Let’s Go For Coffee

Meeting someone for coffee? CATHERINE TRINDER weighs up the options, including a “chiropractor’s heaven.”

auntie's tea shop baclava Books cake cappucino Catherine Trinder cb1 coffee copper kettle earl grey expresso indigo jam massaro's milkshake mocha mug scone tea tea shop

Coffee is defined by Urban Dictionary as: ‘the best drink ever,’ ‘the reason I can’t fall asleep,’ and ‘sex in its liquid form.’ Here’s what Cambridge has to offer:

1) Indigo Coffee House  – 8 St. Edwards Passage

Regular Mocha – £1.95

Carrot Cake – £1.70

The sign on the door proclaims ‘Come in, share a table, make a friend!’ Indeed this tiny hotch potch café is not for those who like their personal space. The small downstairs room only has three tables; share a table isn’t a suggestion, it’s a necessity.

But somehow I fell in love. It was cute and kitsch, art was dotted around on the walls and relaxing music hummed in the background. My mocha was creamy and smooth, and melt-in-your-mouth icing has made their carrot cake a new favourite of mine. The café prides itself on its ethical practice, using coffee beans brought directly from a co-op formed in North East Brazil, which means getting rid of middlemen and giving growers a bigger cut of the profit.

As well as having a full spread of coffee and cakes, you can get breakfast toasties (veggie £4.40, regular £4.90) and porridge (£2.90). For lunch you could choose a baguette filled with anything from ‘brie, cranberry and tomato’ (well I think it sounds exotic!) to the standard ‘egg mayo’ (£4.40-£.4.80 to eat in, or £2.95-3.35 to take out).

2) CB1 – 32 Mill Road

Latte – £1.90 small, £2.30 large.

‘Yummy Slice’ – £1.95

CB1 is a little out of town by the University Cricket Ground just south of Parker’s Piece. The outside of this internet café (apparently the oldest in England) is unimpressive, but inside is a veritable haven. The walls are lined with bookshelves, a tribute to the literary part that this cafe plays in the Cambridge community, including hosting regular poetry readings and open mic sessions.

My cake, (supplied by a local bakery), enigmatically, but accurately, entitled a ‘yummy slice’ was a sticky mix of almonds, sugar, glace cherries and chocolate, and the latte was equally ‘yummy’. The cafe caters particularly well for vegetarians and vegans with a houmous, olive and sundried tomato or falafel and cream cheese ciabattas (£3.75). Unusually it is also possible to buy beer here.

3) Massaro’s- 85 Regent Street

Cappuccino – 1.80 small, or £2.20 large.

Massaro’s is an Italian style café-cum-delicatessen. With white walls and straight-backed wooden benches it is minimalist, and probably a chiropractor’s heaven, but it’s not exactly relaxing. The quietness of the cafe was also unnerving, however friendly the staff were.

Their coffees are made from their own secret three-bean blend and when my cappuccino came it smelt divine.  Unfortunately the cake options were pretty meagre, offering only a moist-looking almond and syrup cake (£2.95), or croissants (£2.00 out, £2.50 in). Ciabattas were also available from £6.95, allowing customers to taste some of the wares sold as part of the delicatessen: cheeses, pastas, olive oil, vinegar and allegedly (although I couldn’t see any, indeed the entire deli counter looked a bit sparse) prosciutto ham.

4) The Copper Kettle- 4 King’s Parade

Espresso – £1.50

Baklava – £1.95

This café-restaurant has a very different atmosphere to, say, CB1. You wouldn’t go here to relax and read a book with a coffee, but its extensive menu makes it a good lunch destination, despite the swarms of tourists there for the (admittedly impressive) view of King’s. I decided to try something I’d never heard of: Baklava, a Turkish sweet made with filo pastry, pistachios and honey. Fortunately it tasted much better than it looked, and the espresso, made from Italian Café Leonardo beans, was as flavoursome and rich as a good espresso should be.

My friend had the all day breakfast (£4.95), but unfortunately I couldn’t get an intelligible quote from her through the mouthfuls of food (I’ll take that as a good sign). The specials menu had a Mediterranean trend, offering Moussaka (£9.95), Moroccan chickpea casserole (£8.95) or a Turkish special kebab (£8.95). For the less adventurous there was roast beef (£7.95) or good ol’ fish and chips (£7.50).

5) Auntie’s Tea Shop – 1 St. Mary’s Passage

Earl Grey – £2.10

Scone – £2.05

If you think this sounds like the kind of place that your grandmother would go to for afternoon tea, well, you’d be right. The tea shop is (I think) twee on purpose (if a little expensive). It was charming, but I felt a little out of place at my doily covered table surrounded by ladies in old-fashioned waitressing outfits.

My scone was a tad stodgy but the jam was so stonkingly fruity it  not only made up for it but felt like at least one of my five a day. And okay, so ordering tea may seem to defeat the point of an article entitled ‘Let’s Go for Coffee,’ but let’s not be pedantic. The Earl Grey had just the right balance of sweet and citrus, high praise from a coffee devotee. My friend had a chocolate milkshake (£2.20) ‘more milk than chocolate’ and a flapjack (£1.45) ‘nice but a bit too sugary.’

If you really enjoy your visit you can get a lasting reminder by buying a quaint souvenir: mugs are available at £4.95.

Select photos by Catherine Trinder