CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Sellers Wheel

Tamper Sellers Wheel / Rapid Transit via Slime

It’s been a truly depressing year for trying to inspire oneself to write about coffeehouses and pubs, much less about anything else. I have to admit that at some point my imagination sighed deeply, packed its bags, and took off for a long sabbatical. I think it was probably last summer, after my mother died in California and I couldn’t even contemplate how many months, or even years, it would be before I could fly over and grieve with my siblings and scatter ashes and things. And shortly after that event I was called back to my workplace which was consuming so much of my week that I no longer had the free time to contemplate just what was missing. After the brief summer spurt of pub and cafe openings -- how many short weeks did it last? -- we found ourselves in a second and then a third lockdown, wondering if cafes, restaurants, and pubs, much less theatres and live music venues, would ever open again. To basically massacre Zippy the Pinhead’s famous quote, “Yow! We are no longer allowed to have fun.”

But then the winter has finally come to a close, the sun has started staying up longer, and the successful ongoing distribution of vaccines has finally promised us at least a gradual end to this dystopian life. So I suppose it’s time for me to get back into practice with a column about some takeaway coffees I have had.

On my regular walks up to Crookes I’ve occasionally enjoyed an afternoon takeaway macchiato from Whaletown Coffee. I then take my drink down the road to enjoy out on Bole Hill. The last time I did this, when everything was covered with snow, my single macchiato had turned into an iced macchiato by the time I started to drink it. I bought a pastry to take home as well, an espresso caramel chocolate brownie, that was very rich but impressively good. Across the street from Whaletown, Dana has also been serving takeaway coffees and breakfasts. And on my walk to work through Sheffield city centre, Cawa Coffee has set up a takeaway window on Division Street, where I occasionally pick up a macchiato and/or a couple of their croissants to share with a workmate. Their cheese scones are pretty good as well.

My favourite takeaway coffee during this endless lockdown situation, however, has to be from Tamper Seller’s Wheel, located a short walk from the main entrance to the university where I work. First of all, the macchiatos I pick up there on an occasional Friday are nearly always very good. And the fact that they sell plain croissants from Depot Bakery, which are the best and most authentic plain croissants I have ever had in the UK, makes me very happy, especially when I want to cheer up my workmate John by bringing him a decent croissant, therefore avoiding watching him consume a mushy croissant from Sainsburys with which he usually contents himself.

One Friday, when I felt like I needed some sort of reward, I decided to treat myself to a takeaway lunch from Tamper along with my coffee. After browsing the menu I simply had to go for the vegetarian Eggs Benedict, with two poached eggs on buttered spinach served on a grilled muffin with hollandaise sauce. After placing my order and paying I waited inside the huge restaurant room in the back, along with only one other customer, both of us properly masked and with convenient bottles of hand sanitiser next to us. On the back wall I could see the chef busy in the kitchen. When he came out and handed me a cardboard box with my takeaway meal, I waited one more minute for my freshly prepared single macchiato to be brought from the front.

Excitedly I hurried to the university library, where I’ve been eating my lunches in the abandoned offices upstairs. As I hid in a comfy booth by the windows, which offered a panoramic view of the main bus interchange, the train station, Ponds Forge, and the Park Hill Flats, I opened the box, assembled the spinach and eggs on the crispy-bottomed muffin, and poured the Hollandaise sauce over all. I then faced the challenge of cutting and assembling a bite of a multi-componented dish with nothing more than a disposable wooden fork and wooden knife, and with an awkwardly slippery paper box as my plate. The challenge was well worth it: when I finally experienced my first bite I was amazed how absolutely delicious it was. I sat in my private hideaway for nearly an hour, carefully assembling bites of this gorgeous treat of a meal, accompanied by my single macchiato and my book. And as I dined, even though there was nobody near me, I tried very hard not to keep moaning in ecstasy. This was truly excellent food.

Tamper Coffee isn’t new to me, as nine years ago I had one of their coffees from their Westfield Terrace coffee shop, which had opened two years earlier by two coffee lovers, one of them a Kiwi. The Sellers Wheel restaurant, situated in a former silversmiths, was opened in 2013 as the second Tamper, and there is now a third located in the Kommune food hall in the former Castle Market -- or at least there was. I can’t predict which coffeehouses, restaurants, and pubs will be able to open once we get out of this dismal life, but I’m certainly hoping most of them can.

So what can I say at this point? Simply that when restaurants can open again, I definitely want to experience a lunch at Tamper’s in the way that one is normally supposed to experience a restaurant meal: sitting at a table, perhaps with a friend or two, with food served on proper dishes with proper cutlery. If I think hard I can just about remember that experience...

Speaking of slippery food reminds me of an email conversation from last year with my Bay Area friend about a new mode of transportation:

Over my breakfast I read a fascinating article in BBC Science Focus about slimes. Not only can a slime be one of 720 different sexes, all sexually compatible with each other for what sounds like a never-boring sex life, but they are quite smart even though they don't have brains. For instance:

"P. polycephalum’s efficiency for homing in on food, using chemical taste buds that direct its movement, has begun to pique the interest of town planners and transport engineers. By arranging the slime mould’s favourite food (porridge oats) in a Petri dish in a way that replicates the locations of towns and cities, researchers can gain insights into how best to lay out routes. For instance, we know that Tokyo’s railway system is one of the most efficient in the world. Why? Because, when oats are used to map out a scale-layout of the city’s railway stations, the tendril-like pathways that the slime mould grows between food sources match up clearly against the city’s actual railway network. On the other hand, we can say that the USA’s road network is one of the worst. The UK’s road network is somewhere in-between. For example, slime moulds tend to grow an M6 on the eastern side of England, heading north via Newcastle rather than through the Lake District."

I'd like to see a company like Quaker Oats introducing a SatNav system based on the favourite routes of slime. I'd definitely use it for my walking route suggestions around town. I might not get to my destination as fast as Google Maps suggests, but it would be exciting to experience the streets of Sheffield from a slime mould's view. Brilliant discovery! I suspect that the transit routes used by politicians to get around our nation's capital would neatly match those preferred by slime.

I love the idea of a navigation app optimized for slime. Google will doubtless add a slime icon to its already broad set of options for modes of travel. But for now I hope some nimble startup brings us a slime-specific product. Maybe call it SlimeQuest. No, damn, that's already taken!