I studied and worked in Cambridge for seven years, arriving in 2002, spending four years studying linguistics and then starting my career in scientific publishing. By 2010, I was no longer living or working in the city and my visits became less frequent. My last trip was two years ago, when I went to second Hot Numbers on Trumpington Street in 2015, and the penultimate trip was in 2013, when I went to the original Hot Numbers and mused on the flutterings of change in Cambridge's coffee-shop culture.
I try to keep on top of speciality-coffee developments in Cambridge, but had missed the opening of Stir on Chesterton Road, until I read a lovely review from Brian of Brian's Coffee Spot. Stir is a speciality coffee shop and social hub located a pleasant one-mile walk north-east of the city centre along the Cam or across Jesus Green. Coincidentally enough, I used to live about five minutes' walk away, down towards the river on the other side of Chesterton Road. There wasn't any good coffee nearby at the time (not even chez moi), although there was a decent Chinese takeaway and, a little further towards the centre, a fine restaurant.
Last weekend, I went to stay with a friend from university who now lives fairly close to Stir, so after an excellent pub lunch at the newly refurbished Petersfield pub and a wander through my old college and our old faculty, we made a beeline for the cafe. At around 5 pm, the cafe and its outdoor seating were bathed in sunshine and there was certainly no need for any of the cosy orange and grey blankets piled thoughtfully near the door. There is a bit of an orange theme going on, with the crockery and the opening hours on the doorway also taking on a citrus hue.
There is a wealth of seating available inside and out, with comfier seats more suited for soaking up the sun and more serious hard-backed chairs for working on the thesis (well, it is Cambridge). It was fairly busy when we arrived so my friend nabbed us a table in the sun while I got to grips with the comprehensive coffee menu.
The coffee is from Bury St Edmonds-based roaster Butterworth & Son, and there was a 4 Bean house blend on offer, as well as a single origin from Lake Kivu in DR Congo. The menu is almost like an infographic with milk steaming temperatures and espresso recipes (the 4 Bean stats are 18g in, 36g out for 32 seconds, in case you're interested). There are various teas, wines and beers, a big brunch menu, and plenty of cakes and other sweet treats, but we were still full from our pub lunch.
I did double up on my coffee order, though, ordering the 4 Bean blend as a piccolo (£2.20) and the DR Congo coffee as a filter, brewed through the Aeropress (£3.50). I drank the piccolo first and it was very drinkable: with a smooth and nutty taste. My friend gave a big thumbs-up to her latte (£2.70) too. Then it was time to taste the filter coffee, and it was really, really good. The tart, fruity flavour notes came through really strongly and although it was a little full-on for such a warm day, it was a very well brewed cup of coffee.
We had such a lovely time at Stir that it made me wistful for my Cambridge days, especially as it would have been my local. Both Cambridge and I have changed a lot since then, of course, and I'll just have to keep on finding reasons to return to my favourite city on the Fens, one of which is that Stir will soon be opening their bakery, which is right next door to the cafe.
Stir. 253 Chesterton Road, Cambridge, CB4 1BG. Website. Twitter. Instagram.