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31 July 2017

The Ipswich, MA, Caffeine Chronicles: Little Wolf Coffee

When I first started to look into the speciality coffee possibilities for my trip to Massachusetts a few months ago, about the only place outside the Boston area that I found was Little Wolf Coffee, a cafe–roastery in the small, historic town of Ipswich. There was a nice Sprudge article a few months ago about Little Wolf's awesome wolf-themed packaging and branding — which was a big draw for me both as a fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers (AKA Wolves) and in terms of the design.


Ipswich is about 13 miles northwest of Gloucester and about 30 miles north of Boston itself. As US towns go, it's pretty old and was incorporated in 1634; many of the pretty, colourful houses and buildings in the town display their construction date and original owners. We stopped by the visitor centre on South Main Street, to pick up a few maps and leaflets. There was also a small but lively farmers' market, which runs from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturdays.



After a brief wander around the town centre, ambling along the Ipswich River (the town itself isn't on the coast, although the excellent Crane Beach is nearby), I headed over to Little Wolf, which is about a mile west of the centre on High Street. It's a pleasant walk, though, with a number of historic sights including the Old North Burying Ground, and possibly my favourite building in town: the House with the Orange Shutters.



I had emailed Little Wolf's owner, Chris, before my trip just to make sure that the cafe would be open and also to find out if there were any other similar coffee shops or roasteries nearby (there aren't). He was there when I visited and it was great to hear a bit more about Little Wolf, which has been open for almost a year now. The Ipswich location offers an enticing combination of a welcoming, friendly local community that can support plenty of small businesses and enough space to house the roaster.




The space is quite industrial but very bright and airy. There are a few seats at the marble counter next to the coffee bar, which were occupied when I arrived, and a few more bar seating areas closer to the roaster and in a small annexe.




I also fell in love with the merch: particularly the white canteen-style coffee containers (at 16 oz, they were a little too big for me) and the super-soft blue hoodies, which I now really regret not buying. Instead, I settled for a wolf-themed tea towel and some pin badges.


As for the coffee, the menu keeps things straightforward (espresso, cappuccino, coffee, etc), bearing in mind that in a small town, not all customers are going to be well versed in or interested in the more complicated (or complicated-sounding) speciality coffee offerings. There was as a Colombian Leandro Osorio available as espresso, and an Ethiopian Dhiilgee as a batch brew. Chris said he'd be happy to brew me up any of the other varieties as a pourover but the Dhiilgee sounded really nice, the batch brew was fresh and I was a little pushed for time, so I ordered that and a cortado. The espresso machine — "just a La Marzocco" — has had some mighty fine customisations and looks very cool on the counter.




Both coffees were very well made but I was particularly taken with the Dhilgee, which had a lovely, delicate floral taste. Meanwhile, the cortado, which had nice blackberry notes, was served in one of Little Wolf's brand-new cortado glasses, which had a pleasing geometry to them and which felt very nice to hold.



I wanted to buy a bag of beans to take home, and although there were a few bags of retail beans available on the shelf, Chris said he would make me up a bag of whichever bean I fancied. As I was after a variety that would work well as a piccolo or flat white, and as a pourover, he recommended a Guatemalan coffee from Jesus Constanza, which I'm very much looking forward to trying once I'm reunited with my grinder back at home. And as I may have mentioned, I really love the packaging!


There isn't space for a kitchen so the food offerings at Little Wolf are limited to a few scones and sweet treats, which looked great. I'm hoping I'll make it back to Ipswich before the end of my trip and to return to Little Wolf. If not, the town would make a great day trip from Boston, particularly when the trains are working again, as it's a 1h20 ride from North Station.

On the way back to Cape Ann, we spotted a seafood shack just outside the town of Essex, which had a big queue outside and we decided to stop for a quick lobster roll 'in the rough' (sitting in the garden at the back). Woodman's of Essex has been around since 1914 and the lobster roll was one of the best of the trip so far.



Little Wolf Coffee. Unit A, 125 High Street, Ipswich, MA 01398. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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