Does Northampton — located in Western Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, about a two-hour drive from Boston — have the most coffee shops per capita of any town in Massachusetts? It certainly seems that way. For a city of just under 30,000, there are roughly…a lot. Park at the main garage, and you’ll be greeted by a sign proclaiming, “Welcome to Northampton: Where the coffee is strong and so are the women.”
With a downtown about the size of a single Cambridge or Somerville square, there is an embarrassment of great mugs of coffee and places in which to enjoy them (or take it to go). Given the culture and aesthetic of Northampton, odds are that wherever you go, there may be exposed brick and fair-trade beans.
Why? Maybe it’s the fact that Northampton is one of the main cities within the “Five Colleges” area — referring to UMass, Amherst, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and Hampshire — which means lots of students, faculty, and staff in need of caffeine. Maybe it’s the progressive politics of the area, in keeping with the long history of coffee shops as places of social foment. Or maybe it’s just that people here in the “Paradise City” within the “Happy Valley” (true things) just know how to live.
Coffee takes many forms here, from restaurants that serve coffee to coffee roasters or bakeries with a well-maintained urn or two, but this guide focuses on establishments that exist primarily to serve coffee (with a few honorable mentions in the other categories at the end). All run the gamut from espresso to drip, some get into specialty drinks, and others offer entire breakfast, lunch, or dinner menus.
Even though you’re not in the big city, it’s doubtful that any server would bat an eye if you ask for, say, a cold brew with oat milk, but if you’re very particular about your order, you may want to double check the menu first.
And you know the pandemic drill: It’s best to call ahead to check hours and confirm that in-person service is happening.
1 Market St., Northampton
The Roost has a cozy yet industrial atmosphere, with indoor plants and repurposed and salvaged materials such as classroom furniture and wine bottle light fixtures. The fun and welcoming space was designed in collaboration with the furniture store and workshop next door, Sticks and Bricks. Gimme Coffee, based in Ithaca, New York, creates a medium roast house blend for the Roost, Buzz Al-drip, which combines 70% Brazil Cerrado with 30% Java Blue Batavia beans. It’s also used for the Roost’s cold brew, and the espresso is a blend of Guatemalan and Peruvian beans.
The Roost has a beer and wine license, and it works equally well as an evening pub as a place to grab morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich. The dessert case is a spectacle unto itself, with towering coconut, carrot, and chocolate stout cakes.
The Roost is about to undergo a significant renovation, with an “entirely new setup,” says owner Robyn Wynn. The new layout will redesign the corner closest to Market and Bridge street with glass accordion windows and doors that will be opened in warmer weather for what Wynn calls an “open-air, European style cafe” feature.
Also served: breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine, beer, baked goods, smoothies.
185 Main St., Northampton
Open since 1991, Haymarket is one of the oldest cafes in town. The entirely vegetarian establishment is a coffee shop upstairs and full-on restaurant downstairs. Named for the Chicago square that was the site of a major episode in labor history, Haymarket pays a living wage for all employees and therefore does not accept tips. There’s also something called the Common Account, which takes donations in order to cover the cost of a sliding-scale menu for those in need of financial assistance. (200 to 800 of these meals are served each month, per the Haymarket website.) Original owner Peter Simpson roasts all the coffee himself on “an old school” Sivetz fluid air bed roaster, and the house blend is a combination of Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans. Also, the slightly well-done croissants may be the best in town.
Also served: breakfast, lunch, dinner, smoothies, juice “cocktails.”
273 Main St., Northampton
There are two Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters locations in Northampton alone, one right downtown and one on the less picturesque but more commuter-friendly King Street (and even more in multiple towns nearby). There’s a different regional, organic coffee served each day of the week (Sumatran on Monday, Mexican on Saturday, and so on), as well as a rotating series of daily flavored coffees in both regular and decaf. All coffee for all locations is roasted at the company facility in the namesake town of Shelburne. If you like coffee with flavors like chocolate raspberry, this may be the place for you.
Also served: breakfast, lunch, baked goods.
269 Pleasant St., Northampton
Catalpa is housed in an uncluttered, smallish space with a bright leaf-print wall design in what was formerly Northampton Coffee. Both dark and light roasts are served in the morning, with medium coming online in the afternoon. The vibe and volume tend toward calm and quiet. The coffee shop is owned by the same family as Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, and the coffee is roasted in Shelburne, though it’s a separate entity. There’s another Catalpa in nearby Greenfield, and baked goods come from Tart Baking Co., also in Northampton, which is considered a sibling establishment. Not something you see on every menu: an espresso tonic.
Also served: breakfast sandwiches, baked goods.
