|In the spring of
2007, I taught a course entitled The Secret Life of
Coffee, in which I challenged students to
find interesting local coffee shops and report to
the entire class about the coffee and the
atmosphere. The Massachusetts section of this page
includes some of their favorites, in addition to my
Bridgewater, Massachusetts is a small college town
that has a dozen franchised coffee/donut shops
(including two Dunkin
Donuts and one Starbucks on the campus of
Bridgewater State College) and several independent
shops, each with its own character and loyal
clientele. Because we are in New England, even the
McDonald's has good coffee -- Newman's Own Fair
Trade coffee from Vermont Coffee Roasters. Of the
twenty or so places to get coffee in this small
town, however, one deserves special mention: Rockin'
K Cafe on Summer Street (the day-time use of
Bogart's tavern -- across from CVS) is operated by
the Kunkel family, and is completely committed to
excellent, fairly traded coffee. I enjoy some other
local shops, but nothing in town tastes better, and
we know that the farmers have been treated fairly.
Parking is free right behind the shop, and it is now
very close to the Bridgewater State College campus.
The menu includes all kinds of organic sandwiches
and yummy pastries.
Also near the college in Bridgewater is The Better Bean
Coffee Company on Central Square, which has
good coffee, friendly service, and a pleasant
atmosphere. So far, though, no fair-trade or organic
coffee; let's work on that! On November 6, 2007, the
proprietor of the Better Bean and I are both
featured in a brief television news story about coffee prices.
Ironically, the story is really about the increase
in robusta coffee, which both of us avoid!
We are hoping to make an additional contribution to
the coffee scene in Bridgewater with the addition of
the Ben Linder Cafe
in the new Math and Science Center.
In Boston, the Mary Baker Eddy library is a great
refuge -- a place that celebrates ideas. Within the
library is the famous Mapparium
and a Hall of Ideas. The Mapparium is a 30-foot
glass globe that visitors tour from inside (an
admission fee is charged). The Hall
of Ideas is a high-tech work of art and
philosophy, featuring aphorisms from the world's
great thinkers. Research and reading space is also
available. Such intellectual resources are an ideal
setting for Quotes
café. It looks something like an
ordinary museum cafeteria, but it serves wonderful,
healthy food, and organic, fair-trade coffee from
Equal Exchange. (I am, by the way, a big fan of aphorisms.)
A new local favorite is the
Streetside Cafe in Middleborough, a few miles
south of Bridgewater. I recommend it mainly for the
atmosphere: it is both a hub for local regulars and
a very welcoming spot for new visitors. The cafe
serves Boston-roasted Victor coffee and has free
Pie in the
Sky in Woods Hole (part of Falmouth, on Cape
Cod) serves only 100 percent organic Dean's Beans,
along with great food made fresh on the premises.
Owner Erik is the first coffee-shop proprietor to
seek me out because of this web page. The shop is as
good as he told me it would be -- terrific coffee
properly prepared and good, healthy food. The shop
is tiny, and is located just next to the Steamship
Authority docks for Martha's Vineyard.
This is the place
that got me to start thinking seriously about
coffee shops as a locus of community involvement
and identity. In 2006, the first time I visited
this shop along Route 1-A in Walpole, I noticed
a steady stream of loyal customers at this shop,
located virtually in the shadow of a national
competitor. Returning in 2008, I could see that
the loyalty between customer and shop runs both
|When I sent students
out looking for coffee shops in early 2007, a
student from Lakeville (a bit south of Bridgewater)
reported difficulty finding independent shops. We
did not know that Lakeville residents Lorraine
Carboni and Kristen Scott were already on the case!
When the town built its wonderful new library a
couple of years ago, it was not clear what would
become of the historic, Carnegie-funded library
building across the street. Thanks to the vision of
these local women -- who acknowledge getting a lot
of help -- the building now houses Somethin's
Brewin' -- a beautiful, interesting, and
spacious cafe and used book shop. The coffee is
excellent, roasted by Kiskadee (see below).
