Phin Coffee House

The Ca Phe Phin from Phin Coffee House in Boston: traditional Vietnamese Robusta coffee mixed with condensed milk and lots and lots of ice, served in a double-walled glass.I’d noticed Phin Coffee House on my last visit to Boston in February, but with an already-full itinerary, Phin went on my potentials list instead. When I returned to Boston for a one-day downtown tour on Monday, Phin was still a potential destination, but after my first stop of a packed day at Intelligentsia Coffee, where the barista recommended it, Phin moved to the top of the list. A recent addition to Boston’s speciality coffee scene, Phin only opened a year ago, occupying a spot at the western end of the High Street, conveniently just across the Rose Kennedy Greenway from South Station.

Phin is a Vietnamese coffee shop, owned by a lady originally from Ho Chi Minh City. There’s a fairly traditional third wave offering of espresso-based drinks, batch brew filter, pour-over and cold brew, all using a bespoke house blend and decaf from Barrington Coffee Roasting Company in western Massachusetts. This is joined by a number of house specials, including Ca Phe Phin, made with the Vietnamese cup-top filter of the same name. If you’re hungry, Phin has a range of sandwiches and more substantial plates and salads, mixing Western and Vietnamese classics, plus a selection of cakes.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Phin Coffee House at the western end of Boston High Street.
  • The view from the south side of the High Street, where the door is on the right-hand side.
  • Crossing over to the north side of the street... Let's go in.
  • The view from just inside the door, where the counter is at the back...
  • ... and the seating is at the front.
  • The seating starts with this five-person window-bar to the left of the door.
  • This is followed by a row of five two-person tables in the second set of windows.
  • The tables, as seen from the back.
  • The seating continues in an L-shape down the left-hand wall with a two-person table...
  • ... followed by this four-person table at the back.
  • The counter, as seen from the other end of Phin Coffee Shop.
  • Here's a view of the seating from the far end, looking back towards the door.
  • These shelves are down the right-hand side of the counter.
  • I really liked some of the old coffee equipment...
  • ... with the hand grinder on the top shelf a personal favourite.
  • Just in case you need reminiding where you are.
  • Artwork from the left-hand wall...
  • ... along with the obligatory light bulb shot.
  • You order in middle of the counter, where it's lower.
  • The various coffee options are on the back wall, above the batch brewer.
  • There's a very concise set of options to the left, with variations to the right.
  • The espresso and filter both use the same bespoke blend (right) or decaf (left)...
  • ... which, for now, are also offered as pour-over options.
  • There are printed versions of the menu (with prices) on the counter as well...
  • ... while you'll find the cake selection to the left of the till.
  • On the back wall, to the left of that, you'll find the house specials, with the Ca Phe Phin...
  • ... at the top, which is what I ordered. Prepared using the traditional cup-top filter...
  • ... it features a blend of Vietnamese Robusta coffee which you can see here.
  • The Ca Phe Phin in action. The resulting coffee in mixed with ice and condensed milk...
  • ... to form the completed drink, served in a double-walled glass cup. More of a liquid...
  • ... dessert, it went very well with my avocado toast, which is where I'll leave you.
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Although I’d seen Phin Coffee Shop when I was in Boston in February, and knew, in theory, where it was, it’s easily enough missed if you’re not paying attention. On the north side of the High Street, it’s part of the short block between the start of the High Street (at Summer Street) and Federal Street. It’s also midway between two other places I visited that day: Kōhi Coffee Company, a block west on Summer Street, and the new Gracenote, a block east at High Street Place.

Phin Coffee Shop occupies a simple rectangle, with the long side facing the street. There are two wide window-bays along the front, each with three windows, except that what would be the final window on the right is a recessed door. This brings you in at the front of Phin, on the right, while there’s a second door in the back left-hand corner which leads into the Rice Building, saving office workers there a short walk outside, an important consideration during New England winters.

The layout is simple, with the counter, which is at the back, running almost the full width of Phin, stopping just short of both walls. The seating, which is in an L-shape, runs along the front and down the left-hand wall, starting with a five-person window-bar in the two windows to the left of the door. A row of five two-person tables (which can be pushed together to make sets of four) occupies the second bay of windows, while there’s another two-person table followed by a four-person one down the left-hand wall.

The counter starts with the La Marzocco gb5 espresso machine, followed by a low middle section, where you order, the drinks menus conveniently located on the wall behind the counter (although there are also printed versions by the till). You’ll find the cakes here, with more on top of a chiller cabinet to the left, which holds yoghurts and soft drinks. Finally, a short extension down the left-hand side is home to the cold brew and pour-over equipment.

Phin Coffee House has a commendably concise espresso-based menu, along with batch brew filter, pour-over and cold brew, all made with the same bespoke house-blend from Barrington Coffee Roasting Company. There are plans to offer single-origin pour-overs when demand increases, but for now there isn’t the volume of orders to justify carrying the extra range of coffee.

I might have been tempted by a pour-over, but instead I ordered the Ca Phe Phin, assuming it would be a black coffee, made with the traditional cup-top filter that I’d last had (in a coffee shop) five years ago in Vietnam. Instead, I got another traditional Vietnamese drink, which I think of as Ca Phe Sua Da. Consisting of a blend of Vietnamese Robusta coffee, prepared using the Ca Phe Phin, plus condensed milk and lots and lots of ice, I consider it more a liquid, coffee-flavoured dessert than my typical afternoon coffee.

As it turned out, it was a happy accident, since I really enjoyed it. Even better, I couldn’t taste the Robusta. It also went very nicely with the avocado toast that I had for lunch. This consisted of a slice of multigrain toast, topped with smashed avocado, (not very) spicy mayonnaise and a hard-boiled egg, all with a salad on the side. Perfect.

10 HIGH STREET • BOSTON • MA 02110 • USA +1 617 377 4170
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Barrington Coffee Roasting Company (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Window-bar, Tables
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 2nd May 2022

If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Boston’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Boston & Cambridge.

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