Find yourself facing down against late nights writing papers and studying for exams? Looking for a new place to chill? Or, maybe you just feel guilty about sleeping in until 2 p.m. every day and need a little boost. Lucky for you, you’re in a college town where cafes are ubiquitous and a good cup is easy to find. Cantabrigians appreciate a fine bean, and they’ve provided plenty of options for your every coffee need.
The rest are all phonies
With a crowd of regulars who can be seen smoking near the café’s sunny outdoor seating and a minimalist basement interior conducive to off-the-cuff Heidegger references, there’s a reason Crimson reporters went to Pamplona when they wanted to interview Cantabrigians about the demise of the hipster. But, as Harvard Square’s oldest café, the place has its charm—and its own Wikipedia page. An extensive tea menu, interesting crowd, and late hours make this café a great place for late-night conversation or a heartfelt journal entry.
Bring: Real live pen and paper for documenting your every artsy thought
Try: Café Pamplona (the cafe’s signature coffee drink), guava and cheese sandwich, classic hot chocolate
To unplug and chow down
Maybe it’s the easy-listening music that plays in the background, or maybe it’s the divine array of pastries lying on the counter. Whatever it is, Crema is the place to go to unplug and to boost your mood before class. The constant lines make it easy to tell that this cafe corners the market at all times of the day with its charming interior and high-quality menu. New cafes are great and all, but Crema has become a Harvard classic. If you don’t mind waiting a little for your avocado and caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich and taking it to go (somehow, the seats are always taken), you’ll have to try out this spot. If you’re really hungry, the side of sweet potato chips is going to be your best friend.
Bring: Your whole paycheck
Try: Golden Crema or Red Crema coffee beverages, Crema Grilled Chicken sandwich, any of their cupcakes
Home away from home
You might have already passed this local coffee shop on Mt. Auburn St., but if you walk a few minutes from the Yard onto Cambridge St., or past Central towards MIT, you’ll also find two other locations. No matter which branch of the cafe you choose to visit, you’re sure to find a home-y atmosphere, a good soundtrack, and great food and beverages.
Bring: A day’s worth of work—Darwin’s is a great place to camp out and finish that English paper
Try: Chai latte, “The Story”—this is the name at the Mt. Auburn storefront, but sandwich names vary at each location
Tatte Bakery and Cafe
For good food and better aesthetics
If you’re looking for a filling—albeit overpriced—meal, some fancy coffee, or an artsy photo for your Instagram, Tatte (rhymes with latte) is the place to be. Owner Tzurit Or channeled her childhood in Israel to create the menu for the bakery, which originated in Brookline. The aesthetic of the store is unparalleled in the Square, and upstairs you’ll find additional seating as well as a coffee bar. If you don’t stop by on purpose, you’ll probably find yourself wandering in sooner or later because of the alluring smell of fresh pastries that attracts anyone who walks by outside.
Try: Spinach and labneh pita, traditional shakshuka dish, nitro-cold brew coffee, nutella cookie
For a drool-worthy addition to your cup o’ joe
Especially for those of us who really just want some fresh-baked goods with our coffee, Flour is a great place to settle down with a friend. With countless sweet and savory breads, bars, and cookies, as well as a large selection of sandwiches and salads, Flour is sure to satisfy your appetite. Who could resist a sticky bun with dark caramel and toasted pecans, or a brioche filled with pastry cream and chocolate? Or perhaps you just want a simple latte with a lemon scone, or a quiche with a salad. How about a grilled chicken sandwich with brie and onions, or a Korean BBQ beef dinner? Whatever it is that you order, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to get a refreshing cup of cold brew on the side.
Bring: A bag for carrying the many, many goods you will inevitably buy
Try: Roast beef sandwich, sticky buns, homemade oreos
Tealuxe / DAVIDsTEA
If you don’t actually want coffee
If you’re more of the tea type, Tealuxe and DAVIDsTEA are going to be your best bets. Pots of loose-leaf tea rest in a wall of drawers behind the counter in Tealuxe, and dark interiors lend this spot a musty, if-I-weren’t-a-chain-I’d-be-a-hole-in-the-wall vibe. With countless varieties of traditional or fruity hot and iced beverages, and even bubble teas (yes, you can get boba from places other than Boston Tea Stop), this spot is great for a break from the bustling Square.
If you want more of an energetic and bright atmosphere, stop by at DAVIDsTEA, where bright blue canisters of tea line the wall. Plus, you can get any type of tea iced, which is great for the blistering temperatures that summer brings.
Bring: Intellect (fake or not), an open mind
Try: At Tealuxe, the mint chocolate chip bubble tea, frozen matcha. At DAVIDsTEA, cinnamon rooibos chai, strawberry rhubarb parfait.
Dunkin’ Donuts / Starbucks Coffee / Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Though large-scale businesses such as these may not boast the same amount of character as the other cafes on this list, even the most snobbish of sippers will appreciate the coffee chains in the Square.
Sit at the second-story window of the main Starbucks for the best people-watching experience in town, or face inward to observe law students, tourists, and locals alike enjoying their venti Frappuccinos at the coffee bar. If that’s not your thing, head down to the basement of the T station for some of the best Dunkin’ in the state, or to Peet’s to get your commercial chain coffee fix without feeling “basic.” We know you go to Starbucks and Dunkin’ (almost) every day, so a change might be worth it.
Bring: A Boston accent
Try: At Starbucks, a coconut milk mocha macchiato. At Dunkin’ Donuts, an iced latte. At Peet’s, any of their bagels.
Cecilia R. K. Barron also contributed to this piece.