Craving Coffee in Cambridge?
Need a caffeine and cake fix in between lectures? MEGAN HUGHES knows the best places to go.
Let’s not beat about the bush: you can get great coffee in Cambridge, especially if you’re willing to venture out of the centre. Here are 5 of the best places to grab a coffee in our fine little city…
CB2, Norfolk Street
Ten minutes from central Cambridge, where magnolia-œ and timber-clad walls surround a variety of timber chairs and tables, is CB2. It feels continental, in some way authentic, right down to the wobbly seat I’m sat on. The playlist swings from laid-back electric guitar to throaty soul tunes and there’s surrealist art on the walls; it’s a gallery of sorts. It’s also a restaurant and on weekends there’s a downstairs venue for live acts.
The coffee here – I’d recommend opting for a latte – is comfortingly modest, though strong. Imported from Italy, their brand of choice is Mokarabia, which has quite a deep, nutty flavour. A great sweet bite is a sfogliatelle – pastry and vanilla cream. When you’re not in the mood for a coffee, they sell a great mulled wine. If you’re looking for a rich, dark coffee and an unassuming atmosphere, I can’t recommend CB2 enough.
Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street
As far as I’m aware, Hot Numbers is the only coffee shop in Cambridge that roasts its own beans. The décor is minimalist, clean and bright, with long wooden tables. There are no gimmicks; the coffee here speaks for itself. I’d recommend a filter coffee; I had a light roast, ‘El Platanillo’, which was mellow with a caramel finish. Alternatively, they have another couple of superb espresso roasts on offer.
If you’re not looking for coffee, the chai tea latte is made with real tea leaves and hot milk, and isn’t too sickly. The snack selection is mouth-watering: they offer macaroons and Chelsea buns from Fitzbillies, as well as a selection of cakes from a local supplier. Of all of the places in Cambridge, Hot Numbers is undoubtedly the one to visit for coffee and the pride they take in their roasting process certainly comes through in the taste.
CB1, Mill Road
CB1, proudly boasting its heritage as the ‘oldest Internet café in the UK’, feels very much like a 1980s cyber café. The grandparents of modern computers sit on shelves up high and faded books are crammed into those lower down. It’s got an eclectic décor, from the cowboy mural to the violent pink walls downstairs, but it works. The coffee packs a punch, although I can only vouch for the cappuccino. That said, a lot of people are hot on that depth of flavour and it’s certainly popular with the regulars. The smoothies are a perfect pick-me-up in the morning and they offer freshly prepared food – try the fig and fennel biscotti. In this day and age, Internet cafés are perhaps less popular than they once were, but CB1 at least manages to blend its cyber heritage with a welcoming, if individual, drinking environment.
Clown’s, King Street
A stone’s throw from Market Square, Clown’s is one of Cambridge’s hidden gems in the city centre. If you’re coming for a coffee and a chat, opt for the bustle of the downstairs seats; for the more work-minded, head upstairs to find peace and quiet. It’s very reasonably priced, and they serve great Italian classics by night. The coffee is smooth and I’d recommend a latte or a cappuccino. If you can, try the tiramisu here – I don’t know anywhere that serves it better. On a summer’s day, they also serve a lemon granita, which I can’t vouch for myself, but if it’s anything like as Italian as the standard fare, it’d be worth a shot. Clown’s is so close to the centre and it’s worth the two-minute walk for the atmosphere, the drinks and the welcome you receive from the family themselves.
Indigo, St Andrew’s Passage
Most students have probably nursed a latte here at some point, located as it is between so many colleges and faculties, and its popularity during the daytime often makes it tricky to secure a seat. There’s a remarkable amount of quaintly mismatched furniture and upon the walls are hung pieces of art, photography, and posters. The coffee is strong, made as it is with two shots, but it’s a great caffeine boost when you need to study. I’d suggest opting for the flat white.
If you haven’t got time to stop, this is one of the best cafés in the town centre for take-away coffees. I’d also recommend the chai tea, which is sweetened with honey and cinnamon. If you’re peckish, opt for one of their rich, moist cakes. The carrot cake is particularly good. This is the place to go if you’re in the middle of Cambridge and you’re looking for somewhere cosy to work, chat or simply relax.