CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Spoilt For Choice
Before I start this month's column I've got to get on my soapbox for a minute. I've just read that Costa Coffee is expanding. With 450 outlets already in the UK and 100 cafes overseas, Costa is planning to open 300 stores in China over the next 5 years, competing with Starbucks' 150 Chinese outlets. All I can do is wish them the best and hope that, as happened with Starbucks, this global expansion doesn't cause the quality of their coffee drinks to plummet. I'm not saying that Starbucks' coffee itself is any poorer than it used to be. But when it's nearly impossible to get a real non-caramel espresso macchiato in the oh-so-trendily "global" jazz-infused Starbucks cafes of today, it makes me pine for the old Seattle days when Starbucks was actually an option for people who like proper espresso drinks. So please be careful, Costa.
Besides, are the Chinese really that much into coffee? I thought their status as a tea-consuming nation went back centuries. Ah, well, what do I know?
Back to Sheffield. I first learned about Spoilt For Choice when I was working on the Sheffield Flood of 1864 project on the nearby Hallam University Collegiate Crescent campus. As this was rather intense, detailed work, my workmate Shelley and I would occasionally became caffeine-desperate. As an alternative to the stomach-gurgling push-button dross that was available within a short walking distance, one afternoon I decided to take a longer sojourn down Ecclesall Road to try Spoilt For Choice. The cappuccinos I brought back for us were refreshingly real and drinkable.
I returned recently to have a sit-down espresso. As I walked inside the cafe a young Sandra Bullock look-alike took my order. I sat at the window counter with a view across the street of the Berkeley Centre, featuring Tesco Metro, Labour Ready, Blockbuster Video, and Pizza Hut. There are also two small tables inside and four tiny tables on the front patio.
My double macchiato got marks for a gorgeous presentation, served in a pretty white Italian macchiato cup with a demitasse spoon and two sleeves of brown sugar (even though Sandra had asked if I wanted sugar and I'd said no -- ah, well, it's always better safe than sorry). And a glass of ice water came with the drink, which is always a nice touch. There was that pretty Sheffield-style doughnut of a rosette around the rim of my milk foam. The coffee itself, Segafredo Zanetti, is a bit too smooth for my liking, especially as I had a desperate need for strong bitter caffeine after a day at my current job, spending 5 hours bending, stooping, stretching and sprawling on the floor wrestling with dirty books and filthy journals. And I don't mean "smutty" -- I mean dusty and grimy and covered with so much dirt I can't believe the coal-black water that rinses off my hands when I wash them.
But back to the coffee. This was a very attractive and properly made macchiato, but it could just use just a bit more OOMPH!! My own personal physical fatigue combined with lack of sleep, a late night ahead of me, and way way way too much stress at the moment was making me desperate for OOMPH!! Hmm, since Ecclesall Road offers many trendy shops and cafes I wonder if there's an OOMPH!! dealer nearby... OOMPH!! "R" Us, perhaps? I mean, I don't mind paying top price for my OOMPH!! as long as it delivers.
The cafe also serves reasonably priced hot and cold sandwiches, all day breakfast, jacket potatoes, soups and salads, and homemade chicken fillet dishes. The colour scheme of the cafe is unique, with a very strange rich chartreuse door and medium avocado green walls, reminiscent of squashed caterpillars. As I finished my drink it started to rain lightly again, and I thought perhaps I'd stroll through the nearby Botanic Gardens on my way home, take in the Southern California landscape nostalgia housed in the Victorian greenhouses, and maybe take a quick roll on the grass in search of squashed caterpillar greens and grass stains.
Speaking of my current working days reminds me of a recent e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend:Just a brief report on the first week of my job of Shelver (or Lipstick Librarian, as my friend Kimmer has dubbed me). It's surprisingly tiring, I suppose because after the 30-minute walk to the library I then spend the hours hauling heavy tomes around, adjusting and rearranging impressively disorderly rows of books, reaching up to the high shelves and squatting down, sitting on the floor, to reach the low shelves - and then I make the 30-minute mostly uphill walk back home. It's impressive how messy and disorderly these students are. I'm finding that the philosophy students are the most orderly, while those studying to be teachers are abhorrently messy.