CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Caffe Nero

Back Buzz - February 2, 2005

pumping heart Caffé Nero, 67 Deansgate, Manchester

Before I start this column I want to apologise, because it's already 2005 and contrary to rumours, yes, I am still alive and kicking. Well, perhaps not kicking quite yet; but my head is dancing with coffee columns, and the CoffeeBeer website is NOT defunct!

The long delay since the last Double Shot Buzz column was caused by the fact that I was caught up in a complete chaotic time warp, starting with Christmas and followed by the tragic Boxing Day tsunami whose aftershocks seemed to cause domestic tsunamis among my close friends and family. After that I went away on a much needed holiday, providing me with new material on espresso in the Northeast. And then, on my first day back to work, I was run over by a bus.

Yes, I know this sounds like a wildly embroidered excuse, a la "the dog ate my column and was kidnapped by gypsies before I could get the laxative biscuits down its throat". But alas, it is true. Fortunately I was a very, very, very lucky girl and suffered only a fractured pelvis, and I have now learned how to wriggle my way up the attic stairs so that I can sit at my computer and write and upload my columns.

So here I am again, thankful that I'm alive and in one piece and thankful I was able to celebrate my birthday 6 days after the accident. I know, I know, this sounds like it's turning into an elaborate Persian tapestry invented solely to gain sympathy and attention, but ask anybody who knows me: it's all TRUE! I do apologise for the violins, though...

This seems an excellent opportunity to talk about Caffé Nero. A few months ago, just before my diversion through fractal time, I went to Manchester for a day to visit my good friend Eileen and her husband Brian, who were visiting from Los Angeles. They were at the end of one of their hectic so-called "holidays", having visited relatives in London and Manchester as well as taking a side trip to Hungary, and they were flying back to Los Angeles the next morning. Knowing the high stress level at which Eileen normally operates, I had brought her a soothing early birthday present: some bath bombs from Lush. When I realised that this was their final day, in which Eileen hoped to catch up with me as well as see all the sites in Manchester that they hadn't yet seen, I suggested a stop for an invigorating espresso first.

As if by magic it appeared in front of us: Caffé Nero. Having been to only one other Caffé Nero, I already knew that, like Caffé Vita and Caffé D'Arte in Seattle, this was a trustworthy, dependable espresso chain for people on the go. Not only did we not have to worry about explaining to a push-button-savvy barista how to make our double macchiatos, but we also didn't have to stop them from sprinkling our drinks with chocolate and sugar. In other words, these guys always seem to know what they're doing, which is something we need more of in this hectic, overloaded world.

And you can feel good drinking the coffee because the beans are bought directly from farms and cooperatives in South America and Africa, which ensures that the local farmers are rewarded for producing high quality coffee. So not only can you take a short break from your busy life at a Caffé Nero knowing you'll get a proper espresso, but it's one less thing to feel guilty about. Not bad, hey?

As we sipped our satisfying and restorative macchiatos, I browsed through Eileen's photos of Budapest while Brian buried his face in a newspaper. At 1:00 the cafe suddenly filled up with the lunch crowd, so we moved on to our previously planned lunch elsewhere. Someday I'd like to try a bite at a Caffé Nero -- perhaps the next time I visit one. Sadly there is still no Caffé Nero in Sheffield, but I think it would be a very welcome addition to the city. So is anybody out there listening? Or reading? (Sorry -- when you're navigating your way through fractal time it's easy to get your senses mixed up...)

Speaking of the stresses of modern life, including making sure your mobile phone is charged up, here is a recent e-mail conversation with my Bay Area friend about mobile phone towers:

During the years when I drove from the Bay Area to Lompoc or Goleta to visit my late friend Jill one landmark that always caught my attention along that rather scenic route was somewhere between Gilroy and Salinas: a pine tree next to the freeway whose branches were packed with what looked like antennas or long thin speakers. Last year Maryl and I saw something similar near Sacramento, and this one was clearly a fake pine tree. I didn't know what purpose they served. They were relatively thin, not at all like the dishes that relay microwave signals. An alarm system? Some kind of surveillance? Now I found out. An article in the current NRDC magazine, OnEarth mentions that the Larson Company in Tucson manufactures cell phone towers in the shape of trees (palms, pines, saguaro cactus) to make them somewhat less conspicuous -- particularly useful within National Parks.

A web search took me to the company's own web site. It shows photos of several installations, also hiding the transmitters in things like boulders. Why not come up with some attention-grabbing items: a tall penis, a giant prairie dog or a cow with transmitting udders? The most controversial is probably one transmitted hidden within the cross on a church tower. Can you talk to god via Nextel? Would Jesus approve? If a latter-day Jesus were crucified today, he'd probably speak his last words into a cell phone. Only fitting that his words might be carried through the cross.

I like the idea of creating towers in the shape of objects. Here in Sheffield there are battles against installing mobile phone masts around the city. But would these summer-anticipating Northerners complain as much if the masts were camouflaged as Sheffield's very own palm trees? And what about cacti in Edinburgh? Snowmen in San Diego? Scarecrows in Manhattan? In Seattle they could convert the miniature Statue of Liberty to a tower. I can see the updated inscription: "Gve mE yr tyrd, yr pr, yr hddld mss yrnng 2 brth frE"...