Boston's 10 Hottest Coffee Shops

By Scott Kearnan  |  February 23, 2015

Maybe it's the big student population that needs all that late-night caffeine, but Boston has a pretty solid set of java joints. Each of these opened within the last year, adding a little extra buzz to the local coffee lover's world. 

(See our 2015 Coffee Survey results here.)

  • Barrington Coffee Roasting

    After two decades as a Berkshires-based micro-roaster, this company first expanded into cafe settings in Boston's Fort Point, serving drip- and flash-brewed international java alongside artisanal teas and locally sourced pastries. A cool vibe meets coffee science at the newer Back Bay location, opened this winter, where a state-of-the-art machine brews pour-over-style drinks to precision with four futuristic glass cylinders.

    Must-Order: Barrington frequently unveils new espressos with unique flavor profiles. Its latest: the 413, which boasts varietals created through the roaster's long-term farm projects in India, Brazil and Colombia. You'll find notes of malt, maraschino cherry and molasses. 

    On the Menu: Keep an eye out for tasty scones in varieties like bacon and Gruyère. 

  • Credit: Joel Benjamin

    Blackbird Doughnuts

    Ok, it's not strictly a coffee shop, per se. But coffee and donuts go together like peanut butter and jelly, and this buzzing newcomer serves both to early-bird crowds who grab-and-go from its small South End spot. 

    Must-Order: Whether you want drip or cold-brew, the coffee is as unique as the donut flavors. Blackbird's coffee is a bold custom blend from Fazenda Coffee Roasters, a Dedham-based micro with a cafe in Jamaica Plain. 

    On the Menu: The sweet and savory donuts are always changing, but right now you'll find maple miso, lemon cream bismarck, pepperoni pizza and the solid standby vanilla glaze.

  • Caffe Nero

    Downtown denizens have a new home for java, sandwiches and gooey goodies at this European coffeehouse. When it opened in 2014, the Downtown location became the first stateside entry by the chain, which has 500 outposts across the U.K. alone. Last month a second Boston branch opened in the arty neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. 

    Must-Order: The European brand added drip coffee for its American locations, but you'll want to discover the Italian espresso that made it famous — perhaps in the form of a smooth, foamy latte. 

    On the Menu: Three words: limoncello mascarpone cake. Three more: to die for. 

  • PAUL

    Speaking of imports: in November, Assembly Row in Somerville welcomed the latest stateside location of PAUL, a chain that has 600 bakeries in 34 countries. There are only a few American outposts of the brand, and this one joins a buzzing retail and restaurant destination that recently unveiled Legal on the MysticEarls Kitchen + Bar, River Bar and American Fresh

    Must-Order: PAUL uses Lavazza coffee for drinks like this cappuccino.  

    On the Menu: Fresh-baked breads hold together sandwiches like the signature Mixte, a baguettine with butter, ham and Swiss cheese.

  • Forge Baking Company

    This recently opened Somerville sibling of Diesel Cafe and Bloc 11 ups the pastry game courtesy of chef Rob Fitzhenry, formerly of 80 Thoreau. You'll find rustic breads and sandwiches, plus plenty of pastries. (Coconut macaroons, anyone?) 

    Must-Order: Because we drink iced coffee all year round in New England, how about the horchata with a twist? Espresso from Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters is combined with housemade rice milk, vanilla and cinnamon, and served over ice. 

    On the Menu: Forge is selling its own line of housemade jams, helpful for disguising your less-impressive baking skills at home. 

  • Union Square Donuts

    A small move made a big difference for this cult hit. The 15-seat space is the bakery's first to offer a nonshared kitchen, doubling the donut output and introducing batches of additional pastries (like cinnamon buns and croissants) as well as its first savory donuts, in varieties like spinach-feta-onion.

    Must-Order: The spot serves Counter Culture's Hologram coffee, best enjoyed black for those fruit and chocolate notes. 

    On the Menu: You've got to grab the Boston Cream Pie donut, our pick for Massachusetts' best

  • Boston Common Coffee Company

    We're pretty excited whenever anything new opens near North Station. So this latest branch of the small local-coffee and baked-goods brand (found at 99 Canal Street) is a godsend when you're waiting for the train — or need to grab something sweet before a Bruins game. 

    Must-Order: Though we love their espresso drinks like lattes and macchiatos, this coffee company also puts out a great hot chocolate on cold days. 

    On the Menu: While the competition has grown thick, Boston Common continues to hold its own in the donut sphere, with oft-rotating flavors like sweet corn-white chocolate and cranberry-balsamic.

  • Pavement Coffeehouse

    The small local coffeehouse brand just added a new location in hipster-friendly Allston, bringing its cozy digs to a whole new crowd of java junkies. 

    Must-Order: Pavement serves North Carolina-rooted Counter Culture Coffee, but don't forget to check out an exquisite selection of organic Rishi teas. 

    On the Menu: We love Nonna's Lunch, a lovely assemblage of breaded eggplant, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato pesto with garlic mayo. 

  • Café Madeleine

    Pastries are the main draw at this South End newcomer from acclaimed chef Frédéric Robert, a James Beard Award winner and decades-spanning collaborator with Alain Ducasse. But they're complemented by small-batch coffee from La Colombe, a 20-year-old roasting company with a handful of cafes in NYC, Philly, Chicago and DC. 

    Must-Order: Try the cortado, a silky sip that's equal parts espresso and steamed milk. 

    On the Menu: We mentioned Frédéric Robert, right? You can't go wrong among the croissants, éclairs, macarons, tarts and, obviously, madeleines.

  • Farmer Horse Coffee

    The walls are lined with works by local artists, and the cases stocked with decadent, chocolaty pastries at this friendly Massachusetts Avenue java joint. Local laptop warriors are lured by a caffeine happy hour, free WiFi and a community-minded vibe.

    Must-Order: Thoughtfully prepared Ethiopian coffee is the emphasis here, prepared for espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. 

    On the Menu: The glass cases are stocked with regularly rotating sweets, like the rich "Chocolate Forest" seen here.