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.
© Michael Constantinides 2014 – all rights reserved