The coffee is always blacker on the other side of the fence

Rhea Becker reports she was feeling kind of bad when a woman who turned out to be a Dutch tourist asked her if she knew of any nearby coffeehouses and all she could think of was a Starbucks:

I told [her] that I don't like to recommend chains. In fact, when I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, I loved the multitude of little cafes all over the city, all independently owned. She countered with, "But you don't know what you're getting in each of those cafes. The coffee could be bad. With Starbucks, you know what you're getting."



Free tagging: 


Starbucks is . . .

. . . my last choice of coffee places. I like flat black's on Broad- make a great latte (something Starbucks stopped doing a long time ago- their lattes are awful). Like Peet's of course. Like the Boston Common Coffee Co in the North End- and I like Dunk's. Starbucks tastes burnt to me.

That's called flavor

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...and I like Dunk's. Starbucks tastes burnt to me.

That "burnt" is called flavor. It doesn't sound like you're used to it, but now you know. I'm not sure how you can like Peet's but not Starbucks. I find most Peet's varieties to be darker and smokier than most other coffees.

Also, if anybody wants to enjoy Starbucks again, find one with a Clover machine. They'll use any of the beans that they have in house in it if you have a favorite variety, but some of the rarer Clover-specific ones are the best. Nothing beats an iced Kona or a warm day.


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It's called burnt.

I like a good dark colombian roast any day, Starbucks is usually burnt, stale crap coffee.

They make some nice sugary, coffee flavored drinks though!


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No, not flavor, that carbon-ish taste comes out in darker roasts. Flavor notes, characteristics, etc, is best found in lighter roasts, which are not too common in the 'bucks.

Love the clover press varietals!

Yeah, they make an outstanding cup of coffee, and I also agree that flavor should not be confused with bad. Not everybody likes the strong flavors, but many of us do, and Starbucks does a good, consistent job with that.

To be honest, I wouldn't know what to tell somebody where to go if Starbucks was off the table. I have a place I like near my house, a place I like near my office, but anywhere else, I can't vouch for quality. That's the usefulness of a chain -- you know what you are getting.

Actually, the "burnt" is "burnt"

Starbucks has been getting heat for so long from coffee snobs--not just those people who like their french vanillas with cream and two sugars--that this isn't a fluke. Something is seriously off with their beans.

In a recent taste test, several Salon writers did a three-way comparison between different black coffees, and the Starbucks cup finished dead last, behind McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts (the winner). Seattle Swill was decribed as harsh, oily, and unpleasant by the tasters, and it seems like a lot of the commenters here would agree. Granted, some people might like that sort of thing, but it doesn't appear to be the norm.

While I concede that a lot of the bitterness about Starbuck's coffee comes from people sick of Starbucks' omnipresence, even more of the bitterness can be traced to... well, the bitterness.

Where is Peet's?

On their website, I can't find a downtown Boston location -- only Northeastern U, Mass Art, Brookline, Harvard Square, and Lexington.

They closed it

It was a block from my office, but it shut down last summer. Nothing there yet, of course ...

However, Boston Common is right across the street, next to Radius. Very nice place, good sandwiches, good people.

I have a Starbuquitous in my building and it is just too convenient sometimes. Given time and decent weather, its always Sip at Leventhal (Post Office Square) Park for me.

Love Flat Black

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It might be the location (shares the building with the Boston Society of Architects, which always has cool displays/literature in the lobby), it might be the iced coffee, but I really like Flat Black.

Flat Black's

. . . makes a great latte. And it is the little things- like how they expertly make a swishy design on the top of the froth. You almost don't want to drink it because the presentation is so good.

Amsterdam Coffee Houses

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Boston could REALLY use some authentic Amsterdam Coffee Houses.

Yes, I'd like a coffee, a space cake and a gram of Northern Lights.

Smartphones rule!

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I have found that most people asking for something like a nearby coffee shop are also willing to wait a few seconds while I pull out Google Places or Yelp or another app that can suggest something nearby and with a good rating.

A lot of times there might even be a place (like Thinking Cup) where I know it exists, but it escapes me when I'm put on the spot to think what the closest/best place would be called. Other times, I might not even know a place exists yet but by saying "I want an indy coffee shop...where can I go this second?" and then checking the app, I find new places to try.

More than Angry Birds or checking UHub on the go, I think this kind of local exploration via my iPhone (or any smartphone) has to be the best feature in my mind.

Well, if I knew what you

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Well, if I knew what you looked like, I'd ask you where to get coffee so I could steal your phone.

Just kidding!

That's the whole point of

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That's the whole point of chain stores. You know exactly what you're going to get when you go into one.

Anyway she should have recommended Dunkin Donuts. I don't know anyone who prefers Starbucks to Dunkin and DD is cheaper.


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I don't know anyone who prefers Starbucks to Dunkin and DD is cheaper.

You should get out more.

think anon meant for

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think anon meant for coffee.

Starbucks has it's place for other coffee based drinks, but coffee-wise it's a downer.

I disagree

I drink my coffee black, and DD coffee simply doesn't cut it black. It is too dry, and if you don't get a fresh pot, it will be burnt and even more toasted. Same goes for McDonalds Paul Newmans coffee. That can be hit or miss as well, and sometimes it isn't as hot as it used to be.

