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Tremont Street coffehouse says it will serve Portland's best coffee

The Boston Licensing Board this week granted a license to a pair of entrepreneurs who think Tremont Street is ripe for a high-end coffeehouse.

The Thinking Cup, 165 Tremont St., hopes to open by the end of the month, serving "high-end coffee" along with froyo, croissants and light sandwiches. The outlet says it will be the first in the Boston area to serve Stumptown Coffee, which it modestly claims is the best coffee in the world.

Also in the works: Four outdoor cafe tables. Because they would be on the public sidewalk, however, they have to be approved by the city's Public Improvement Commission.

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While that sounds promising, their location page is not at all promising. Boston Commons?

http://thethinkingcup.com/contact.shtml

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of "Boston Commons"

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Thanks for noticing. The website is under development. Hope to see you in September.

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The last time we had an independent coffee place in this neighborhood, Curious Liquids, it was open all night. Unfortunately it was forced out and replaced by a Fox 25 "news" studio.

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They asked for, and got, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Strictly coincidental: Licensing Board member Suzanne Ianella lives in that building.

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Also: Starbucks opens at 5:30AM in the South End. All the downtown locations open around 6-6:15. They probably could have asked for earlier hours, but it probably also would have garnered complaints from the Snowflakes that live nearby.

A coffee shop that opens at 7AM is like a dessert store that closes at 7PM...

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Nothing in Portland opens before then because people take their time getting to work.

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...aren't exactly blue-collar folk. Although some rich over-achiever folk do get up stupidly early. But yeah, the construction workers and cabbies aren't likely to frequent this place...

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In PDX, they get the good coffee on coffee break.

Portland and Seattle don't run on Dunkin.

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the cabbies go to Butterfly, and indie coffee spot at Downtown Crossing. They're not exactly drinking Folgers or that swill from Canton, either.

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Google is not helpful -- it tells me about Butterfly in Mission Hill, but not downtown.

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Ron Newman, try parsing the sentence again; it's not obvious with a quick read, though. The indie place is apparently at Downtown Crossing. Butterfly and Ashur Restaurant are where the cabbies hang out. Oh, and on the low retaining wall at RCC on Elmwood Street opposite the mosque.

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which is an indie place, and one that I liked. But I don't know about any Butterfly near Downtown Crossing -- or any other independent place around there, except Boston Common Coffee on Washington Street near the Opera House.

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I think the anon may have crossed up his or her crossings. He/she is right, though. The cabbies love Butterfly at Roxbury Crossing... as do I.

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And business is business. Brett has a good point about the opening time. You're opening a coffee shop, why not open during prime time??

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You know, Starbucks and Peets do just fine around here. I'm sure Stumptown will do just fine. Why does everyone just assume that Sully from the Construction Site just loves to drink bad coffee all day long?

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Stumptown might have the best coffee in Portland, but there's no such thing as best in the world, because coffee starts to go stale soon after it's roasted. No matter how good it is the day after it's roasted in Portland, if it has to be shipped across the country, and ends up taking a week from roaster to bin and going through temperature changes, then the Thinking Cup will be selling stale coffee. I'm sure it will compare well to other stale coffees, but in comparison to a fresh local roast, it'll be sour, as the fats in roast coffee beans start to go rancid in a week's time.

Don't pretend to be a premium coffee shop unless you roast your own. Fail.

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Seattle's Best Coffee likes to come up with evocative names that say "Seattle". When I saw their "Post Alley Blend" I doubled over laughing. For me, that evoked the redolent scent of stale juicyfruit, dumped out beer and coffee, ciggies, and mold that characterizes the business end of Post Alley.

I think shipping Stumptown cross country is more about the essence of romantic notions than actual quality. They could import Bainbridge too, but that wouldn't be the same as even importing a couple of pounds to make your luggage smell awesome.

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If Thinking Cup is getting their roasted coffee from Portland, it won't be taking a week. If I order roasted beans from Peets, they can get it to my house within 48 hours of roasting, every time, and sometimes within 24 hours. While I know that isn't as good as getting them fresh roasted on site, its silly to assume it'll take any longer than absolutely necessary, like 48 hours. Coffee beans are their business. They aren't sending them UPS ground.

