I think I’ve found a new favourite in Boston. Head a few blocks along Columbus Avenue past my favourite breakfast spot, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, and you’ll find Render Coffee, just before the junction with Massachusetts Avenue. Ironically, I found it from the other direction, walking south along Mass Ave from Pavement Coffeehouse on Boylston. Although only 10 minutes from Pavement, the contrast couldn’t have been sharper, going from the busy Pavement to the relatively laid-back calm of Render. Quiet, but not empty, it was a relaxed and relaxing place to spend the afternoon.
Like Pavement, Render serves Counter Culture as both espresso and pour-over, along with guest coffees (both from Gracenote Coffee during my visits). One of the things I really liked is there’s no bulk-brew filter coffee. Instead, Render only offers hand-pour. There’s also an excellent selection of food and cake.
Long and thin seems to be a theme for Boston coffee shops and Render is no different in this respect. Accessed by a short flight of steps up from Columbus Avenue, you can sit right at the front and watch the traffic go by, or better still, sit at the back where there’s an excellent fireplace and conservatory!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Render Coffee feels like a neighbourhood coffee shop, catering more to South End residents than Back Bay students. It’s well-served by windows at the front and conservatory at the back, filling the place with light. Notwithstanding a small window-bar at the front, the seating is at the back, beyond the counter. This runs down the right-hand side: cake first, then coffee, followed by food.
There’s enough space between counter and wall so that takeaway customers and anyone waiting to order don’t get in the way of those looking to sit down. That’s right, no waiting around to collect your coffee here. Other American coffee shops take note; Render brings your coffee to your table!
Beyond the counter, things open out a little. There’s a superb fireplace with a small table on the right, five well-spaced tables in a row behind that. Beyond them is the glass-walled/ceilinged conservatory with six tables. Right at the back is an outdoor seating area (sensibly closed for the winter).
The interior is lovely, with plain white walls, wooden floor and neat artwork, let down only by the polystyrene ceiling tiles. Classic blues playing quietly in the background completed the perfect atmosphere.
My first visit was at five o’clock on a cold Wednesday afternoon. Having established at Pavement that I wouldn’t enjoy Counter Culture’s Burundi (Buziraguhindwa) single-origin as a straight espresso, I had long discussion with Dan, my barista. The result was a cortado. It had great milk structure, the sweetness inherent in the coffee blended well with the milk, while the body came through good and strong. It was a good call by Dan; the coffee would have been lost in any more milk.
I paired this with a pumpkin-glazed Hekla (an Icelandic cinnamon roll). At Dan’s suggestion, I had it hot, another an excellent call; it smelled lovely as it was brought over to the table. It tasted just as good: sweet, but not too sweet, and not too sticky either.
I followed this with the Rwanda Kigeyo from Gracenote: straight espresso in classic, black cup. While it was lovely, it was very bright and definitely not suited to my palette.
It was a bit late to eat, but prompted by Will (who does the food), I returned at four the following day. Ironically, Will and Dan weren’t there, but I was well looked-after by Marissa and Sam. This time I had pour-over, with three options from Counter Culture and one from Gracenote. The most interesting was the decaf option, a Peruvian from Counter Culture, so I had that.
The result was a very fine cup: smooth, with good body and nothing too challenging for my palette. It also mellowed as it cooled, getting fuller in body if that’s possible. I paired this with an excellent veggie wrap (I noted that there was more than one veggie choice on the menu). This had great wholemeal bread, packed full of vegetables with a sharp, balsamic vinegar dressing.
I followed this with an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (Kemgen) from Gracenote. I actually preferred the decaf, although the Kemgen was perfectly acceptable. It was certainly more interesting on the palette. Although I was sorely tempted by another Hekla (this time with maple-glaze), I had a corn muffin, an excellent choice, the corn giving it a bit of body/structure.
1st June 2015
I popped back into Render on my return to Boston in June 2015. With Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe closed for an extensive refit, I decided to start my day (and my trip) at Render. It’s as lovely as ever and I was well-rewarded with a great cappuccino (using the guest espresso blend, Time and Temp, from Portland’s Tandem Coffee Roasters) and a very tasty breakfast bagel. This is one of the build-your-own types: I had plain egg, cheddar and tomato on a whole-wheat bagel (although if I’m honest, selecting all the options was far too much choice first thing in the morning!).
22nd February 2016
I was back again on my next visit to Boston to find that Render now uses Portland’s Tandem Coffee Roasters and the local Gracenote Coffee rather than Counter Culture. Otherwise, there’s still the same great choice of coffees on espresso or pour-over.
14th February 2017
I was in Boston for a day, so couldn’t resist heading back to Render for breakfast (another build-your-own-bagel) and an awesome cappuccino using Tandem’s West Coast Blues blend. You can also see what I found when I checked out Render’s new downtown branch, Render Coffee 121.
|563 COLUMBUS AVENUE • BOSTON • MA 02118 • USA|
|http://rendercoffeebar.com||+1 617 262 4142|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Tandem + Gracenote (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables, Window Bar|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:00||Cards||American Express, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 19:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||5th, 6th March 2014; 1st June 2015
22nd February 2016; 14th February 2017
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Boston’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Boston and Cambridge. For an alternative viewpoint, you can see what fellow-blogger Bex made of Render Coffee in her Guide to Speciality Coffee in Boston.
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