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.
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|
|www.phincoffeehouse.com||+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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