You need to turn coffee drinking as a means to an end into the end itself, says culture and lifestyle contributor, Michael C.
IT WILL BE INTERESTING to see exactly what goes into the Tremont Street space formerly known as Francesca’s. I initially heard through the grapevine that Peet’s Coffee had secured the space, although apparently that’s now up in the air. But regardless of who moves in or when, if it’s a coffee shop I do hope they are wise enough to create something that takes into account the neighborhood’s love of coffee as a pastime. Because, you see, coffee is for South Enders and Euro-trash alike, not merely a beverage but a pursuit – indeed, an institution in and of itself. Right?!
When traveling abroad, my single favorite activity is sitting at a café (preferably independently owned and out-of-doors), espresso with lemon twist in front of me, engaged in some serious people watching. That’s right – not shopping, not clubbing, not sightseeing, but coffee! Most museums have fantastic in-house cafés anyway so it’s often a no-brainer win-win for me. As a born and raised European who has made this beloved land his home, this is where I feel that US society’s reverence towards the institutional identity of coffee-as-a-pursuit (CAAP) leaves a lot to be desired. Ask any person who crosses your path what comes to mind when they hear coffee and chances are they will tell you it’s a wake-up beverage in a paper cup, lid, cardboard sleeve and all, consumed on the run, on the move, on the way somewhere. Why, oh why can’t people see that coffee is that somewhere?
It’s a state of body and mind – a most civilized pursuit. It is something that should be enjoyed in sacred silence at dawn, with the life-and-arts newspaper section in the afternoon, over convivial conversation any time of the day and in countless other settings, never in a rush but as the ultimate activity. I recently ran into an old French friend on Shawmut Avenue and when asked what she was up to, this stunning Capucine look-alike replied with a smile “I’m going for coffee – join me?”. “Capucine” obviously gets it!
Based on my criteria, which I assume are clear by now, here is a list of M’s favorite coffee temples in Boston – and yes, M cares about the quality of the coffee. See you there!
South End Buttery – No introduction necessary. Everyone who’s alive in the South End knows the incomparable charm of this beloved neighborhood corner hangout.
Wholy Grain, Shawmut Avenue – no porcelain cup and saucer option due to legit space constraints, but the whole operation is so simpatico it’s impossible no to like – the small, independent neighborhood coffee shop is what we’re missing in this city.
SIP Café, Post Office Square – one of Boston’s independently owned coffee treasures and one of the closest CAAP establishments in Boston. Huge fan here!
L.A. Burdick, Back Bay – strictly speaking, a hot chocolate place but the coffee is good too – insanely bridge-and-tunnel-packed on weekends but very atmospheric on weekdays.
JaHo, South End – small, independent, bookish – good for coffee, sweets and work.
Flour, Clarendon Street – Ms. Chang’s Back Bay outpost proves that she, too, gets it.
Starbucks, South End – yes, it a mega-corporation, but surely one to emulate – beside offering good coffee in porcelain and (perpetually occupied) seating, this company’s respect for ethical business practices and equal rights is truly something to feel good about supporting.
About the author: A former banker, Michael C offsets the sobriety of his professional life with his passion for design, music, the arts and anything beautiful.
© Michael Constantinides 2014 – all rights reserved