More Beer Please

Richard Lewis thinks UCL has enough bad coffee

I want to talk about coffee. Many of us take coffee incredibly seriously. I for one am a bumbling zombie-wreck before my first cup of the day. In fact, I have been known to maintain the glazed eye look until well in to my fifth cup. I know plenty of other MA students who are floating between a state of total exhaustion and one of immense panic – the only thing that can balance this out it our favourite little bean. Well it’s not actually a bean, but let’s not be pedantic.

The other great love of university students, though far more detrimental to their studies, is alcohol. There is a reason the Union bar is filled to bursting with load and vaguely nauseous bodies every Monday night.  The rugby team don’t go around wearing a shopping bag around their necks because they’re worried they might get nauseous from too much ice cream. No, we love our booze. Of course we do. How else would we talk to strangers, celebrate victories, mourn defeats and get off with each other if it weren’t for bottle upon bottle of the urine coloured liquid?

So I couldn’t help being drawn in to a bit of a conundrum last week when I came across an article by the BBC about the closure of Aberystwyth’s union bar in favour of a coffee shop. Their Student President defended the decision by arguing that more students preferred drinking coffee whilst studying than going out and drinking because of the cost of a night out these days. Student Union bars are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with city clubs and bars, despite the obvious price hike. And, no offence to Aberystwyth, but it’s not exactly renowned for its night life, is it? But this made national news!

I was conflicted. On the one hand I love, nay need, a good cup of coffee every day to keep myself upright.  But I also need a good drink every other day to make sure that I’m not upright all the time. And let’s not forget that the coffee shop in question is a Union one so baristas these people are, sadly, not. I had to make a comparison with our own Union and their coffee provision.

For those of you new to UCL this year, you may not have known that the Student Union was not always as you’ll find it today. In previous years the floor that we now know of as a “Study Centre” was a grimy little bar favoured by the more sporty types. Obviousy I barely went in there. But regardless, the powers-that-be decided to rip it apart and put in a coffee shop in its stead. It’s always baffled me as to why they think that’s a prudent investment. Unless you’ve failed to notice, the entire campus is taken up with coffee shops. You can walk from one part of UCL to the other without ever being without a fresh cup, so why in the bloody hell do they think it’s a good idea to replace our beer with more weak-ass, reduced caffeine, brown water?

If you’ve never been to the Archaeology department I seriously suggest doing it now. Soon it will be taken over by UCL’s wannabe Starbucks chain. All of this seems totally unnecessary to me when you think that literally on every single corner there is already an existing coffee shop. What’s more they do terrible coffee. Yes, they provide work for students, that is good – but so do the bars, and there are about a thousand other coffee shops in the Bloomsbury area alone.

Why not go a bit afield and check out the independent coffee shops that do a decent cup for under £2? A tad more expensive, yes, but well worth the cost. Or, if you’re desperate for the taste of putrefied water, just go to one of the thousands of massive coffee chains around us. This is London, for God’s sake! Crap coffee can be purchased from anyone with half a brain.

A decent, cheap pint, on the other hand, is harder to come by.