What is Boston’s third-wave coffee scene like now?
One of the biggest names in Boston’s third-wave scene is George Howell, who’s been roasting and distributing coffee since 2004. He opened his first cafe, The Coffee Connection, in 1974 in Harvard Square and somewhat pioneered the third-wave movement in Boston. But how far have we come since then? Compared to other cities around the world, maybe not far enough...
“The scene in Boston is dominated by a few chains and a handful of shops entrenched in their particular focus,” says Jaime. “Most of the roasters used in Boston are large, with national scale that lacks uniqueness and creativity. The few smaller startup roasters in town aren't taking risks to either innovate or source directly, so the quality bar hasn't pushed beyond latte art and espresso.”
But that's not to say the Boston barista community (and consumers) don't care. “We've hosted so many jams, throwdowns, and get togethers over the years that the base is there," he claims, "but the community has declined since we started. The shop and roastery owners are too focused on competing and positioning. There is a deep well of resistance to change and investment against much of what third wave is. The noted lack of voices leading us forward will induce more chains and national roasting operations to move in.
“I often feel our scene in Boston is out of step with progressive concepts already proven abroad. Our customers are amazingly educated and really hold up to any peer scene, but we’re definitely different within our local scene.”
In hearing this, we turned to Lena of Loyal Nine, who believes while this may be so, the coffee scene is quickly growing. “While we might not have a high number of shops here, the people who are making coffee are doing a fantastic job. It is a very tight-knit community.”
Patrick agrees, explaining that the scene is evolving thanks to the people of Boston becoming increasingly interested in third-wave coffee, and the local shops who continue to push for change. There are quite a few cafes pioneering the progressive coffee culture in Boston. Gracenote, Barismo, George Howell, and Loyal Nine are a start, but there’s also Render Coffee, Thinking Cup, Ogawa, Cafe Fixe, and several others scattered throughout the city.