241 Main St., Northampton
A large black-and-white sign out front just says “coffee” in huge letters, and it is cheered by a hanging basket of ever-orange plastic fruit. The black-and-white theme continues inside the interestingly long space that was formerly the Green Bean. Cafe Balagan opened mid-pandemic and serves Intelligentsia Coffee (based in Chicago), available in house blend and El Diablo dark roast. Espresso drinks are the main focus, such as the carmelita or flat white. If you’re looking for something more than caffeine, the cafe shares a wall with Balagan Cannabis, a dispensary run by the same owners, although it’s a separate business.
Also served: smoothies, sandwiches, baked goods.
150 Main St., Northampton
No visit to Northampton is complete without a trip to Thornes, a multi-story indoor mall of sorts made up entirely of independent shops, including Share Coffee. Thornes functions as the geographic and thematic center of town, and Share is right in the middle of it (the adjacent parking garage is absurdly cheap, by Boston or any other standards, making it a good base for a day trip.) Share Coffee also has a location in Amherst, and all of its beans are roasted at Share Coffee Roasters in nearby Hadley. In addition to espresso drinks, Share serves a single-origin, light roast drip coffee that tends to rotate on a weekly basis.
Also served: breakfast, sandwiches, baked goods.
60 Masonic St. B, Northampton
A warm, inviting space with ample natural light in what was once a fire station, Woodstar is a solid all-around cafe and a full-scale bakery. This is a “multi-roaster” coffee shop, with beans from Esselon Café and Coffee Roasting in Hadley and Mocha Joe’s Roasting Company in Brattleboro, Vermont. Woodstar serves a rotating selection of medium roast, single-origin coffee that may hail from Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, or Honduras. “It’s always a strong cup of coffee and it’s always an ethically sourced cup of coffee,” says founder and co-owner Rebecca Robbins. With three separate rooms and outdoor seating, it’s often possible to find a section of Woodstar that tends more towards studious or conversational. In cold weather, some outdoor tables are equipped with gas fire pits.
Also served: breakfast, lunch, dinner, smoothies, baked goods.
48 Main St., Northampton
Patisserie Lenox features a dedicated menu of French pastries, and it makes for quite the appetizing spread. These include viennoiseries (croissants, brioches), choux pastries, fruit tarts, specialty cakes, and several types of French macarons. The coffee is roasted just across the Connecticut River at Esselon Café and Coffee Roasting (quite the cafe in its own right). Esselon makes a dark French roast for the drip coffee and a dark Italian roast used in the espresso. Patisserie Lenox owner Yulia Bougouin describes the coffee as chocolatey, saying “I am adamant about coffee not giving you that acidic aftertaste that medium roasts are often accompanied by.” The patisserie has two additional locations in the Berkshires; another in Hudson, New York, closed in early 2022, citing staffing shortages and other pandemic-related challenges.
Also served: breakfast, lunch, dinner, baked goods.
6 Strong Ave., Northampton
Locals rejoiced when this train car structure finally reopened after several years of sitting vacant, after having been home to about half a dozen iterations of diner since the 1930s.
Perhaps the most “curated” look of any of the Northampton coffee shops, Familiars radiates clean, handsome design, including wood paneling salvaged from a local paper mill. Here you’ll find light and medium roast drip coffee and pour overs, along with espresso and other speciality drinks. Familiars sources its beans from Counter Culture, which is based out of Durham, North Carolina. At the moment, the single-origin, Peruvian Valle Del Santuario is on offer. The city will once again close Strong Avenue to car traffic this summer, allowing Familiars to expand its outdoor dining area. In warmer weather, Familiars also has outdoor tables right along the idyllic Northampton Rail Trail System, making it easy to pedal up for a cup. (Note: As of press time, Familiars’s indoor seating remains closed due to the pandemic; takeout and outdoor seating are currently available.)
Menu highlight, under “Traditional Macchiato”: “If you are looking for a Starbucks macchiato order a vanilla latte instead.”
Also served: breakfast, lunch, baked goods.
- Rooster Cafe: Located just outside of downtown at the headquarters of the mental health and human services agency ServiceNet, the cafe doubles as a vocational training program.
- Dobrá Tea: In case you somehow don’t like coffee.
- Amanouz Café: More of a restaurant but serves nous nous (Moroccan coffee).
- Pie Bar: More of a bakery, but with solid coffee, in downtown Florence (a village of Northampton).
- Closed during the pandemic and hopefully reopening some day: Iconica, Yup (Yup’s roastery remains in operation, but its onsite cafe is currently closed.)
- Possibly forthcoming: NoHo Social.