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The hell with Carbon Footprints ship it next day air!!!!!

People have a ridiculous hang-up on coffee freshness. It is rare to ever be drinking coffee within one, two, or even three days of roasting- no matter what the roaster tells you. I am not talking about a month either, but most modern roasters have ways of minimizing the buildup of oxygen in the bags of coffee and prolongs noticeable staling.

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Man, I may not even drink my coffee within one, two or even three days of *brewing* it. All this caring about quality makes it too complicated.

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Stumptown Coffee Roaster is also roasting their coffee in New York.

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Your chances at fresh improve 3000 miles closer. I'll come in for a cuppa some time.

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Clearly, you are very ignorant about coffee, and Stumptown.

First, Stumptown also roasts in NYC. As with any wholesale coffee roaster, the coffee will be roasted and shipped to the coffee retailer within 24 hours. There will be no stale coffee sold at Thinking Cup.

Second, as far as espresso goes, it needs to rest for a minimum of 3 days before it is ground and brewed. This only goes to lengthen the amount of time before it is even considered usable.

Third, Roasting your own certainly has its place in the coffee community. An argument made for roasting your own because if you don't, it will be stale is simply ignorant. Stumptown is a premiere roaster and buys some of the highest quality coffee available. There are a lot of shops that roast their own and the average consumer thinks it is better than using a wholesale roaster, but that simply isn't the case. There is a reason Stumptown, Intelligentsia, and Counter Culture are very well known across the country and mediocre local roasters are not: quality.

Don't pretend to know quality and critique others that have obviously found it. Fail.

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Phil, Stumptown sells old coffee at its own stores in Portland. I've been there myself, seen it with my own eyes. I rummaged through the shelves full of week or ten-day old coffee to find the freshest coffee there, only three days old. It's stored in paper bags that don't stop degassing and oxidation. That'd be fine for just a day or two, but ten days? They have lines out the door to buy coffee already stale. I needed a hostess gift, and should have brought better coffee from home.

As for quality, yes they sell good premium coffee. And anybody can buy the same beans green at Sweet Maria's for a quarter to a third of the price.

The reason Stumptown, Intelligentsia, and Counter Culture are well known across the country and, say, Barrington Coffee Roasting Company has no rep outside a dozen miles is simple: marketing and fashion. And when a company gets marketed too big for its britches, they end up selling stale product to fashion followers who don't know any better. If they're already doing that in Portland, what's Boston going to get?

Now, Phil, the next time you go and call someone ignorant you should make sure you know what you're talking about first. Otherwise you just sound like a fool.

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You're only making it worse for yourself...

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My sister brought me some Stumptown coffee beans, in a paper bag, from Portland. It was a full two weeks after roasting (the date was on the bag). It was the best coffee I have ever made! I don't do anything fancy when making cofee either. The only times I've tasted better coffee would be in Europe or high-end restaurants.

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stumptown coffee actually is pretty freaking awesome. friends of mine bring it every time they visit, and i hoard the stuff.

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Seconded on the awesomeness...

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Pacific NW FTW!

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Stumptown is Awesome Awesome Awesome stuff, but that won't get me to go to this new place in Boston because Stumptown is awesome in Stumptown. Ship it across the country and it won't be the same as if it were recently roasted and delivered that morning by bike cart and served up with a steaming pile of Pine State biscuits and grits or a VooDoo doughnut.

On this coast, I have developed an affection for George Howell's locally roasted Terroir coffee. More recently, I buy from the locally-based Mystic Coffee Roasters at the Medford Farmer's Market or at their store on Riverside Ave. in Medford Square. Sharon really knows what she's doing.

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Okay, we get it. You used to live in the Pacific Northwest. Congrats.

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I grew up in the Northwest and still spend a lot of time there - work assignments in Seattle, aging parent issues and all that.

Oh, but it isn't relevant to bring up things Northwest when specifically discussing PORTLAND coffee? Um, a look at a map might help you out there.

