First confession: I love coffee, but with age I have found that coffee with a lot of milk is kinder to my upper GI tract than the straight black brew I once enjoyed. This means I prefer to drink latte in my travels around the Commonwealth. Many people (my wife included) would say, “once you add milk to coffee you have pretty much ruined it”. I understand this thinking, but sometimes you just have to compromise with what life sends your way.
Second Confession: There are many coffee shops and cafés that I have not sampled that may serve outstanding coffee and I just don’t know about them yet; this is a risk one must take in reviewing almost any product. I apologize in advance for any worthy contenders I have overlooked (please send suggestions).
Third and Final Confession: As you will read, my list has a decidedly western Massachusetts bent. If anything, I believe that I have tried many more coffee shops/cafes in eastern Mass than in western Mass. I can not explain this bias, but it may be that quality coffee is more important when you spend time in the sparsely populated wilds of western Mass, far from the civilizing influences of Boston. I don’t know any other way to explain it.
So my award for best coffee in the Commonwealth? Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield, hands-down. Smoky aromatic nuances as you lift the cup for the first sip, a bitter rush to tongue that grabs your attention (in a totally good way), and then the oh-so satisfying richness of the micro-foam; as good as it can be. In second place, only slightly behind, is Woodstar in Northampton (couldn’t find a web site, but the actual location is easy to find). Woodstar is one of the big Northampton hangouts; don’t expect to be able to park out front. Many a bad day has been salvaged by coffee from Woodstar. One warning though, Woodstar has wonderful treats to go with your coffee and you are made to look into the display case at the treats while you wait to order your coffee.
Honorable mention goes to Greenfield Coffee on Bank Row in Greenfield. So far I have only had 3 or 4 cups here (thus only honorable mention status), but they were all outstanding. The people here are committed to making the best coffee possible and the last time I was there the barista took out some special rare coffee for us to try; at no charge.
I recommend all three of these locations without hesitation. Please let me know if you have a favorite I should try.