ARTS AND LIVING

Underappreciated Study Spots In and Around Amherst

By Olivia Luntz '21 || Issue 149-5

Familiars Coffee & Tea, which is located in a 1930s train car that sits on Strong Avenue in Northampton, serves an extensive menu of coffee, teas and bagel sandwiches. Photo courtesy of Olivia Luntz '21.

Fall semester is in full swing, and with it comes the deluge of papers, problem sets, course readers and lab reports. Whether you’re studying for a midterm or reading “Middlemarch,” the time has probably come for a study spot that is not as nap-inducing as your bed and less soul-crushing than the basement levels of Frost Library. No matter if you prefer a quiet or bustling ambiance, coffee or tea, surroundings of books or art, there’s sure to be a study space in or around Amherst that’s perfect for you.


1. The Inn on Boltwood
The library, right off the main lobby at The Inn on Boltwood, is only a few steps from campus and provides a quiet and charming space to work. Equipped with a variety of seating, the only thing you’ll have to think about (other than your work) is whether to camp out on a couch or pull up an armchair next to the perpetually roaring fire. Ideal for cold days, bring a warm drink from Valentine Dining Hall or your favorite coffee shop in town and embrace the coziness.


2. The Mead
Our own campus art museum provides the opportunity to work while surrounded by beautiful and inspiring artwork. Open until midnight on Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday nights, the bright and colorful works on view at the Mead provide a welcome respite from staring at your dorm room walls the next time you have writer’s block. Just remember to bring plenty of pencils if you plan to work on paper, since pens are not allowed inside the galleries.


3. Norwottuck Rail Trail
The Rail Trail is easily the most scenically beautiful place within walking distance of campus. What the trail lacks in WiFi and outlets, it makes up for in foliage, views of the mountain range and fresh air. The trail is accessible from two locations on campus: from the corner of South Pleasant Street and Snell Street, and from behind the South Parking Lot near the tennis courts. Next time you need a distraction-free spot to finish a book, pick a bench on the trail to camp out at. While you’re reading, you can enjoy the company of passing runners and bikers, as well as local wildlife. The pond adjacent to the trail in Belchertown, specifically, is home to a variety of wildlife, including beavers, ducks, turtles, herons and woodpeckers.


4. Yūshien Garden
Nestled between Webster Hall and Kirby Theatre is Yūshien Garden, one of Amherst’s hidden gems. Opened in 2001, the name roughly translates to “Garden of Friendship” and commemorates the relationship between Amherst College and Doshisha University in Japan. The Journal of Japanese Gardening has ranked Yūshien Garden one of the best Japanese gardens in the nation, and you don’t even need to leave campus to see it! The garden is accessible from the western side of Webster and is a great place in which to destress and escape the bustle of the day.


5. Share Coffee
Serving coffee roasted in Hadley, Share’s sunny storefront is always filled with smiling faces, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the sound of keyboards clacking. Sit at the window counter to people watch or at the marble bar to chat with one of their friendly baristas. A lesser-known detail of the menu is that rather than store-bought syrups, the store’s flavorings are either made in-house or sourced locally. Homemade vanilla syrup is especially tasty in a cold draft vanilla latte or a London fog (my particular drink of choice). Those looking to cool down sans-caffeine should try Share’s Italian soda, which is made with the syrup of your choice. Since moving into its new location last year, Share has also begun to offer a more extensive food menu, with made-to-order sandwiches in addition to muffins and pastries.


6. The Black Sheep Deli
An institution in Amherst since 1968, Black Sheep offers much more than coffee. All of its breads, pastries and desserts are made from scratch daily, and the deli’s extensive sandwich menu features vegetables grown in the store’s own farm and sourced from other local vendors. For those that like to work with background music, there are live performances every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Next time you’re there, bring in your own mug for a discount off your drink!


7. Amherst Coffee
Located in the historic Amherst Cinema building with exposed Edison light bulbs, a beautifully embellished ceiling, a wooden bar and booth seating, Amherst Coffee has a rich, cozy ambiance. Though its coffee menu is minimalist, make sure not to overlook its offerings of teas, which include an especially worthwhile cold brew matcha latte. Pastries from the local Tart Baking Co. supplement the store’s offerings. The location transforms from coffee shop to bar at night and it continues to offer its full coffee and tea menu until closing at 12:30 a.m., making this the ideal spot for finishing up anything with a 11:59 p.m. deadline.


8. Morrill Greenhouses at UMass
The six Morrill Greenhouses, part of the university’s College of Natural Sciences, provide the opportunity to view over 680 genera of plants from all over the world in one location. Wooden benches under giant palm leaves are a welcoming place to read, and a study break of walking around the conservatory can take you to environments from around the globe. The greenhouses are open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.


9. Dobrá Tea
Voted the best place for tea by The Valley Advocate this year for the fourth year in a row, Dobrá is the place to go for everyone from the casual tea drinker to the tea enthusiast. After sitting on a chair or a comfy floor cushion, you can summon a server with the bell provided on your table and receive a binder of Dobrá’s 100-plus offerings of teas, grouped by type and region, and each with its own description. If you really can’t decide, the store does offer several tea tasting menus, which will leave you feeling like a tea sommelier.


10. Haymarket Cafe
Haymarket Cafe, which has served customers on Northampton’s Main Street since 1991, wears many hats. Simultaneously a coffee roaster, restaurant, bakery, juice bar and cafe, the store has whatever fuel you crave during studying — whether it’s carrot cake, mac and cheese or just a good coffee. It also has ample and clearly indicated gluten-free and vegan options. Tables on both the main and lower level are frequently covered with books and laptops of fellow students and studiers. When you’re there, consider donating to their “Common Account.” Haymarket is dedicated to never turning away anyone who is need of a meal and contributions to this account funds its sliding scale menu. In the past year, the restaurant served an average of 400-plus free meals a month.


11. Montague Bookmill
Although this spot is a 20 minute drive away from campus, it is well worth the trip to study while sitting on the bank of a rushing river. A 176-year-old grain mill, the building has maintained its rich history and character, with well-worn wooden floors and windows that provide a wide view of the river. Curl up in one of the armchairs scattered across the store and when you need a study break, peruse the racks of used books to find a new favorite. Hungry readers are in luck, as the Bookmill is connected to both the Lady Killigrew Cafe and the Alvah Stone Restaurant, both of which have breathtaking views of the Saw Mill River. The Alvah Stone specifically was recently rated “The Best Small-Town Restaurant” in the state by Thrillist.


12. Familiars Coffee & Tea
Opened just this past winter, Familiars Coffee & Tea is the latest resident of the 1930s train car that sits on Strong Avenue in Northampton. Walking into the cherry-red train car is like walking into a bygone era. The historic location features rustic hardwood panelling on the walls, original metalwork and windows. Come for the beautiful interiors and stay for the extensive menu of coffee, teas and bagel sandwiches.