Multi-wave coffee iconoclast and tastemaker George Howell has opened his first George Howell Coffee retail location in Boston this month, located within the newly launched Boston Public Market development of artisan food-pushers. The downtown market plays home to vendors like Union Square Donuts, Cellars at Jasper Hill, Taza Chocolate, and Noodle Lab. George Howell Coffee is the sole coffee vendor.
The 200-square-foot cafe area will serve FETCO brews du jour along with espresso beverages prepared on a La Marzocco Strada EP; brew to order Chemex service is planned in the not-too-distant future. Beans will come from Howell's Acton, Mass. roastery, some 30 miles away.
For many fans of Howell's legendarily discerning approach to roasting, the move towards more accessible retail is an exciting one, and serves as a precursor to the company's plans to open a spacious cafe in the Godfrey Hotel by early winter. “We certainly plan to put Boston on the coffee map,” said Howell in a telephone interview.
Mr. Howell, a vocal opponent of cold brew coffee, acknowledges that his shops will find a place for iced coffee, but “properly done,” he stressed—occasionally pausing throughout our interview to taste multiple cold-coffee preparations.
“We may offer cold brew but if you really want to taste coffee, single estate terroir-based coffees, you have to try it authentically made through the hot water process,” said Howell, “not through cold brew, which is an interesting drink but which is more like a beer than it is a single origin.”
“It's a much greater challenge to create real iced coffee. It hasn't been done, really,” he continued.
Though the Boston Public Market coffee bar is limited by space, an adjacent teaching kitchen within the market will serve as a venue for meet-the-producer events, tastings, home-brewing classes, and other coffee education opportunities.
Improved access to the coffees and wisdom of industry veteran Howell, inventor of the Frappuccino(tm) and popularizer of the refractometer, among other things, could be a watershed moment for Boston specialty coffee. Howell himself is confident his two cafes slated for this year will be game changers.
“Not since the Coffee Connection has there really been a coffee statement in Boston as far as I'm concerned,” Howell told Sprudge.
“We intend to do that.”
Liz Clayton is Sprudge.com's associate editor. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.