I just love the complexity of different beans and blends. I love the originality of coffees from all different regions of the world. They are all so unique. Some are rich and smooth and chocolately; others taste of berries or citrus; some are earthy giving off flavors like tobacco, bitter, earthy and verdant. Coffee is like wine in a sense. There are rituals involved in the making of, the preparation of and the aging of. There are connoisseurs who spend years perfecting blends and roasting methods or traveling the world in search of the perfect bean. It is all so fascinating. Coffee may not grow in New England climates, but I believe the soul of coffee is in New England. People in New England know what to do with their coffee, to bring it to the next level. Everywhere you go in New England you can find excellent coffee. Even gas stations serve up Green Mountain Coffee and McDonalds has Newmanâ€™s Own Organic Coffee. But the real unique ways of preparing coffee are found in the local coffee shop in those picturesque towns in Vermont or Massachusetts. No matter how small the town is, you can always find a local coffee joint. There are Starbucks to be found of course, but people generally prefer their local coffee place. There is excellent competition between coffee houses which for the consumer means there is great coffee to be had around every corner.
That was one of my major goals of our recent trip to New England. I wanted to go back to all my favorite coffee joints and boy was it ever a treat!
Jennâ€™s Top 5 Coffee Joints in New England:
Now you have all heard me sing the praises of Lisabeeen coffee. Lisa is an artisan of coffee roasting. She is constantly trying different blends and perfecting her art of coffee roasting. Since I am fortunate enough to be very close friends with this amazing woman, I know she is a perfectionist in general, meaning this coffee obsession of hers reaps the benefits. Roberto and I were able to spend a few days with her and her partner Nicki, one of my closest friends at their home in Bennington, Vermont where she showed us her artistry.
Last summer Lisa built a roaster from a gas grill. She lovingly roasts each batch to order and the result is something you just cannot get anywhere else, period.
It is the only coffee that needs absolutely nothing in it, unless you like a little steamed milk. The flavors are distinct and delicious. Not only that, but when she makes a latte for you (her specialty of the house) she pours the most ingenious coffee art – see the kitty!
She has won several competitions. So please do yourself a favor and contact her so you can get your own delicious hand roasted beans! Also if you are in Bennington and enjoy punk, check her blog for dates that her and Nickiâ€™s band BITCH KITTY might be playing.
Mt. Joe To Go
New England has a wonderful tradition of coffee shacks. Little tiny huts along major roadways that you can just drive up to and get a delicious cup o joe or an amazing coffee creation for very little. There used to be a little shack near where I used to work called Northern Lights that had delicious maple lattes. It has since changed hands, but I am happy to see that it remains a coffee shack. There was another in Jacksonville, VT that Roberto passed everyday to go to work. It was painted bright orange and there was an older gentleman behind the counter that had all the local gossip and imported bagels from New York City where his daughter lived.
There is a new place on Rte. 141 between Easthampton and Holyoke, MA on the mountain called Mountain Joe To Go. My friend Diana told me about it when she picked us up from the airport with one of their mango smoothies in hand. That very day, I had to check it out and I got a frozen Kona Mocha that became my new favorite thing! Makes me want to bring the coffee shack tradition to Florida!
I used to pass Shelburne Coffee Roasters everyday on my way to work from our house in Vermont to my job in Mass. It was halfway and a great way to break up my hour commute. It has a large seating area in the back, but the front end is always packed! They have at least 8 thermoses of coffee set up for self serve and you can get a cup for only $1. They roast their own coffee and have very unique flavors and blends. I am not a fan of flavored coffee usually (unless it is hazelnut) but they have some wonderful ones! During this trip I tried a Chestnut coffee which tasted just like the essence of a roasted chestnut. I also had a Maple Caffee â€“ coffee of my choice, served with steamed milk and pure maple syrup. Delicious. They also bake tarts, muffins. Scones and coffee cakes daily. The ambience is just great.
This cafÃ© had just opened a few months before we moved to Florida. It was right by my office, so I had lunch there frequently. They have some of the freshest and simple delicious food I have ever tasted (more of that in another post). But they also have great coffee drinks â€“ cappuccinos to be exact. Like many coffee houses in New England every one comes with coffee art. Nice touch.
We had the wonderful chance to go to Little Italy in Boston while we were away. I will be writing an article about it on my TravelCloseup blog. But the beauty of it in the coffee sense was that every few steps there was a coffee place or Bar as they call it in Italy where you can enjoy the real Italian espresso. But it is bitter so be prepared!