07 April 2017

The Cambridge Caffeine Chronicles: The Espresso Library

Given the amount of time I once spent in various Cambridge libraries, the name of The Espresso Library, a cycling-themed speciality coffee shop on Cambridge's East Road, appealed instantly.  The Espresso Library has long been on my list, and several friends had recommended it (you can also check out Brian's write-up on his blog).

The Espresso Library is located about 15 minutes' walk south-east of Cambridge's city centre and about 15 minutes from the train station (if you have time, I would recommend walking from the station to the original Hot Numbers, down indie-spirited Mill Road to The Espresso Library, before heading into town). I stopped by with a friend on the way back to the train station at the end of my visit to Cambridge last weekend.

We arrived at lunchtime but had already feasted on a rather epic brunch at my friend's house, so I wasn't able to sample the brunch menu. If you like mashed avocado on sourdough, though, you will be well catered for at The Espresso Library, as there are four variations on the menu (plus two add-ons). On the lunch menu, there are some interesting-sounding sandwiches and salads, with plenty of veggie, vegan and gluten-free options.

The coffee is from The Coffee Officina, an Essex-based roaster, but there is usually a guest coffee on offer and because I seem to be following Curve Roasters around at the moment, they were the guests last weekend. The Espresso Library serves V60, Chemex and Aeropress-brewed filter coffee, as well as the usual espresso based drinks. Just like on Saturday at Stir, we did the three-coffees-for-two-people order. My friend had a flat white (£2.70), while I ordered a piccolo (£2.50) and an Aeropress-brewed filter coffee (£3.50).

The barista made the espresso drinks with a Brazilian Nossa Senhor Aparecida, while the filter was brewed with a Musasa Mbilima from Rwanda, both from Curve. The piccolo was nicely prepared and the Brazilian espresso had a smooth, nutty taste, while the pourover was very fruity with just the right amount of sweetness. Well, maybe not just the right amount of sweetness, as we also shared a chocolate and peanut bar (£3.50), which was really tasty.

Our drinks were served in Cambridge blue (really a sort of duck egg green) cups, which matched the shiny espresso machine on the counter. They were screening the Boat Race later that afternoon, but I'd departed by then; as I grew up in Oxford and studied in Cambridge, I try to remain neutral!

The cafe is spacious and well-designed with plenty of light streaming in from the large front windows, and gorgeous industrial-chic décor. Oversized pendant lamps compete for ceiling space with suspended cycles, and there are plenty of tables and chairs in the main area. We occupied the comfier, but still cool, armchairs next to the art exhibition (currently #LeftTurn by Manuela Hübner) and hanging bike racks in the adjoining area. There are also a few benches on the pavement outside but it was such a nice day that they were occupied and in any case, East Road isn't a particularly lovely spot for al fresco caffeinating.

There was a laid-back and welcoming ambiance at The Espresso Library on Sunday and I certainly would have welcomed a more pleasant study spot like this back in my student days — especially one with infinitely better coffee than the options in the early 2000s.

The Espresso Library. 210 East Road, Cambridge, CB1 1BG. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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