I also get more of a caffeine kick from a grand bold black from Starbucks than I do from D&D.

Not to mention..

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calling that chemical flavored garbage that Dunkin' Donuts serves coffee is pretty insulting too.

I like dunks . . .

. . . in the morning. It's a sweet morning coffee blend. Like darker in the afternoon and evening.

Depends what you're looking for

If you want a place to sit and relax for a while over your coffee, Dunkin Donuts is definitely Not It. Starbucks, Boston Common Coffee, or any of the independents are a much better choice.

Dunks. . .

. . . is not a sit down place- that's for sure. Grab n Go. And if I'm gonna sit down in a coffee place for some extended reading- Starbucks isn't the place for me. Don't like to sit down in chains of any sort. They depress me- though Starbucks not as much as others.

They have more than donuts?

Other than a foreign tourist perhaps not knowing that that a shop called "Donuts" has coffee, I've learned my lesson about wanting to settle with a snack at a DD. Even if I just sit for 10 minutes, my clothes smell like cigarettes the rest of the day.

Cigarettes? Isnt smoking

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Cigarettes? Isnt smoking illegal in all public businesses in Massachusetts?

Wrong on both counts

Plenty of people prefer Starbucks...that's why they have so many locations (which DD devotees somehow seem to complain about, despite DD having many *more* locations)

Starbucks and Dunkin are about the same price for comparable product. At least they were about a year ago when I last checked. Unless of course you meant lower quality rather than lower price when you said "cheaper" in which case you are spot on.

Perhaps the person recommending Starbucks felt that the atmosphere and quality of Starbucks (more comfortable furniture earth tone ambience, more variety of espresso-based beverages) would suit a person visiting from Europe better than a place with plastic orange & pink furniture and weak, over-creamed and over-sweetened beverages.

I also agree with other posters who favor true indie coffee places. I love the 1369, but I don't live or work close enough to be a frequent customer. I loved the's gone. The diesel is pretty good too. The place on upper newbury, despite having a snooty vibe (hey, it's upper newbury!) is good. Most other indie places I"m rooting for, but their product isn't so great.


Is what a grande (medium) coffee costs now at basically every starbucks I have been too in the last few months. It was $1.98 before a recent hike. DD prices for medium coffee seems to vary more, but they have been over $2 for a long time now.

Also, Starbucks always has better lounging furniture but I have never seen one that doesn't have people sitting on top of each other. I could never read or study in that atmosphere.

Ah, 1369

I do miss that place. I am really glad to have Boston Common Coffee locations by both my home and my office, though. Almost as good.

Don't think so

The place I'm thinking of used to be called Torrefazione (just looked it up, apparently it's called "L'aroma") . But now i need to check out TheOtherSide, thx

'Upper' or 'Lower' Newbury

I'd call L'Aroma "Lower Newbury", meaning the blocks closer to downtown Boston and with lower-numbered street addresses. Upper Newbury is up where Tower Records used to be, and The Other Side is called that because it's on the west side of Mass. Ave., overlooking the Mass. Pike on-ramp.

Other Side Cafe

Yes they are also a bar and restaurant, but they at least used to be heavily into coffee as well. Maybe not anymore?

Got it mixed up

defining "downeast" maine and Up Island Martha's Vineyard always messes me up.

But I usually get Newton Upper Falls and Lower Falls correct.

Wired Puppy!

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stopped there a couple weeks ago walking back from the eye doctors.

Great latte there, cool sitting area in the back too.

What's wrong w/ Starbucks coffee?

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Leave the pretentious-hiptster 'tude aside; is Starbucks much better, or worse, than any other coffee?

But I know; it's popular, it's "corporate" so, to some mindsets, it must be bad. Weak.

To be ironical

I'll point out that much of the success of indie coffee shops can be traced to Starbuck's aggressive marketing of higher grade coffees.


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Their success could be attributed to customers with a desire to find non-burnt, less bitter coffee?

Or maybe both explanations are oversimplified?

Good point

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This is exactly right. For many Americans, Starbucks did for coffee what Kendall Jackson did for wine. Now we just need to get past the phase where people think that what Starbucks sells is as good as it gets. Maybe independent coffee shops should start doing coffee tasings...

There's nothing wrong with

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There's nothing wrong with Starbucks coffee. Taking an anti-corporate, anti-chain store stance is a social identifier. Bikers wear black leather jackets, southern redneck-wannabees wear cowboy hats, and a certain sub-class of self-reverential bourgeois leftists wear their consumer elitism on their sleeves. It's how they announce themselves to the world - kinda like peeing on a hydrant.

Is that what . . .

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. . . a South Park episode told you or Jonah Goldberg?

Personally I don't see why

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Personally I don't see why Starbucks gets such a bad rap. I realize taste in coffee is a personal matter and I happen to prefer a stronger coffee which is why I favor SB. On the other hand DD seems to be practically worshiped around these parts yet I find there brew too weak and they always put too much cream and sugar in their coffee. More importantly is the difference in customer service. The staff at SB just seems to be more friendly.
Other than that some of my other favorite coffee place, The Thinking Cup, Boston Common Coffee, SIP. Also some of the cafes such as Rebeccas and Sebastians have decent coffee.