Like any college kid, or any person for that matter, you wake up and the first thing you want is coffee. Never fear, Harvard Square has its fair share of caffeine addiction enablers, including but not limited to multiple corporate bougie Starbucks locations and hidden gems like Café Pamplona.
On cold days, cozy up in the little basement reading nook that is Café Pamplona. A tea list as long as Homer’s Odyssey will be your companion as you read the actual Homer’s Odyssey. For coffee lovers, the variety of espresso drinks will leave your mouth watering and your heart beating faster than it did when you told your teacher your dog ate your copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soups for only $3.95 and other tastebud-tickling Mediterranean treats are a must-try here too. The delicious black bean salad is more of a dip and chips situation—in other words, our kind of salad—and new specials are introduced daily. If you’re on the go, grab a ginger lemon iced tea or Café Pamplona cranberry punch for a refreshing sip.
Crema is like that self-proclaimed communist from high school who drove a Lexus. Not afraid to make a statement, but too pretentious to be grungy. Its location in the “Kremlin on the Charles” feeds the café with a consistent stream of academics, students, and first dates. Come for the coffee, stay for the ambiance. High ceilings, antique doors, second floor loft seating—the whole shebang. In addition to the typical café offerings, Crema has innovative signature drinks, breakfast, and salads. Definitely not a budget location, but also not located in a basement.
Whether you are a coffee devotee or don’t know the difference between a macchiato and a latte (yes tea drinkers, we mean you), Peet’s Coffee & Tea is the perfect corner store for a coffee date, solo work session, or quick pick-me-up. Centrally located off JFK Street in Harvard Square, order a french roasted coffee or handicraft tea from the smiley, plaid-wearing barista. Pro tip: try their seasonal honey matcha latte. With soft acoustic music playing in the background, college students enjoy their drinks at the high window tables, group tables fitted with potted plants, or on benches in the green out front. While not the place to go for a full meal, they also offer granola bars, fruit juices, pound cakes, and the like.
Starbucks: The Yard
The ground floor of Starbucks is exactly what you’d expect from a coffee shop in Harvard Square: crowded, overpriced, and oddly devoid of Harvard Students (though not of “Harvard Mom” t-shirts). But walk upstairs, and you’ll step into the café-equivalent of Spotify’s “Afternoon Acoustic” playlist. Business school students in suits mingle with Doc Marten-shod art students, the whole space illuminated by a chandelier made from (hopefully) fake deer antlers. But don’t worry, the chalkboard menu of the separate loft coffee bar is just as intimidating in size and price as its downstairs neighbor.
Starbucks: The Garage
If you’re looking for a Starbucks in Harvard Square, you may find yourself pulled to the double-decker location across from Harvard Yard, but a smaller option with shorter lines and fewer tourists hides just a block away in the shopping complex known as “The Garage.” Boasting an array of signature coffee drinks, including seasonal frappuccinos, this location blends the reliability of the Starbucks name with a touch of local flair: a map of Harvard Yard decorates the wall and locals can often be found playing chess at one of the tables.
If you want overpriced coffee, look no further than across Mass Ave. at Tatte. When it opened it was all the rage and became the hotspot for PAFees to tell their PAFs to cash out. Those poor, vulnerable kids in Wigg smell the aroma of fresh bread and roasted coffee round the clock and their pockets slowly empty as they cross the street for lattes and macchiatos, hypnotized by the tantalizing smell. Once you get there, be ready to wait for your drink, pastry, or sandwich, as the lines get very long with drooling tourists and students alike. It may be pricey, but after you take your terrifying Math 21a midterm, you deserve it.
While off-the-beaten path, Flour is worth the extra two minutes of walking (okay, maybe five). Anyone can find something they like here: sticky buns or hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, yogurt and granola or a grilled sandwich for lunch; literally anything plus dessert for dinner. Yes, it’s bougie, and yes, it’s a tad expensive, but it is 100% acceptable to harbor a secret, unyielding passion for this coffee shop. Bonus points if you bring a date here—it’s nice enough for any meal, and you probably won’t run into your blockmates when you’re trying to get to know the person you’ve been into for months.