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No, it just seems that, throughout your multiple root-level posts on this thread, you seem to be screaming, "Look at me look at me, I know all about this stuff! I have the inside track!!! I'm cool!"

Not much of what you are saying has any relevance to a coffee shop here in Boston; most of it is just minutiae about Seattle and Portland that no one cares about but you.

"Do any other UHububs know the derivation of Stumptown?" *bubblegum snap*

No, we don't, and we don't care that you know the answer.

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Don't read too much into it. She's like that in every thread. And not surprisingly, everything is better in Portland, it rains lemon drops and ice cream.

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yes!!

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I can't really tell from their website whether they plan to do this.

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The flash panel implies that they will be roasting it. The tab labels are:

Roaster|Espresso|Late|Organic Tea|Pastry

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I read the implication differently. Though they don't have all their info up, they identify the roaster as Stumptown, originating in Portland. If that is true, then Thinking Cup will not be roasting their own coffee - Stumptown will. If they were roasting their own coffee, and the roaster was Stumptown, then they would be Stumptown. Bearing in mind that not even all Stumptown coffee shops actually roast the coffee, just two of them, the implication is clear that Thinking Cup will be receiving pre-roasted coffee shipped from Stumptown. Like the bags shown in the picture. It is very hard to imagine that Stumptown would allow another company to open a shop and roast coffee and then call the coffee (but not the shop) Stumptown.

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Yes, I thought of that interpretation, too, but then as Ron notes, Stumptown uses "direct trade" coffee, whereas this place speaks of both Stumptown and fair trade coffees. Perhaps they will roast the fair trade, leaving Stumptown to roast the direct trade? It's not clear, I don't think we can derive an answer from the available information.

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to point them at this conversation and ask if they plan to roast the Stumptown coffee on-site. I hope they'll respond directly here, but if they send me e-mail instead, I'll post it.

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They said that a Boston location would get their beans from their Brooklyn roastery, according to the lovely Shari from Stumptown. I passed along this thread to them as well.

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Like "Organic," "Fair Trade" is a trademarked certification managed to specific criteria by an organization (in this case, TransFair USA). "Organic" is owned and administered by the USDA. You cannot label your food as "Fair Trade" or as "Organic" without the permission of these organizations. The requirements are stringent enough that most food that is actually organic is not USDA Organic, and most trade that is fair is not Fair Trade (tm). Most organic, fairly traded coffee is neither Organic nor Fair Trade.

Stumptown uses the description as "Direct Trade" because they want to accomplish a similar outcome - more of your coffee money going directly to the farmers - but they don't want to force the farmers through the expensive Fair Trade certification or have to sell only coffee that is produced by collectives or co-ops. There's a whole big polemic out there in coffeeworld about "Fair Trade," and a lot of bean sourcers and retailers are moving preferentially toward direct trade, cutting out brokers, middlemen, and auctions. The use of "fair trade" to describe the coffee on Thinking Cup's website is surely an oversight that will soon be corrected, to avoid trademark infringement.

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While there are problems with the Fair Trade system (TransFair going after Dunkin Donuts, etc) and there are always ways to improve....there are not defined, measurable criteria to back up these practices.

Intelligentsia, a forerunner of DT lists the criteria as:

-Coffee quality must be exceptional.
-The grower must be committed to healthy environmental practices.
-The verifiable price to the grower or the local coop, not simply the exporter, must be at least 25% above the Fair Trade price.
-The grower must be committed to sustainable social practices.
-All the trade participants must be open to transparent disclosure of financial deliveries back to the individual farmers.
-Intelligentsia representatives must visit the farm or cooperative village at least once per harvest season

Most of these sound pretty vague to me....

I stress that Fair Trade standards are not the child of Transfair alone, there are other means of certification through various organizations. Even still, one of the most interesting differences I see between direct trade and FT is the emphasis on community in the Fair Trade purchasing system. FT focuses on working with farmer cooperatives and democratically run organizations- the keeps the money in the community w/ many cooperative groups using this money to improve the quality of coffee and life for the entire community.

