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Unit 6 Dales Brewery, Gwydir St
Cambridge, England, CB1
United Kingdom


Hot Numbers is a high quality, independent gourmet coffee-house and roastery in Gwydir St, Cambridge. Providing delicious hand roasted coffee, speciality tea and light bites, to include pastries baked on site plus home-made cakes and paninis. We even stock Fitzbillies famous chelsea buns & cakes!

A hub for interesting folk to meet and chat accompanied by great jazz and blues music. Call in and enjoy the wonderful space of Dales Brewery. A true find for any discerning coffee enthusiast.



Girls Gotta Run the Rocko Mountain.

Hot Numbers

In the relative lull of Summer, between cold brew-tonics and tanning we’ve been fine tuning Hot Numbers...

But now the Sun is back to it’s autumn angle, the nights are long enough for typing up some short(-ish) blog posts. A lot has been happening, so much so October has come as a bit of a surprise. So In the next few weeks I’ll be typing up some thoughts on our new Cold Brew label and the aesthetics of speciality coffee, and divulging some behind the scenes knowledge on a new collaboration we’ve in the works.... 

But first I thought we’d introduce a new Coffee! We don't do this for every coffee, but some just stand out above the others. 


ENTER, ROCKO MOUNTAIN RESERVE *fanfare* *applause*

rocko mountain reserve speciality coffee 250g

Just Dialled in for Espresso at the shop, this fresh Ethiopian crop is a big, punchy natural processed coffee. Lots of jammy flavours and thick mouthfeel, some nice tart acidity and some of those floral notes you expect from a washed Ethiopian crop comes through on the nose, especially as a filter brew.

But to understand why we get so excited about Ethiopian coffee, you have to know a little bit about coffee’s rather complex history…. 

Feel free to skip this next bit.  

Somewhere in a forest about 10,000 years ago, Coffea Eugenioides and Coffea Canephora cross-pollinated to produce Coffea Arabica. Which makes it a very recent development when you consider Homo Sapiens, a young species in the eyes of the planet, evolved about 200,000 years ago. Like a lot of early history, we’re working with best-guesses and “fables agreed upon,”  but it’s widely accepted that this Forest was in the Highlands of Ethiopia, this was the birthplace of Coffea Arabica. 

One legend that has been passed down is the tale of a goat-herder, seeing his flock hepped-up on caffeine decided to try eating these cherries of boundless energy, and found the effect to be pretty ‘magic.’ Then at some point a devout sort proclaimed this to be the work of the devil, obviously, (anything fun is always bad ju-ju) and threw the coffee cherries into the fire. (There’s always a fire in early history stories. No fire is pre-history.) When they all caught the whiff of roasting coffee seeds everyone agreed such a heavenly smell could only be the work of a benevolent God, picked the toasted seeds out of the fire and made themselves a flat white. Using Goat’s milk.  

Asides from being a heavy handed example of Man’s fickle nature, it’s a tidy coffee creation myth that you can decorate as you please. (The bit about the goats milk macchiato is not entirely chronological.) The point of the story though is, Ethiopia is where we first started consuming coffee. 

But it’s not where we first cultivated it.

The first recorded instance of cultivated coffee comes from Sufi monks in Yemen. Thought be imported from Ethiopia in the 1500s. Probably to keep the monks wired all night for endurance praying, whirling around circles and laying down the foundations for cosmology and metaphysics. 

By the time the Dutch got involved, about 120 years later...

which probably looked like this

... the first steps in the narrowing of the gene pool had happened. A few seeds from Ethiopia became the parents of many many many coffee trees in Yemen, as oppose to a whole land full of wild Arabica for pollination.

So when the Dutch opened a trading post at the port of Mocha, and started introducing this powerful mystical spice to the rest of their colonies they were essentially taking a domesticated genetically modified version of this previously wild plant, which would be the basis for all future coffee plants.

But it gets WORSE.

The Dutch take ONE plant from their colony in Java back to Amsterdam and propagate saplings from this. Then they give ONE of these saplings to the French as a peace time gift. The french then sail this singular plant to Martinique and this plant becomes the parent of all the arabica coffee in central and, later, south America.  

This map gives you an idea of the the progression...

Coffee wouldn't get back to Africa for another 300 years, as a genetically narrowed clone plant,  and miles away from Ethiopia. 

In Ethiopia things still remain a little healthier. Being the native home of Arabica there are plenty of wild coffee plants in their native forests to cross pollinate with and to cultivate varietals from. We refer to these as “Heirloom” varietals. Perhaps genetically closer to the original Typica Arabica, but the gene pool runs deeper. 

So when we’re drinking some of these Ethiopian coffees, we’re drinking up natural history. We’re getting some of what the goat herder was chewing on in 570AD. Ethiopia as a growing region represents a spring of potential undiscovered wild varietals, just waiting to blow us away.

Which is all highly interesting and romantic etc. etc. but the real proof comes from the flavour. Ethiopian farms are consistently putting out unique coffee.

A prime example of which is from the Rocko Mountain…

Grown by small holder farms (maximum of around a 1000 trees to a farm, each tree only producing enough for about 10 cups of coffee.
Situated 1950-2150 Metres above Sea level
Naturally processed (fruit of the cherry is left around seed as it dries.)

The ‘fermentation’ that occurs in the natural process brings a bold strawberry flavour to the cup, which gets balanced out by all these exciting floral things happening that are often prominent in wet processed Ethiopian coffee. I could bang on about it, but really, just taste it. 

And …  asides from being tasty, these bean are charitable! 

One of our green coffee suppliers, Falcon Coffee, have dedicated a portion of the sales for this coffee plus an extra donation, to the Girls Gotta Run Foundation.