Of all the shops visited by my students, Kiskadee Coffee
in Plymouth generated the most enthusiasm. Mikaela (who took
this photo) was impressed by the family-owned business with
its own roastery, knowledgeable staff, excellent baked
goods, and great atmosphere for chatting or study. She
visited the main shop at 18 Main Street in Plymouth. A
second shop is located on Rte. 53 in Hanover, at Merchant's
I very much enjoy the South Coast
area between New Bedford and the Atlantic, and have had the
good fortune of attending -- and even speaking at -- a
number of events at UMass-Dartmouth. Whenever I am in the
area, I stop in at
Mirasol's Café on Route 6 in Dartmouth, just a
bit north of the campus. This place has it all -- Peruvian
Organic Coffee, a variety of teas, and excellent food
for every taste. Prices are very reasonable, the decor
splendid, and the owners pay attention to detail,
environmental concerns, and justice issues. It even has good
Latin American music
playing softly at all times, special events, and free
wireless. Caution: The coffee is brewed to the correct
temperature of about 204 degrees; if you are not used to
this, be careful!
Coffee & Tea -- Salem, Massachusetts
This shop is located near the waterfront in Salem --
an area with much to see and do, including
witch-trial heritage but also a lot more. The shop
has fair-trade, organic coffee and tea, with great
care paid to atmosphere and to the growers. Desserts
are wonderful, and not too heavy (though you should
probably share them, as we did). The Brazilian
Santos coffee was wonderful -- medium roast with
very nice flavor. This shop uses ceramic cups for
"here" orders. I take this as as an essential sign
of care for the coffee. My opinion on this question
was confirmed when I got a cup of the very same
coffee to go in a paper cup. (Forgot my "go cup"
this time.) In paper with a plastic cup, coffee is
just not as good. So, go to Jaho, sit in a comfy
chair, and enjoy coffee in a civilized cup, as it is
meant to be!
||For the ultimate
Italian cafe experience nothing beats the Caffé
Vittoria in Boston. At night, it is both a bar
and a cafe; in the morning, it is a very local place
where Kenny the barista knows his customers and his
coffee. The place stretches across several addresses
on Hanover Street, the heart of the North End. It
even has a cigar shop in the middle.
The shop has operated since 1929. It is worth a
visit, just to explore the old photographs and
espresso machines that fill the walls and shelves.
|If ever you are in
Ellicott City, Maryland, a charming little mill town
west of Baltimore, visit Bean Hollow, where master roaster
Gretchen and "other roaster"
Adam and the chipper baristas take pride in
some excellent, hand-crafted brews. All of the
coffee in the shop is roasted on Wednesday mornings
in the 11-pound Probat roaster. Even though it has
been in Ellicott City since 1992 and I've been
visiting this town frequently since 1983, I never
noticed the place until a recent Wednesday morning!
We were delighted to get a nice roasting lesson from
I was particularly impressed by the real bagels and
by iced coffee that was probably the best iced I've
Bean Hollow is at
8059 Main St. (Route 144) in Ellicott City.
After our visits, I learned that my
father-in-law regularly reads poetry there!
||The reason I consider coffee shops
themselves to be a legitimate subject of geographic
interest is that the shops can really help to define
a sense of place
. Two Rhode Island shops deserve special mention in
this respect. One is Cable Car Cinema & Cafe,
which is a living lesson on the geography of
Providence. Years ago, cable cars connected the
hilltop Brown University area with the waterfront. Cable Car
Cinema and Cafe at 204 South Main Street
(Route 44) is a block from the waterfront and easily
accessible from Route I-195. It is in a building
that once housed the giant motors that made the
cable cars run up and down that hill. It has a
espresso bar in the front, with some seating and
wi-fi, and an excellent little art-house theater
with couches for the audience and live blues before
some of the films. Get on the e-mail list to be
updated on what is coming to the theater each week.
and Cream is the site of the largest coffee
cup in the United
States ! Its hours are limited, so I have not
yet managed a visit while the shop is actually open.
It is, however, the ultimate marriage of coffee
culture and car culture -- a drive-up coffee shop on
It was in Nicaragua that I learned of various connections
between North Carolina and fair-trade coffee. On a family
visit in May 2007, I had a chance to see just how important
good coffee -- and fair treatment of the farmers -- has
become in this state. To me the most important is one that I
have not yet visited: Counter
Culture Coffee in Durham, which I actually learned
about from a host family in San Ramon, Matagalpa. Some of
the other shops I found in 2007 are mentioned below. Counter
Culture has also produced a DVD of the 2005
Southeast Regional Barista competition, which shows
the ultimate in caring for coffee from the field to the cup!