Yes, direct trade is more direct....at least at times. But buying a lot of coffee from a single farmer one season does little to guarantee that that buyer will be back in that specific community the next season. Relationships and longevity count.

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SwirlyGrrl:

I have great news for you, the coffee is coming straight from New York to insure freshness. This was one of the key factors in going with Stumptown.

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Funny how the cafe's website claims to carry all fairly traded coffees, when not a single of Stumptown's offerings are certified as such. Stumptown, with its emphasis on quality and not so much on farmer welfare/relationships, has opted to use a system in which they simply hop from farm to farm buying whats hot at the moment.

All this and their coffees are rated just as any other specialty-grade coffee, at 86 or above on a scale of 100.

There are plenty of other great options in the Boston area for high quality, more socially-responsible cups of coffee.

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the ins and outs of coffee, any thoughts on Birds & Beans shade-grown coffee? Been thinking about trying it and I believe it's only available online? Is the shade-grown thing worth it, taste-wise or otherwise?

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Coffee is naturally a shade-growing plant. Growing it in the understory beneath other kinds of trees is the traditional method, and arabica has the highest yield per plant between 35-65% shade. Traditional coffee farms also use little or no irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, or fungicides. Sun-grown coffee is a fairly recent innovation (thank you, technocrats), and can produce more coffee per acre through intensive crowding of coffee plants, but it requires high use of inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, etc). Sun-growing coffee also destroys wildlife habitats, as traditional coffee plantations harbor a wide variety of plant and animal species, providing vital stopover points for birds especially. Shade coffee plantation also help prevent erosion and maintain rainfall. It also provides secondary sources of income and nutrition for coffee farmers, as different crops can be grown as part of the canopy.

A lot of coffee is still shade-grown, technocrats be damned, and the traditional methods are fighting their way back. Almost anything that claims to be organic will be shade-grown, as shade-loving coffee cannot be forced to grow in full sun plantations without inputs. Much coffee from smaller farms will also be shade-grown. According to some, shade-grown coffee also tastes better. Any good coffee shop will have shade-grown coffee, and any good roaster or retailer will also sell it. Most fair-trade coffee (about 80%) is de-facto shade grown, and most good Arabica is shade-grown (most sun-grown coffee is hybridized).

The most significant thing one can do to help preserve tropical rainforest is to make sure it's worth more standing than planked. Avoid the sun-grown coffee. It's bad for everyone.

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Yep. I agree.

Bird Friendly is just one of about 3 dozen new seals roasters are slapping on their coffee bags these days. While it is a good thing on the whole, I would look more at organic as having the more certifiable and impact of all of the seals.

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nt

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Stumptown's web site advertises Direct Trade -- is this somehow not 'fair trade' ?

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There are a few different certifying bodies for "fair trade" products. As with "organic" products the idea is to have some sort of system to ensure that what is on the shelf in front of the consumer has been produced in the manner that the seller said it was. The U.S. and Canada have one system (little black and white logo of a figure holding two bowls in front of a globe that says "Fair Trade Certified") and everyone else (Europe) uses another system (blue, green and black vaguely ying-yang-y logo that says "Fairtrade").

Stumptown's "Direct Trade" description seems to be something that approximates the process that actual fair trade certified products go through, but without verification and certification. Kind of a "trust us, we're good people" marketing approach. In the end all the certification (whether based on social justice or environmental/health criteria) is just marketing with different levels of producer investment in the branding.

We trust the govt (USDA) to really certify meats and whatnot as that is what they're tasked to do, but in the end you catch some exposé on 20/20 about USDA inspectors peeing in the vats or something and >poof< all your trust in the certification system goes away. But aside from raising the food or making the clothes yourself or establishing a first hand relationship with producers, what the hell can you do...?

(That's a lead-in there for some righteous pontificating by localvores and holier-than-thous to tell us about some opportunities for doing just that....)

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I brought back some Stumptown Tart Framboise for my husband last month.

