Bostonians love their coffee, and while New England’s loyalty to Dunkin’ Donuts runs deep, there are plenty of out-of-towners making moves to contend for a portion of the local love.
Here’s a look at the non-local coffee companies that have started to lay down roots in Boston, many of which already provide the beans that fuel some of the local shops. Included are details on coffee companies that are eyeing the Greater Boston metro area for expansions in the coming years as well as those that have already debuted here recently and may or may not be adding even more locations.
This guide is updated periodically as new information becomes available on these expansions and any others that come to light. Originally published on February 6, 2017; the date of the most recent update is indicated above.
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Coming to Boston (maybe...): Philz Coffee
Plus: The Big Chains
This California-based chain professes an emphasis on freshness, only selling coffee in its cafes made with beans roasted within the past 48 hours. Blue Bottle Coffee opened its first location in Massachusetts at 40 Bow St. in Cambridge in early 2018. In mid-May, another location opened in Downtown Boston, and the chain has more cafes planned for the metro area, including one in Boston’s Prudential Center.
Blue Bottle roasts its own beans and baristas are trained to adjust the grind on the coffee beans each day to enhance the flavors, considering that "coffee’s main purpose is to be delicious," according to the Blue Bottle website.
A second California-based coffee chain may also make its way to Boston — eventually. Philz Coffee originally announced plans to open a Boston location sometime last year, 15 years after it first launched in San Francisco, but it didn’t happen. There are now 27 Philz cafes in the Bay Area, six in Southern California, and two East Coast locations in Washington, DC. The company received a large amount of funding in 2016, helping fuel expansion.
The company has not responded to recent Eater inquiries about the status of potential Boston locations; the latest hint is from a December 2017 tweet: “We’re still working hard to find a great location to share Philz with Boston. No projected timeline yet.”
Philz embraces coffee’s third wave of slowed-down brewing methods, serving coffee made "one cup at a time" with beans roasted in its Oakland, CA facility. In addition to a few different roasts, Philz also serves tea and hot chocolate, and some locations serve food.
This Chicago-based coffee roaster operates coffee bars in New York and Los Angeles and distributes its beans to a handful of cafes in Boston (including Forge, Diesel and Bloc Café). There are also Intelligentsia training labs in Atlanta and New York, and recently, the company opened a store and lab in the Boston area, too. Intelligentsia’s coffee bar and training lab arrived in Watertown in spring 2017, becoming the first Intelligentsia location with dedicated parking.
The cafe puts the company’s third wave processes front and center. The chef’s table-style pour over bar was designed to encourage customer interactions with baristas, and Intelligentsia has partnered with Forge Baking Co. in Somerville for its baked goods. The training lab, located in a separate building next door, will have programs for training wholesale customers on preparing coffee and espresso drinks.
Intelligentsia is on the verge of adding a second location in the area, this one in Boston proper, at 225 Franklin St. in the Financial District.
Doug Zell and Emily Mange started Intelligentsia in Chicago in 1995 with a goal of creating a coffee bar featuring their own roasted coffee and emphasizing direct trade relationships and sustainability.
In 2015, Peet's Coffee & Tea acquired a majority stake in Intelligentsia.
The London-based coffee shop that specializes in Italian espresso and cafe fare has had a presence in Boston for a few years now, but 2016 kicked off a massive influx of new Caffe Nero locations all around the city and into the suburbs, with new outposts in Wellesley, Andover, Cambridge, Brookline, and beyond. The company has grown so efficient with its openings that many cafes are up and running before the surrounding neighborhoods can say “double espresso.”
Coming up next: locations in Boston’s Symphony area, in Center Plaza (Downtown Boston), and probably in countless other spots as well.
Founded in Philadelphia, La Colombe has since opened locations in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Boston, starting with a location near South Station, which opened early in 2016. A second location opened in December 2017 in Boston’s Seaport District, at 29 Northern Ave.
La Colombe puts a heavy focus on building a coffee dialogue between local coffee drinkers and the baristas, founder JP Iberti previously told Eater. It also offers a selection of signature drinks, including its draft latte, which is available in cans, and cold brew coffee. The cafes also offer a full lineup of espresso beverages along with light snacks.
A note to would-be remote workers: La Colombe does not offer wifi in its cafes.
This storied coffee chain from Japan chose Boston for its first international location. Ogawa Coffee opened a shop in Downtown Crossing in May of 2015, bringing its "pursuit of coffee perfection" to the U.S. The cafe serves a lineup of specialty coffee beverages, including cold espresso, a trio of single-origin coffees, hot and iced coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, and more, and there’s stadium-style seating so that coffee-lovers can easily watch the baristas at work.
The company was originally founded in 1952 with a mission of perfecting the brewing process and preserving coffee culture. While Ogawa still has only one location in Boston and has not yet announced plans for expansion, there are dozens of shops in Kyoto, Japan.
Caffe Bene first opened in South Korea in 2008 and has since grown to have more than 1600 locations worldwide, including one in Boston at 333 Massachusetts Ave. (near Symphony Hall). The chain sources its beans from Brazil, Bolivia, and Papua New Guinea, and it serves a full range of espresso beverages, from lattes to macchiatos and cappuccinos. Caffe Bene also offers waffles and honey breads with assorted toppings, frozen yogurt, sandwiches, tea, and a handful of blended beverages, including frappes and smoothies.
Sofá Café, a Brazil-based coffee chain that first opened in Boston on Newbury Street in 2014, relocated to Framingham (181 Concord St.) in April of 2017. Owner Diego Gonzales closed down the Boston cafe in October 2016 to prepare for the move. It had been the first North American location for the brand, which first launched in 2011 and now has locations in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Framingham location remains the only Sofá Café in North America.
Other out-of-towners include Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Starbucks, both larger chains with a strong national (and in the case of Starbucks, international) presence. Boston — again, a heavily Dunks-leaning portion of the country — has accepted the influx of Starbucks stores to some degree, but not without a fight.
Case in point: In May 2016, the South Boston neighborhood contested plans for Starbucks at 749 E Broadway. Members of the community expressed concern that the coffee chain would take business away from other local coffee shops, but the opposition did not gain enough traction to get in the way of the Seattle coffee giant. In August 2016, the City of Boston approved the license for the new Southie Starbucks, which is now up and running.