CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Cafe #9
In many ways the city of Sheffield has many parallels with my own Seattle. For one thing the weather is similar, with the high gusty winds, sudden showers of pea-sized hail, and phantom rain falling from sunny clear skies. Both cities, like Rome, were built on seven hills (although one of Seattle's original hills, Denny Hill, has been flattened into the less romantic-sounding Denny Regrade). The hills provide both cities with spectacular views, although Seattle's views are mostly of water whereas Sheffield's are of countryside. The red brick houses climbing up Seattle's hills are mirrored by the climbing rows of Sheffield's brown Yorkshire stone houses. There are universities and abundant Asian populations in both similar-sized cities, injecting a cosmopolitan zest into the atmosphere. And, of course, an American microbrew drinker can be as deliriously happy in Seattle as an English real ale drinker can be in Sheffield.
Since Seattle is the Coffeehouse, Coffee Bar, and Espresso Cart Capital of the Universe I've had no unrealistic expectations of Sheffield coming remotely close to that claim. I'm quite happy to know there are a large number of coffeehouses and cafes to explore. But I surely would never have expected to find a uniquely Seattle espresso experience in Sheffield.
But find it I did! It was a sunny March day as we drove toward Nether Edge. Driving along Brincliffe Edge I was struck by Seattle déjà-vu: I could have sworn we were riding along the wooded ridge of Boyer Avenue East in north Capitol Hill. And then, as we turned into Nether Edge Road, there I was back in the heart of Seattle's Capitol Hill! And just as I expected to come across the Harvard Exit Theatre we found ourselves at Cafe #9.
Seeing as how it was a warmish afternoon the three of us sat at a table outside while two young men played chess at another. Most of the customers were drinking lattes in glass mugs, which also reminded me of Seattle. When we ordered our three double macchiatos, however, I was a bit concerned that the barista -- a man who looked as if he should know better -- questioned our order. When I noticed the menu listed "latte macchiatos" I clarified by saying "espresso machiattos", but he still didn't seem to be quite sure what a macchiato was. Fortunately he got it reasonably close, although they were much bigger than macchiatos should be, more like small cappuccinos. At least the shots were nice and strong and the foam was of a pleasing texture -- and the drinks were served in pleasantly round white Italian cups. The coffee is from Caffé Musetti in Piacenza, Italy, which exports its beans all over Europe as well as to the US and Japan. The motto on the window says "Musetti...é il mio caffé!"
As I sat drinking mio caffé I could hear Joni Mitchell emanating from indoors, "Clouds" under a cloudless sky, just as a large Pakistani family strolled by. The distinctly Seattle Bohemian feel of the setting was definitely a boost to young Rory's first decent espresso experience -- the first of many more to come, hopefully. If Nether Edge is Sheffield's version of Seattle's Capital Hill, and the hill consisting of Walkley and Crookes is Queen Anne Hill's twin, will Sheffield's Castle Market be partnered with Seattle's Pike Place Market? Where do I find Sheffield's Pioneer Square? And why are there no cathedrals in downtown Seattle?
Since I can't answer these questions with any reasonable authority, I may as well completely change the subject and talk about toothpaste. Following is an e-mail exchange from last year with my Bay Area friend: