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(Coffee Bean)town: 10 Spots to Caffeinate in Greater Boston

Posted by Alex Pearlman  September 22, 2011 09:18 AM

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1369.JPGFor those people too busy with their overworked, overstressed, over-technologically saturated lives, coffee can be a way to fuel this maddening existence of late nights and early mornings or a soothing relaxation.

For those people, coffee is a way of life, not a luxury -- but that doesn't mean it has to be bland and boring. And at the following coffee shops, both the atmosphere and the drinks are anything but.

1369 (757 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square). If every man truly is an island, as the saying goes, this must be their commune. When I came on a Thursday afternoon, the shop was full of lone men and their laptops. The cash-only establishment offers lots of small, two-person tables, perfect for a first date or an intimate chat with a friend. The board games in back -- inclulding Candyland, Scrabble, and a chess set -- could keep you occupied for hours. Students, this coffee shop hasn't forgotten about you: With your student ID, buy a discounted mug for $2.75 and reap the benefits of free refills, and take advantage of the outlet-lined walls and free WiFi while doing so.

Crema (27 Brattle St., Harvard Square). I didn't want to put this shop on the list originally because I thought it was too obvious -- but sometimes the obvious places are simply wonderful. The WiFi here isn't great, but the two floors of seating and the salads, delectable sandwiches, and breakfast options more than make up for it. The gingerbread latte is a warm and welcome invitation into autumn, and their mouth-watering baked goods -- banana whoopie pies, mocha slide cupcakes, and assorted French macaroons -- make me want to skip straight to dessert every time. But I always hold out because the grilled chicken sandwich, the grilled cheese, and the ever-changing quiches satiate my taste buds.

Darwin's Ltd. (148 Mt. Auburn St., Harvard Square). If Darwin were still alive, he would probably be sitting in this coffee shop, drinking their signature blended coffee, and enjoying one of their many tasty sandwiches, named after famed Harvard figures (Kirkland) and local places (Broadway, Mount Auburn). Bite into the Sumner for an egg salad and avocado experience. Otherwise, just sit and enjoy the free WiFi and casual atmosphere. Other location: 1629 Cambridge St., between Harvard Square and Inman Square.

Diesel (157 Elm St., Davis Square). During the "morning line-up," customers line up against the concreted blue-painted wall, decorated with "Mobil" and "Road Closed" signs, and patiently wait for their name to be called -- but the wait is worth it. The coffee, bagels, vegan banana muffins, and tomato orzo soup are all made with locally grown ingredients.There's plenty of work space (though the WiFi will cost you), but seats fill up quickly, and the booths are for early risers only. If you're looking to relax, you'll find magazines and board games (Yahtzee, Monopoly, and the like) in back.

Flat Black Coffee (1170 Washington St., Dorchester). This quaint little coffee shop, a tiny, brightly decorated space with charming baristas and plenty of outlets, is just steps from the Red Line. As you sip on your mint mocha, feel free to read a National Geographic or browse the web with free password-protected WiFi (the baristas have the password). The pastries are scrumptious, including the day-old ones, on sale for $1. Check out the wide variety of beans from Latin America and Africa, and add a shot of coconut to liven up your coffee. Other locations: 50 Broad St., Boston, and 1906 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester.

Hi-Rise at the Blacksmith House (56 Brattle St., Harvard Square). This two-story coffee house is literally a house. Coffee and food are served on the bottom level, and ample seating fills the second floor -- a calm, quiet study space and a good place for conversation. The food is good, and it's a great study space when it's not packed, so grab a drink and a sandwich and sit on wooden benches upstairs, where natural light illuminates the pages of your book.

Pavement (1096 Boylston St., Back Bay). In this Berklee student hangout, find students, poets, musicians, and the too hip to be employed -- or, let's be honest, the future J.K. Rowling. This place is owned by the same people as Espresso Royale Caffe, another great coffee spot (especially the one at 736 Comm Ave.), so their cards are accepted here. WiFi is only free for one hour, but really who needs the internet when you're supposed to be writing the Next Great American Novel or Billboard-topping song?

The Danish Pastry House (330 Boston Ave., Medford). The open and inviting space of this European bakery and coffee house is a gathering place for Tufts students, faculty, and the Medford community. The employees are genuinely nice and understanding -- they can relate to students' plight of no free WiFi (it's $4.99 here) and the cost of iced coffee refills (not free). But those are really this shop's only faults. The brioches and apple bear claws have added a notch to my belt, not to mention the flawless cakes that I'm too afraid to touch, and the coffee and paninis will leave you satisfied and full. The latter comes with a side of greens -- a nice, healthy touch that just might help you resist the pastries.

Thinking Cup (165 Tremont St., by Boston Common). A bit pricy, but worth it for the nourishment, atmosphere, and suave restroom (one of the most elegant in town). Their arugula goat cheese sandwich with apricot jam is a filling snack. Or savor their hazelnut lattes -- milky bliss. Unfortunately, Thinking Cup doesn't have WiFi, but customers can brush up on news from the turn of the century by reading the newspapers embedded in the tables.

Wired Puppy (250 Newbury St.). This coffee shop uses the personal one-cup brew method, making every customer feel special with their custom-made cup. The baristas will offer unique recommendations for the adventurous tongue -- I tried the Iced Cherry Mocha, a sweet drink (though it's on the pricier side). The computer in back prints to the "Tech Superpowers Digital Lounge" next door -- a unique, helpful feature. Don't forget to grab a doggie bag and chow down on some organic goodies on the way out.

By Tamar Zmora -- I'm a recent Wellesley College grad with a degree in English and studio art. I grew up in the Midwest and briefly lived in Europe and the Middle East. My name is often mistaken for Tamara from "Sister, Sister." I love exploring coffee shops and am almost always highly caffeinated. I am very interested in films, the arts, theatre, painting, photography -- you name it -- '90s TV shows, and music.

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