Thinking Cup : 165 Tremont Street : Boston: 617.482.5555
The first thing I experienced during my recent visit to the Thinking Cup was frustration: I couldn't find anywhere to lock my bike. As you might have learned from these reviews, I visit these local coffee shops by riding my bike to them; but I only travel with a U-lock, not a cable lock. After about ten minutes of searching for some pole on Tremont Street around which my lock would fit, I was finally able to shove it around a small tree trunk outside the cafe and be done with it. Seriously -- where is there a bike rack around here?
Thankfully, the rest of the experience -- especially the coffee -- at Thinking Cup made it worth my frustration.
The interior is clean and classic. Dark brown banquettes line the left wall. The tables are made out of light wood; many are covered with old snippets of the pages of the Boston Post or Boston Globe from the 1930s and 1940s. The chairs look like some dark reddish brown. Some old black and white photos of classic Boston buildings hang on the walls. Still, there was something about the interior that felt like they were trying to incorporate an "old" feel, but stopped short. The decor is classy, but by tossing in some old newspapers and old photos here and there, along with a faux -- a fake! -- "old" tin ceiling, it felt...well, fake. It was as if they had aimed for old world authenticity, but hit banality instead.
While there's no outdoor seating, they do the best they can: some bar stools along a long table letting patrons look out the front of the cafe onto Tremont Street, with wide views of Boston Common. (But seriously: Why isn't there any outdoor seating on Tremont?) Lots of light comes in the front of the cafe, but the rest is fairly dark.
The staff was particularly friendly -- I ordered from a nice cashier who also explained their coffee offerings. Thinking Cup made news for being the first (possibly still the only) coffee house in Boston to brew exclusively Stumptown coffee for everything; they use Stumptown's Hairbender for their espresso. When I walked over to the far end of the cafe to pick up my beverage, the barista manning the machine greeted me first before I said hi to him. Seems like a great group of people working here. If you're interested in purchasing bags of Stumptown (as I always am), they sell bags of Hairbender (blend of Latin American, East African, and Indonesian beans), Holler Mountain (blend of Latin American and Indonesian beans), Indonesia Gajah Aceh, and Ethiopia Mordecoffe. They also had a Latin American single origin in stock, but wasn't out on display at the time.
The iced latte was the best I've had. They poured all the milk in first, then dropped two shots of espresso down simultaneously without shaking or mixing. Within a couple of minutes, on its own, it mixed, leaving a brown, cream, and white froth on top. It was the perfect balance.
I didn't want to eat anything too savory, since dinner wasn't too far off. So I figured I'd spoil my dinner by trying two sweet pastries.
The first choice was a brioche. It was so good that I ate about half of it before I even took a picture. It had a very soft texture with a slight chewiness, and, of course, chunks of sugar crystals on top.
Second, I decided to try something I've never seen anywhere else: a whole wheat chocolate chip cookie. The texture was soft, with a bit of a firm crust on the outside to bite through. Delicious. A bit heartier than a normal chocolate chip cookie. Other than that, I wouldn't have noticed that it's made with whole wheat.
Great coffee and great food make Thinking Cup a must-visit for any Boston-area coffee aficionado.
Coffee Quality: 5/5
Food Quality: 5/5
Outdoor Ambiance: N/A
Indoor Ambiance: 3.5/5
Staff Friendliness: 5/5
Staff Knowledge: 5/5