One caveat in North
Carolina: many are likely to be closed on Sunday, and
perhaps also on Monday.
My North Carolina family
Cherokee ancestors, though this connection is about
seven generations removed. I was delighted to find a
fair-trade coffee shop in a cultural museum right in the
center of Cherokee. Coffee in this shop -- Tribal Grounds
at Lift Culture House -- meets four certifications:
fair-trade, organic, shade-grown, and indigenous. The coffee is now roasted
on site (though they started out with Counter Culture). The
coffee is delicious, as are the bagels. Service is friendly
and the atmosphere quite nice. WiFi is available, although a
fee is charged. Most other shops in the region have free
WiFi, so this might chnage. My daughter had the orange cream
smoothie (with mango), which she recommends heartily!
The small city of Waynesville has a number of excellent
coffee shops. I was especially interested in The Coffee Zone
at 76 Waynesville Plaza, in a former bank branch located in
front of a strip mall. About half the customers get their
locally-roasted coffee through the former drive-up teller
window, while the other half come in to enjoy the simple but
comfortable ambience, conversation, and free wireless
internet. The coffee here is excellent.
Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters on Main
Street in Waynesville was closed during much of our
weekend visit, but we had its excellent coffee in a couple
of other shops in the region. The coffee is fair trade
and/or organic, and this one shop is responsible for
much of the excellent coffee sold in Waynesville and nearby
Asheville is a much more interesting place than the city I
remember visiting as a child. The downtown is exactly what a
downtown should be: a place with a variety of shops,
restaurants, and people walking about. The best coffee shop
we found is Malaprop's
Cafe at 55 Haywood Street. For those who are tired of
big-chain book stores, big-chain coffee shops , and the
corporate music, this is a trifecta: a nice book store with
an independent coffee shop and frequent live performances by
Annie's Naturally Bakery on Main Street in
Sylva. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The
coffee is fairly traded, organic, and delicious. The
baked goods are fabulous -- I had a very tasty
The atmosphere is comfortable and the shop more
spacious than most specialty coffee shops I have
visited. Best of all, being located on Main Street,
it is in the middle of a very nice, walkable
downtown with many interesting shops to visit.
The shop also sells an interesting assortment of
In Gorham we enjoyed fair-trade coffee from Kaffé Magnum Opus
and pancakes at the Moonbeam
Cafe at 19 Exchange Street, near the train museum
at the south end of the Main Street. It is a small coffee
shop with a full breakfast menu and a devoted
clientele . If you get there and the place is full
(very likely on a summer weekend), leave your name and go
browsing in the book store across the street or other nearby
Vermont is heroically loyal to local businesses, making it a
good place to find independent cafes.
Vermont is home to Green Mountain
Coffee Roasters, making it possible to get a decent
cup of coffee at any of hundreds of gas stations throughout
the state. Green Mountain sells a variety of coffees -- even
flavored coffee, which I can no longer tolerate. It is
steadily increasing its organic and fair-trade offerings,
which is why I met a GMCR delegation in Matagalpa in 2007.
Thanks to GMCR, if I am somewhere in New York or New England
with no independent coffee shop in sight, I have a new
refuge (since I no longer drink Dunkin' Donuts). All
McDonald's in the region sell Newman's Own organic,
fair-trade coffee, roasted in Vermont! This one contract has
increased the fair-trade component of Green Mountain's
business from 30 percent to 38 percent.
I was especially delighted to find Rainbow Sweets
, where owners Patricia Halloran and William Tecosky provide
an absolutely delightful atmosphere and delicious,
European-style pastries of all kinds, along with empanadas,
quiche, pizza, and more. They serve espresso drinks made
with Peet's and Fairwinds
coffee by the cup. The coffee is not the focus of this shop,
but the Fairwinds is fairly-traded and good. Peet's, though
not fair-trade, is excellent coffee. If you find this shop
-- on U.S. Route 2 just a bit west of the village of
Marshfield -- be prepared to enjoy Bill's energetic banter!
