Cambridge’s independent coffee scene, although burgeoning, has always been somewhat limited. Since December, Simon Fraser has successfully attempted to change this with the recent expansion of his popular Hot Numbers venture. The coffee shop has been a thriving establishment since its birth on Gwydir Street in 2012, serving up coffee made from home-roasted beans by day, and jazz gigs by night. However, the chilly walk across Parkers’ Piece is less than tempting at this time of year, so when a second branch on Trumpington Street opened its doors opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum at the end of Michelmas, the numbers flocked and have since been streaming through the little red door.
Hot Numbers fulfils all the criteria required of the independent coffee shop: the simplistic and rustic interior consists of a mishmash of wooden sharing tables, making it the prime location for a sociable catch up; alternatively, solo coffee drinkers can perch on cushions by the window overlooking Scroope Terrace, surrounded by scattered newspapers and the retro record player in the corner. Students are welcome to come armed with laptops and make use of the free Wi-Fi – and come they do.
The Mill Road establishment has always prided itself on its use of home-roasted Arabica beans, perfected in small batches at the Hot Numbers Roastery, and the Trumpington Street venture is no different. Hot Numbers’ website claims “We roast to a medium degree, favouring a balanced acidity whilst retaining the aromas and sweetness often lost in darker roasts.” My flat white had subtle, nutty flavours that struck the perfect balance between bitter and sweet. The selection of food is equally as inviting, and supplied by local bakeries, such as Chelsea buns from Fitzbillies, and cakes baked by Afternoon Tease; the pecan shortbread slice had a deliciously crumbly and toffee-ish chew, and the gluten-free option, an almond berry cake, was moist and tasty. At lunchtime, a selection of toasted panini is also available, and there are various breakfast options too: homemade granola, porridge with fresh fruit and Hot Numbers’ version of a bacon butty.
The staff are friendly and quick to recognise regular customers; if you’re lucky, the latte art comes in the form of a smiling panda face. And best of all, it’s still relatively cheap, making you question why you ever went to Starbucks.
Hot Numbers Units 5/6 Dales Brewery, Gwydir Street
Hot Numbers No.4 Trumpington Street