IMAGE(http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_XYiLrMURRG0/SYox6_1DEqI/AAAAAAAABZc/UDbpsdmHvU8/s320/Stumptown+Tart.jpg)

Do any other UHububs know the derivation of Stumptown?

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Other UHubbers who didn't just finally break down and Google the phrase and find the relevant Wikipedia page :-).

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Let's hear some Sleater-Kinney in there on opening day!

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Oh fuck you stumptown.

Sell outs! They couldn't even work with a shop that can spell cappuccino right.
Everyone is waiting for Boston to join the mature coffee world, and as long as every new cafe is opened by people with no hands-on experience than I think they're going to be waiting a while...

Oh and I hate to be the one to break it to everyone that they are NOT the only roaster serving Direct Trade, in season coffee.

Nothing is more maddening than watching this new starbucks capitalize on what is only a more up-to-date version of coffee hipsterdom.

Please buy your coffee by the farm and not the roaster.

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Oh, come on! I am personally looking forward to the MOCHA Haven that they will offer up at The Thinking Cup! Just think Bostoncoffee-er, a strawberry/white chocolate Mocha with extra whipped cream and a nice shot of Hairbender added for an added touch of coffee flavor? What's NOT to love? The Thinking Cup crew sure did a lot of thinking...and research!! because guess what? besides calling on many fine roasters in the country to get wholesale pricing by using disguised identities and making up stories, I hear that they picked their coffee using a department store blade-grinder to use for French Press using a drip coffee grind! how radical guys!! Big props to Stumptown and the Thinking Cup for stickin' it to The Man, with a cherry on top.

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Why does Boston never get the real thing? We ask for Pinkberry, we get 300 knockoffs. We ask for Stumptown, we get a place with a Web site full of misspellings peddling Stumptown the way local diners used to sell Starbucks. Can't wait for the To 'n' Fro Burger to open...

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Somewhere on Newbury Street.

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As fun as it's been to watch countless poseur yogurt places sprout up and fold (most recently spu*umlaut*n), it's not too much to ask to give a local franchisee the genuine article.

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Just curious... What is the coffee culture like in Boston? Are there many espresso drinkers? I haven't found too many shops that are really serving any good espresso and from the looks of it, this shop may offer something better. "Hairbender" on a La Marzocco GB/5 with some well trained Baristas can really serve the espresso drinkers well...

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Boston's never heard of it. Especially compared to spots in the Pacific Northwest and their espresso stand, Boston's affinity for Dunkin's watered-down swill, small novice roasters like those at JP Licks and outsourced organic blend like Jim's, Boston doesn't know much about coffee or how to prepare it. They recognize the words "fair trade" when they hear them, but couldn't tell you what to do with it. Cambridge has more cafes and its 1369 coffee chain is at least equal to something like Cherry Street in Seattle, but much of the area's "better" coffee is limited to one-off spots like Arlington's Barismo, which is too geeked up on gastronomy to worry about fostering any kind of atmosphere or flavor. Coffee snobs here can be fairly insufferable in honing their craft, and the chip on the region's collective shoulder always places a customer between establishments that scream either "you think you're better than me?" or "of course this is the best coffee, I know so much more about its makeup and point of origin than anyone on earth. In short, there is no coffee culture here... just provincial garbage.

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wow, the mythical projecting, self-hating, over-opinionated, wannabe-not-wannabe elitist.....

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Our clever anon of 11:21 pm sez: "Coffee culture? Boston's never heard of it" and "In short, there is no coffee culture here... just provincial garbage."

Wellll, no. These comments aren't really true, though we're sure they and all the rest felt good to write.

Boston may well be marooned in the middle of a Café Culture Wasteland, but "never heard of it?"

For all your snideness, you should really know better.

Repeat after us: George Howell.

Check out these interviews (September 2, 2005 & September 28, 2005) at CoffeeGeek.com.

It's been a while, but Boston does remember.

Oh, and "[It's all] just provincial garbage"? No. It's multinational garbage, known to some as Cafe Inferno.
 
 
 
—Visit Jonas Prang to read about Youth Resources for Greater Dudley.

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