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Bostonians Hit Caffeine Crawl from Newtonville to South End

Participants Educate Themselves on the Ins and Outs of their Favorite Coffee

Asst. Metro Editor

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013

Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 00:04

Coffee enthusiasts and caffeine junkies hit the streets to meet up with some of the most renowned baristas in the Boston area on Apr. 13 in what was not only a chance to try a variety of coffees, but also a chance to learn about the craft of coffee-making, one held sacred in most major cities across the country.

The Boston Caffeine Crawl, which incorporated 18 coffee shops across three routes, provided those who purchased tickets with the opportunity to sample coffees and learn the ins and outs of how Boston’s best coffees are brewed.

The North Route worked its way from near Somerville and down into Cambridge.

The Central Route incorporated shops from the Cambridge region as well, but worked its way into the North End.

The South Route was the most advantageous for a Boston College student, as its path began in Newton, making its way onto Boston’s Newbury St. and into the South End.

At the first stop on the route, participants were given a small bag of treats for coffee lovers, including a copy of Barista magazine and a small snack to provide a reprieve from a day otherwise filled with drinking coffee.

The George Howell Cafe, located in Newtonville, is in a section of Newton near BC’s Newton Campus and was the first stop on the South Route.

George Howell, the owner of the cafe, has played an integral role in the coffee industry since he became a leader in the specialty coffee movement in the 1970s.

His son, Nathaniel Howell, also in the coffee business, gave a detailed presentation for those on the caffeine crawl, providing them with both a Guatemalan and a Columbian coffee.

The George Howell Cafe prides itself on making good use of light roasting, so that customers receive as much out of each cup as possible.

“George Howell had a kind of homey, quiet feel,” said Justin Michaels of Quincy, one man on the caffeine crawl.

George Howell, along with each cafe on the route, was dedicated to the nuances of coffee flavor, given that, as a barista at Render Coffee reminded attendees, coffee does indeed come from a fruit.

Several baristas at other coffee shops seemed familiar with George Howell, and frequently praised him for improving the coffee industry, one that spans the entire globe.

Most of the coffee shops noted the importance of single-origin coffee, as opposed to the blended coffee to which many are accustomed.

Because of this dedication to different flavors from unique coffee beans, Nathaniel Howell provided information about the altitude at which coffee beans were harvested for George Howell’s cafe.

Their Columbian coffee, for example, which was harvested between 5,400 and 5,750 feet, was fruitier than its Guatemalan counterpart, harvested had about 5,300 feet, which had a more acidic flavor.

The second stop on the South Route was Cafe Nation in Brighton, where head barista Dave Russell prepared what he called a matcha macchiato, an item not yet on their menu.

The macchiato incorporated matcha, which are finely ground green tea leaves, as well as an espresso shot.

“The matcha macchiato was the most interesting thing I’ve had all day,” said Tom Marcella of Brookline.

Amy Linsky of Jamaica Plain echoed Marcella’s sentiments about Cafe Nation, but honed in on the personalities of the baristas. “I really liked the guys at Cafe Nation. I could really see the environment being an interesting one to go to.”

The crawl also brought attendees to 4A Coffee in Brookline, so named for the four locations from which it receives its beans—North and South America, as well as Africa and Asia.

The first 4A Coffee was founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan by Alan Draper and his wife, Erke, before they decided to open for business in Brookline.

Draper brought attendees behind the counter to examine beans and to show various levels of roasting beans undergo. The coffee shop roasts its beans at city and full-city levels, but Draper maintained that a full-city coffee was often preferred by customers that would rather have a smoother coffee as opposed to the acidic taste that more seasoned coffee drinkers often prefer in a cup of city-level roast.

Pavement Coffee House on Newbury St., one of three locations in the Boston area, invited the caffeine crawlers onto their porch to enjoy the sunny Saturday, where a barista served an Ethiopian coffee. They demonstrated some of the different techniques used to get the best flavor out of a cup of coffee.

The theme of attention to flavor was underscored in the South End’s Render Coffee as well, where owners had placed a chart on the wall that described the various flavors and aromas that a coffee drinker might experience. The baristas at Render Coffee emphasized a dedication to a pour-over cup.

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