Ogawa Coffee Boston

The Ogawa Coffee logo from the sign outside the Boston branch on Milk Street.Ogawa Coffee is a large (40+ stores) speciality coffee shop chain from Kyoto. However, the branch on Milk Street, right in the heart of downtown Boston, is its first overseas venture, having opened in 2015. An interesting blend of Japanese and American coffee culture, I loved it, particularly the attention to detail shown by the baristas.

The shop itself is long and thin, with perhaps the highest ceilings I’ve seen in a coffee shop this year. About as wide as it is tall, Ogawa has a great sense of space. There’s a good choice of seating too, with tables at the front and what is called stadium seating at the back, opposite the counter. Best of all, you can sit at the counter itself and watch the filter coffee being made.

Talking of coffee, it’s all roasted in Kyoto and air-freighted to the shop on a regular basis. There is a house-blend and three single-origins, which can be had by any method (espresso or hand-pour filter). These are joined on espresso by decaf and guest single-origins which change every week or two. Perhaps best of all, Ogawa serves a tasting flight, where you get to sample all three single-origins side-by-side.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The sign you get that you've found Ogawa on Boston's Milk Street is the sign...
  • ... although the shop front, which is all glass, is also a giveaway.
  • There is a handy (and hard-to-photograph) menu in the left-hand window, plus opening times.
  • A panoramic view from just inside the door, looking towards counter (left) and seating (right).
  • The bulk of the seating is along the right-hand side (seen here from the back).
  • However, there's more seating in the window on the left as you enter.
  • The counter faces you on the left...
  • ... while a corridor on the right leads down past the counter (left) and the stadium seating.
  • The view from the back, with the stadium seating opposite the counter...
  • ... while you can also grab a bar stool and sit at the counter itself.
  • The stadium seating in more detail...
  • ... which comes with its own health and safety warning!
  • The rest of the seating consists of two-person tables like this one.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • The high ceilings really gave Ogawa a chance to show off when it came to lighting!
  • The cups were a big feature of Ogawa. These were on display on a shelf.
  • The cups in more detail.
  • There's a retail shelf to the left of the door where you can buy lots of coffee-making kit...
  • ... plus the coffee itself.
  • There's another minimalist set of retail shelves on the pillar in the centre of the room...
  • ... which had another of the lovely cups...
  • ... plus a coffee sample set.
  • There's a little reading section at the back of the counter.
  • You'll also find this manual version of an Etch A Sketch here. This my attempt at a self-portrait.
  • So, to business. You order at the front of the counter, where you'll find the till.
  • The menu is to the left, above the set of retail shelves.
  • It takes a little navigating, but is fairly comprehensive.
  • There's also a handy, printed version on the counter-top by the till...
  • ... where you'll also find lots of information about the guest single-origins.
  • As well as coffee, there's also food, mostly pre-prepared and kept in the chiller cabinet.
  • There are various savoury breakfast and lunch options...
  • ... as well as pastries and sticky buns.
  • The espresso machine is along the right-hand side of the counter...
  • ... along with its three grinders (house, guest, decaf) where you wait to collect your coffee.
  • The espresso machine's business-end is visible from the till, but you can't really stand & watch.
  • The same goes for the three grinders.
  • Further down is the pour-over area, with the bulk-brewers and EK-43 on the back wall.
  • I opted for the three single-origin tasting flight...
  • ... which consisted of small volumes of coffee made in cafetieres...
  • ... and served in glasses, each with its own set of notes.
  • These include a picture of the farmer and details such as region, etc, as well as tasting notes.
  • My first coffee was from El Salvador, while the second, shown here, was from Costa Rica.
  • Finally, the third came from Guatemala, making a trio of central American coffees.
  • The individual filter coffee was just as beautifully presented, in a carafe on a little tray...
  • ... each one coming with the same tasting/production notes.
  • I finished things off with a decaf cappuccino which was excelllent.
  • I was particularly taken with the latte art...
  • ... which lasted all the way to the bottom of the cup!
  • I also fell to the temptation of a (warm) sticky pecan bun, served with a knife and fork.
  •  I'll leave you with a photo of Ogawa's signature drink, although I never found out what it was!
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Occupying a corner at the top of Boston’s Milk Street, Ogawa Coffee has chosen a striking location for its first overseas branch. The entire front is glass, with a deeply-recessed door between two curving window-bays. As tall as it is wide, it has one of the highest coffee shop ceilings I’ve seen in a while. There are tables in front of each of the window-bays, as well as a two-person square table on the left. However, the bulk of the seating is on the right-hand side, while the counter is about one-third of the way back on the left. A row of two-person tables runs down the right-hand wall before giving way to what is known as “stadium seating”, three rows of bench seating ascending opposite the far end of the counter.

The short side of the counter faces the door, where you’ll find the till and food. The long side runs towards the back of the store, opposite the seating. First come the grinders, then the espresso machine. Ogawa, as is typical of speciality coffee shops in America, operates a counter service, so you also collect your coffee here. Next there’s a pillar, beyond which is the pour-over part of Ogawa, where you’ll also find a few bar stools, so you can sit and watch the coffee being made.

The focus at Ogawa is firmly on the coffee. There is a choice of the house-blend and three single-origins, all of which can be had as espresso or pour-over, using either the Kalita Wave or Aeropress. If you really can’t wait, the house-blend is available as bulk-brew filter, where it is joined by decaf (also available as espresso). If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a guest single-origin (or two) on espresso, plus a tasting flight of the three single-origins, which is what I opted for.

Initially, I sat at one of the tables on the side, but Daniella, my barista, invited me up to the counter so that I could watch my coffee being made. The tasting flight uses the humble cafetiere since, Daniella told me, it is the cleanest method, involving no filters. 15g of coffee is used, with 130ml of water, with a brew time of three minutes. The coffee is then served in glasses, all presented on a tray with tasting and production notes for each coffee, including a sketch of the farmer, which was a nice touch.

You’re encouraged to try small amounts of each coffee and compare them, as well as let them cool. Initially I wasn’t very keen on the Guatemalan and found it difficult to distinguish between the El Salvador and Costa Rican, but as they cooled, they evolved, with the Guatemalan becoming really fruity, while the Costa Rican became my favourite, turning out to be a very well-balanced coffee.

I enjoyed sitting at the back, removed from the hustle and bustle of the other customers, watching the baristas making Kalita Waves and Aeropresses. I was very impressed with the attention to detail and also with the engagement from the staff, all of whom appeared very knowledgeable and happy to talk with me.

I was there so long that I thought I ought to order another coffee and so had a very fine decaf cappuccino. Smooth and strong, the taste of the coffee clearly came through the milk, combining very well with its natural sweetness. The latte art was also very impressive.

I paired this with a warm, sticky, pecan bun. This was served on a plate, complete with knife and fork, and wasn’t too sweet, which I always appreciate. All very civilised.

September 2019: see what I made of Ogawa Coffee when I visited its home town of Kyoto.

www.ogawacoffeeusa.com +1 617-780-7139
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Ogawa (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Stadium Seating
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Limited
Chain International Visits 25th February 2016
12th February 2022

Liked this? Then take a look at the Coffee Spot Guide to Boston and Cambridge for more great coffee Spots. For an alternative viewpoint, you can see what fellow-blogger Bex made of Ogawa Coffee in her Guide to Speciality Coffee in Boston.

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