As with the California entry below, my first Michigan entry
is for a shop I have not yet visited. This shop is so
interesting, though, that I might just make the trip before
long. I learned about the Front
Porch Community Cafe in Ellsworth from NPR. As a deep
recession was closing a lot of businesses, the only place to
get a cup of coffee in Ellsworth was a bait shop.
Understanding the role of cafes in community cohesion, local
people organized a non-profit place for people to gather
over good food and coffee. I am pleased to see fair-trade
coffee and tea are on the menu!
I have not been to California since I developed my coffee
obsession, but a shop that deserves special mention is Barefoot
Coffee Roasters in Santa Clara. Judging solely from
the web site, its staff has an unparalleled dedication to
coffee perfection. I hope to have a cup there some time!
with California, I do not yet have any direct experience
with good coffee in Canada, but I can recommend Planet Bean Coffee
in Guelph, Ontario on the basis of this
article in Fresh Cup magazine. The author is my friend
Matt Kadey, whom I
first met in Nicaragua's coffeelands in 2007, and who
described our encounter in an article on coffee
ecotourism in the same magazine.
In Brazil, international chains are emerging and
competing in much the same way that Starbucks has.
Friends introduced me to Havanna -- a chain based
in Argentina, named for the Cuban capital, and
selling coffee in Brazil, the world's leading
coffee producer. See another chain --
café -- below.
Despite the new chains, it is still far more
common in Brazil to drink coffee casually and
in very small cups. This can be in a
restaurant, and office, or even a grocery
In 2008, my family
was invited to Guatemala
to learn about the coffee. One of our first stops was the
Cafe in Panajachel. The Crossroads Cafe is very
unusual in the way that it closes the loop between
producers and consumers, connecting growers and consumers
through the development of expertise in roasting and
brewing in the growing
region. The cafe is aptly named, as this unique
model attracts people from just up the mountain and from
the other side of the world.
Try as I might, I will never find all of the good,
independent coffee shops out there. Fortunately, indie
coffee shops is taking care of that for me. If
you find yourself in a part of the U.S. where I have
not listed a shop above, check out their site. If
you find one that would be worth a special trip for
me, let me know: (jhayesboh
What a cappuccino should look like.
I took the
photograph on the left at petit café in
in August 2007.
Brazil is known more for coffee quantity than
coffee quality, but this is starting to change.
This is a fine example, with a biscotto by the
side and a glass of clear water to cleanse the
Those of you looking for the other Coffee
Eye Candy materials that were formerly in this
space, fear not! The sensual corner of this page
has grown into the new Coffee & Tea
of course, also compete on atmosphere, quality,
and fairness in some interesting ways. Two items
on NPR's Morning
Edition November 26, 2007 discuss the
approaches of three of the giants. "Ads
Give Dunkin' Donuts National Appeal"
compares the target audiences of Dunkin' and
to Battle Upscale Coffee Retailers"
describes the food chain's consideration of latte,
including the possibility of a franchiser
backlash. In New England, McDonald's has offered fair
trade coffee from GMCR since 2005.
|MORE COFFEE SHOP FUN!
Yelp! is a place to find reviews of local
businesses. Look for more of my coffee-shop reviews
or use the site to find coffee shops or other
businesses anywhere in the United States.
is the SimCity of coffee shops. Set up a virtual
shop, make decisions about the menu, employees, and
accoutrements, and see how you do. I do not have
time for online games, so if you play this, let me
know what you think!
| Do not forget the kids!
|Wherever you enjoy
your coffee, please remember the farmers -- young
and old -- who produce it. On large, corporate farms
and on small, family-owned farms, children tend to
work more and get less schooling than they should. Coffee Kids
is an international, non-profit organization
established to improve the lives of children and
families who live in coffee-growing communities
around the world.
Ask your local coffee shop what it is
doing to help!
Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's Environmental
Geography for more on the world in
Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's Geography of Coffee page for
more on the farmers, trade, fairness, and travels in
Hayes-Bohanan's County Map Project for
quirky observations about most of the fifty United States.
the Department of Geography page to
find out what the rest of the geographers are up to.