee. However, one trip to George Howell probably will.