Simon’s Coffee Shop

Name: Simon’s Coffee Shop
Location: 1736 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Roasters: Barismo and Terroir

Rating: 3

Simon’s Coffee Shop isn’t too far from Diesel or 1369 when it comes to cafe classifications. Inside is a nice version of your standard coffeehouse with worn wooden floors, a pressed tin ceiling, slightly touched up original architectural features, and chalkboard menus. The marble-topped tables surrounded by rickety chairs line one wall of this long and narrow cafe while the wooden bar runs much of its length. What makes it different than these two cafes is the presence of multiple roasters and brew options.  What makes it similar is the overall quality of the coffee.

I originally sought out Simon’s because I knew they used Barismo’s coffee. It turns out Simon’s also uses coffee from Terroir, Boston’s biggest quality coffee roaster. Bags from both roasters occupy the wooden stand to the left of the door. Given the competitive nature of the coffee business, it was kind of nice to these two sharing the same space. It was a bit like seeing Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder sharing the keyboard or, perhaps more fittingly, like Simon and Garfunkel finally getting together again in the park. (Now, which roaster gets to be Art Garfunkel?) The bottom line, though, is that this dual roaster option suited me just fine. It gave me and gives you the opportunity to try coffees from both roasters, side by side.

As I mentioned previously, these Boston posts are sometimes a little old. My visit to Simon’s took place back in August. At that time, espresso options consisted of Terroir’s Daterra Southern Italian espresso and Barismo’s Sonatta 7. Staff pull shots pulled on a red, two group La Marzocco FB 80.  The Sonatta edged out as my slight favorite due to its sweet-sour candy fruit notes and bright acidity. The Terroir shot was a bit less fruity and more herbal with a thinner body. Both shots were slightly bitter and thinner-bodied than I would have liked, but still respectable. (3 and 3-)

Filter coffee options at Simon’s weren’t perfect, but headed in the right direction. Throughout the day they offer a rotating Fetco-brewed regular and decaf coffee stored in thermal carafes. At the time I visited, the regular coffee was Barismo’s Guatemala Nimac Kapeh while the decaf was Barismo’s Ethiopia Sidamo. The Nimac wasn’t quite as complicated as when I tasted it at home, but stood up well in the Fetco, actually coming out a bit less bright than I had at home (3-). The Decaf was quite good. In fact, I bought some for brewing later and somehow managed never to write about that one. But it exhibited some really delicate wine-like acidity with some intense earthy, chocolate notes. Overall, it was a well-rounded, complicated decaf (3+)

What’s nice is that Simon’s also does an individually prepared pour-over service. The drawbacks are that pour overs are only in the afternoon and, at least on the day I visited, the options were a French Roast Costa Rica and a Vienna Roast El Salvador Matalapa. I didn’t have the option to order any when I visited and would have had some hesitency about doing so anyway given that both coffees were some of Terroir’s darker-roasted options.

Rating Simon’s is tough. They have a lot of passion and a very respectable menu, offering multiple espressos, multiple coffees and some brew-to-order options. Ordinarily these things would count a bit more for me in overall rating, but coffee quality is a bit below where I’d like to see it for a cafe serving these coffees. It’s certainly well-worth a stop if you find yourself in this part of Cambridge, even if it isn’t the best the Boston area has to offer.

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2 comments to Simon’s Coffee Shop

  • Surprised by your review of Simon’s…either you know more about coffee than I do or you have not fully assessed the coffee-scape in the Boston area. If Simon’s isn’t one of the best in your book…what is???

    • It’s possible I hit Simon’s on an off day. I have heard from other reputable coffee folks in the Boston area that Simon’s can be a little hit or miss. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Boston so I’m far from up to date, but based upon my not so recent travels there, I’d say that Pavement and Barismo are your two best bets for coffee in the Boston area, although, I’m sure there must be some other contenders these days.

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