Try not to confuse Crema Cafe in Cambridge with Crema Bakery in Portland, Coffee and Crema in South Carolina, or Crema Coffee Bar in Oakland (the cafe that used to occupy Modern Coffee‘s current location). This Crema, situated on Harvard Square, is rumored to serve the staff of Car Talk. Just as important though, it serves as something of a showroom for George Howell’s coffees.
Inside is a two story space with a single brick wall, high ceilings and quite a few tables arrange artfully such that this hopping cafe somehow manages to avoid feeling too crowded. There’s also outside seating for the few weeks out of the year when it manages to not be too hot, too cold, humid, rainy, or snowing. Crema bakes its own goods in a basement kitchen, which I seem to remember tasting pretty good. That last comment references the fact that I visited Crema last summer rather than on my more recent trip. I hope my information is still more or less current.
Coffee options at Crema consist of the house blend and a single origin options, both stored in airpots and brewed via Fetco. I sprung for the Colombia El Descano. It turns out the quarter surcharge on the single origin option was well worth it. That coffee was a pretty amazing and empheral coffee, like orange candy with a bit of corriander spice, a burst of lime and a few deeper hints of something chocolately (4-).
Espresso is pulled on a three group GB/5. The barista repulled my shot after being displeased with the first one. Unfortunately, the second one wasn’t particularly good either. It had some redeeming features. It was sweet with some good notes of molasses and chocolate but was long, a tad thin and slightly bitter. Still above the norm, but not what it should have been given that the coffee comes from Terroir (3-).
All in all, I’m giving Crema the benefit of the doubt. I’m assuming I had a bad day with the espresso, given the quality of the coffee and overall quality of Terroir’s coffee. I do want to point out one thing, though, which took me a while to figure out and may save you the trouble.
On the shelves are bags of coffee from Terroir and the George Howell Coffee Company. It turns out that GHCC coffee is the lesser of the two coffees. It’s a bit cheaper and has a “use by” rather than a roast date. It also leans towards darker roasts. I’d need to try several of both coffees side by side before knowing whether there are definitive qualitative differences, but for out-of-towners like me, you likely want to pick up the better known, more highly praises Terroir.