Making the grounds: 3 intrepid reporters embark on tour of Dot coffee houses

Three writers, three hours ... fifteen cups of coffee.

On Friday, Oct. 14, the Reporter staff spent a rainy afternoon circumnavigating the neighborhood in search of a perfect cup of joe. We profiled the brew being served from one end of Dot Ave. to the other and tested the human tolerance for legal stimulants.

The first stop was McKenna's Café near the Savin Hill T stop. Décor in the diner/coffee shop is neighborhood themed, and a busy, wall-length menu dominates the room. The slate is filled with creatively named pastries and eight varieties of coffee with names like "Snickerdoodle" and "Back Bay Blend." Beside the menu, impressive chalk renderings of local newspaper monikers and the Massachusetts Lottery logo make calligraphy look like chicken scratch.

As the waitress guided us to a booth, we discussed some ground rules. In a faint attempt to preserve some scientific method, it was decided that each reporter would stick to the same item at each establishment. I would sample each café's standard cup of coffee, while my colleagues drank iced coffee.

My first cup arrived and I added a dab of cream, before foolishly asserting that from then on my coffee would be black; I wanted nothing to come between my taste buds and the truth.

McKenna's coffee tasted strong but pleasant, and with a quarter of the cup remaining I started to feel the caffeine's effect on my brain; the lone ceiling fan seemed to turn faster with each sip.

The next stop was Dippin' Donuts on Dot Ave. We sidled up to the meandering yellow countertop and placed our orders. In a moment of recklessness, I failed to specify a size and was rewarded with a towering Styrofoam cup of scalding hot liquid.

I stubbornly honored my pledge to remain cream-free while my colleagues easily downed their iced coffees.

After twenty minutes I had barely lowered the cup by half-an-inch. I conceded defeat, and added ice from Mr. O'Sullivan's brew.

Back in the car, we proceeded to the new Minot Mudhouse, but arrived moments after their 3:30 closing time. Most beverage enthusiasts, we mused, had opted for different liquids on this Friday afternoon.

Our amended travel plan led us to the Greenhills Irish Bakery on Adams St. I was heartened when my request for a small cup of coffee with cream yielded a manageable portion of pleasantly sweet coffee.

Halfway through the cup, my vision blurred. Involuntary shaking in my extremities started to affect my handwriting, and the notes I took after that point are largely indecipherable.

Next was FlatBlack, where I commissioned a small portion of their medium roast. As dusk settled and we worked through our fourth cups of coffee in three hours, Mr. O'Sullivan yawned, as if to mock the staggering amount of caffeine he had consumed.

The last stop of the tour took us across the neighborhood to the Sugar Bowl on Dot Ave. The coffee I drank there was the blandest of the afternoon, though my judgment may have been marred by four previous cups and significant scalding of the tongue.

The weekend was just long enough to dull the memory of so much coffee in so short a time, and I returned to the Minot Mudhouse on Tuesday with unfinished business. The small coffee was flavored by an interesting blend of coffee, milk, and spice reminiscent of chai.

As I walked out into the sunny afternoon, I sipped the beverage in my hand with satisfaction; this was the only cup of coffee I would be drinking that day.

Ice, ice baby…shaken, not stirred