CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Refresh Cafe
It makes sense that an area like Broomhill, where many University students live, would have a few espresso cafes. With all those caffeine-crazed students milling about it also makes sense that there would be at least one Internet cafe. Refresh Cafe is both of these. Situated on a busy corner with six Internet terminals against the back wall it's a perfect place to have a coffee and snack while checking E-mail or surfing the Web. The rates are £1.50 per 15 minutes or £4.00 per hour.
But more importantly, Refresh is a proper espresso cafe, relatively calm and quiet with cafe tables, a couple of settees, and a wall of extremely sunny south-facing windows. I was drawn inside by the invitingly soft sunlight washing over the peace and quiet -- something I don't often find these days. (Peace and quiet, that is -- thanks to the fact that the sun isn't due to burn out for awhile there's still plenty of sunlight left.)
I ordered a single macchiato from a knowledgeable and worldly barista who reminded me of my Seattle friend Celia. She got right down to business, making me my macchiato. Instantly -- before I could blink -- I was sitting at a table with my drink. Is it the influence of the Internet terminals? Does this mean they probably have lightning-fast connections?
My macchiato was served in a shot glass with the tiniest sprinkle of chocolate on top. This worried me because chocolate sprinkles can ruin even the finest espresso. Fortunately it was so scant I was able to scoop the offending quarter-teaspoonful off and enjoy my drink. (I'll remember to ask for it sans-sprinkles next time.) The shot turned out to be quite nice, with an earthy Italian flavour, the beans roasted deeply but not burnt. The coffee is from Caffé Bei & Nannini, one of Italy's oldest coffee companies, which explains the Italian character. To top off the experience my macchiato was accompanied by an exquisite little dark chocolate button from the same Italian coffee company. Now, a small bit of quality chocolate, as dark and bitter as it comes, alongside a good espresso is a pleasant experience: if you don't want the chocolate to interfere with your coffee you can put the chocolate in your pocket and enjoy it later. But to have chocolate foisted upon your coffee, conjoining with your milk foam so no amount of surgery can restore the original intention, is a pure caffeinated sin. Listen up, baristas of Britain!
Refresh also serves speciality teas along with nice-looking sandwiches and pastries. And along with refreshments the cafe offers various IT and business services: training, classes, consultancy, system design. Since they're so Internet-oriented you can actually place your order with the cafe by e-mail. So how do they manage this? Do they deliver? If so, how far? And how cold will your double short cappuccino be by the time it arrives at your flat in Seattle?
Speaking of the Internet and reality, the following e-mail exchange between me and my Bay Area friend is from two years ago:
And a year later we had this related exchange: