CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Cutting Edge
Once again I apologise for this column being so late. Life just gets in the way these days, especially when one has to spend all one's time working for a living and applying for better jobs. I will try to be more regular...
Way back in the 20th Century -- when people still spoke Old English, using words like "Betamax", "8-track", and "IBM", and when computers filled entire rooms and all telephones had cords -- I went to university. At my California campus, frequented by brontosauri, pterodactyls, and sleep-deprived students, there were only two choices for coffee: a standard cup of drip coffee from the cafeteria or the student union, or else a thick paper cup of coffeelike sludge regurgitated from the vending machine in the Music Quad. Espresso was unheard of on most campuses.
At Sheffield Hallam University's Collegiate Crescent campus where I work, the only coffee available anywhere on the otherwise pleasantly green and leafy campus is either a very large cup of milk tinted with coffee powder from a self-serve machine, or a painful cup of what I call chocolatecoffeeteasoup from a vending machine. And I say painful because it's dispensed boiling hot into a thin plastic cup which instantly raises blisters on your hands if you are so brave as to actually pick up the cup once the questionable liquid is dispensed. This same chocolatecoffeeteasoup is dispensed whenever I press the "Cappuccino No Sugar" option, and it never varies. As a result, whenever my workmates and I feel like treating ourselves to a real espresso drink, one of us must steal away from the campus and head down nearby Ecclesall Road to find a coffee cafe.
This past summer, however, I was lucky enough to work at the City Centre campus which is bigger and offers many more amenities including 8 catering options. Three of these are located in the Atrium next to the Adsetts Learning Centre where I was working. The main cafe at the bottom, Heartspace, offers the same self-service pushbutton pseudo-cappuccino or latte available at the other campus, as does Essentials, the large cafe adjacent on Level 6. But if you happen to be a coffee-loving student, member of staff, or University visitor, then head straight for the cafe on Level 5, the Cutting Edge, as it's the only catering establishment with a real espresso machine.
Because the Cutting Edge's coffee menu doesn't have an espresso macchiato choice, I usually ask for a double espresso with a bit of milk foam, and whoever is behind the counter is always happy to oblige, turning out what looks remarkably like an espresso macchiato. The coffee is reasonable and it's Fair Trade as well, and the prices are extremely affordable. The cafe also sells sandwiches, snacks, and cakes.
Although there is plenty of seating on several levels throughout the Atrium, the view is best from the Cutting Edge as it serves as a balcony looking down through the layers of the open centre of the building. The Cutting Edge counter features an awning that resembles white bat wings, and there are lots of little tables and also some sofas on a carpeted area to one side. Above the cafe is the Atrium's glass ceiling with big white umbrella spokes, and to one side is a door suspended a level above the ground. As we sit and sip our cappuccinos this enigma of a door gives us something to contemplate. Is it an art project? Does it lead to a cafe counter accessible only to giraffes? Is it an exit-only door for expelling naughty students from the university? If we wait long enough will we see Peter Petrelli emerge from it, flying across the Atrium and crashing through the glass ceiling?
Speaking of defying gravity reminds me of a recent e-mail conversation with my Bay Area friend about the Large Hadron Collider:You may know something about this - it may be in the news more over there than here. Some time ago I recall hearing about the Large Hadron Collider, the most advanced particle smasher which has now been completed at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research near Geneva. In a radio news report I heard that it will be switched on this week. According to some reports there is a small chance that the collisions will create a black hole that could swallow the earth. Scientists cannot rule out the possibility. I suppose if it happens, we'll never know. According to this article in today's Independent the collisions don't begin until next month, so we have a little more time to get our things in order.