George Howell is a something of a legend in American speciality coffee. He made his name as a roaster, but recently George, as his staff refer to him, has started opening coffee shops under the George Howell brand, starting in Newtonville in 2012. This, the subject of today’s Saturday Short, is the first branch in Boston, in the high-profile, newly-opened Boston Public Market, while a second Boston location in the Godfrey Hotel on Washington Street opened this summer.
Boston Public Market is home to a high-quality espresso/coffee bar, catering primarily to the takeaway market, but with proper cups for espresso and glasses for cortados. It’s an impressive operation, with house-blend, single-farm and decaf on espresso, plus further single-farm coffees for the iced-coffee, bulk-brew (coffee of the week) and individual pour-overs, courtesy of twin Marco Beverage Systems SP9s. You can buy retail bags of coffee, plus various merchandising and coffee-related kit.
February 2022: I’ve updated my piece on George Howell, Boston Public Market. This is the original write-up, published in September 2016. For an up-to-date description, please see the updated post, while you can see what’s changed in my Coffee Spot Update.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Boston Public Market is in downtown Boston, near City Hall and the more tourist-orientated Fanuiel Hall/Quincy Market. Opening in 2015, from the outset it was reserved for local producers, something akin to a large, indoor farmers’ market. By dint of roasting its coffee 24.5 miles away in Acton, MA, George Howell meets the criteria, and has been part of the market from the outset, bringing high-quality speciality coffee to a high-profile location. Although only selling coffee, George Howell is one of almost 40 local producers in the market, including bakers, farmers and various hot/cold food outlets, so if you want cake or something more substantial to go with your coffee, there are plenty of options.
George Howell is relatively easy to find even if, like me, you’ve never been to the Public Market before. Entering from the corner of Congress/Hanover Streets, take the first aisle on the left and you’ll find George Howell at the end, on the right, close to the entrance to the Haymarket T-station.
The stand occupies a simple rectangle, the long side facing the aisle. There’s a retail section on the right, then comes the till and a broad expense of counter-top. Most will take their coffee and go, but if you want to linger while nattering with the staff, this is the place to do it. The menu is behind the counter on the right-hand side, while to the left, there are the obligatory bulk-brewers, along with an EK43 grinder. Mounted within the counter itself are a pair of Marco Beverage Systems SP9s for individual filter coffee. Installed just before my visit, they hadn’t been plumbed in yet, so I was unable to see them in action. The narrow end of the counter to your left contains the three-group La Marzocco Strada, along with three Mythos grinders (Alchemy house-blend, single-farm espresso and decaf), which means that you can watch your coffee being made while you stand at the counter.
I tried the single-farm espresso, a Kenyan Mamuto AA, recommended by the staff as an espresso (the Alchemy blend being the preferred option in milk). Described as the lightest roast on offer, and a Kenyan to boot, it was, as I suspected, far too bright and acidic for my palate, although I’m glad I tried it. Beautifully prepared, it was served in an amazing cup with a sloping rim, something which my pictures utterly failed to do justice to.
It’s refreshing to find speciality coffee is such a high-profile setting and done so well. I spent 20 minutes chatting with the staff, who impressed me with their knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to engage with the customers. They also run classes/coffee sessions on a regular basis.
|BOSTON PUBLIC MARKET • 100 HANOVER ST • BOSTON • MA 02108 • USA|
|www.georgehowellcoffee.com||+1 617 777 2217|
|Monday||CLOSED||Roaster||George Howell (espresso + filter)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 20:00||Food||N/A|
|Thursday||08:00 – 20:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 20:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 20:00||Wifi||N/A|
|Sunday||10:00 – 20:00||Power||N/A|
|Chain||Local||Visits||Original: 25th February 2016
Update: 11th February 2022