The GGR foundation is dedicated to protecting young girls and women in Ethiopia by offering sports scholarships to keep them in education. There is a gender disparity rife in parts of Africa which leads to enforced marriages, the normalisation of sex work from a young age general abuse and the perpetuation of poverty. By keeping these young women in education they are better protected and their future prospects greatly improved.

So how much did Rocko Mountain raise? 

A grand total of $10,000 ! 

If that weren't enough, Falcon are also arranging a Sponsored 5K run to further the donations to this worthy cause, which you can get involved with here:

It’s perhaps somewhat reductionist, maybe even patronising, to come from a very privileged background and protest that the coffee we all enjoy comes from areas which are ‘troubled.’ By ‘trouble’ I mean either civil war, drug wars or oppressive inequality and broken infrastructure, these lingering ghosts of our ancestor’s imperialism. But it’s far worse to ignore it. We should, those of us drinking and enjoying coffee, inherit some of the blame and take responsibility for it's oppressive history. Which is partly what Specialty coffee is about- through more ethical trading structures and initiatives which aim to repair and support the communities that surround coffee farming. 

So whenever we can celebrate a direct success like Falcon and the GGRF, we like to take it and shout about it!

Because not only is this coffee tasty, it helps ease your middle class guilt.

Works great as filter coffee. Holds it own with milk in a flat white, and if you want a real taste bud tickler come get a straight espresso of it. It’ll melt your running shoes right off. Or, if you prefer to be in control of your coffee ritual then you can buy a bag and have it delivered to your door. Just follow the link to the buy page ...

(In the next few days we’ll be emailing out some suggested brew recipes to anyone subscribed to the newsletter or anyone that's purchased a bag through the website and didnt use a fake email address. )

For further reading: Here's an informative and compelling piece from Sudan on similar issues to which the Ethiopian GGRF aims to combat:  Educating girls in South Sudan

Fancy some vintage Ethiopia jazz funk whilst you’re brewing up a cup? get your kettle out and turn the volume up for Hailu Mergia:

Opinions and historical inaccuracy. @Sjlillustration 




Hot Numbers

The grandmother’s sherry, the mulled wine at the carol service, mince pies, brandy butter, chocolate wrapped in foil hanging from a tinsel be-decked tree… Last time I tried festive blogging I attempted to shoe-horn coffee into British Christmas tradition.

Perhaps coffee just doesn't have the luxury status necessary to make it a christmas indulgence. Maybe it’s too quotidian. 

But then, A bag of nuts and raisins is a fairly ordinary snack the rest of the year. If your dipping into it in front of the television however, with a repeat of last year’s countdown of the 100 best Morecambe & Wise moments & claws of frost creeping across the garden and all the promise of a white Christmas- then suddenly, they are no longer mixed fruit and nuts. They are festive mixed fruit and nuts. That bag is lit with gold. Scented with frankincense and myrrh.

Coffee came to us along the same trade routes as those spices we associate with the festive season; nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves. So why did it not pass into christmas tradition with it’s fragrant cabin mates?

Well, maybe because it's recent history in the UK is one of commodity. During Queen Victoria’s reign coffee houses were still in vogue, coffee was an everyday occurrence, and one inextricably tied with all that the coffee houses stood for culturally and politically.

Nuts, dried fruits, spices & oranges however were still redolent of their exotic past, heavy with the expense of colonial wars and rarefied by great distances travelled and probably reserved for the pharmacy or the most adventurous diners. (Large amounts of Star Anise are still reserved by pharmaceutical companies to produce Tamiflu.) Perhaps those items were still treats, and so slipped comfortably into the gift-giving, hall-decking, indulgent Christmas pulled from Prince Albert’s German childhood. An idea of Christmas borrowed from European neighbours and popularised by Dickens then spread through the nation, which previously didnt recognise the holiday. And with it all those rare indulgences were swept. 

I suppose those habits endured, as habits will. Eventually maturing into traditions, with new ones added along the way. Coffee though still hasn't really been given it’s chance- it’s still an everyday occurrence - some would even deem a necessary occurrence … 

It might have it’s time in the christmas lights though - Coffea Arabica has a remarkably shallow gene pool, which is dangerous for it’s survival. 

This Inherited vulnerability means any disease that occurs in one plant could have a fair whack at decimating an entire country’s supply. And, if the changing climate continues to reduce viable growing regions, if agronomic or economic or political situations continue to shift at the source, then maybe coffee will become a rare treat only enjoyed at certain points of the year. Like smoked salmon used to be. 

Coffee does share one aspect with the wintry holiday season, beneath the ever thickening commercial veneer, the most rewarding aspect of the season is human connection, connections which happen regardless of your religion or belief system. Time out from working life for family, and old friends and neighbours. 

It would probably be exhausting to try and make a friend of everyone that visits Hot Numbers, but the most enjoyable part of the job, (asides from tinkering with brewing apparatus) is the surrogate family that comes with it. Regular customers become friends, & if you spend most of your waking day with your work colleagues they soon become the siblings. (Whether you like it or not.)

If it’s not too sentimental, those small human connections thaw the chills of winter and thats something we should probably try to remember though the summer. Sitting down with a drink in your hand, or participating in the very earliest form of coffee rituals is a way of pausing the day, to make way for conversation. Or debate. 

A whole year has passed already since the second shop opened & The Hot Numbers crew has doubled in size since 2014 as the shops continue to evolve. 2016 is set to be another exciting year. 

So cheers to all our hardworking local suppliers. Cheers to the farmers who grow the beans. Cheers to you, those who enjoy what we do and keep the coffee industry ticking over! 


In the new year we’ll be putting together profiles for some of the origins we source the green beans from, some background info on the countries and what role coffee has played in its history. Especially for those that get interested in the provenance of their morning cup. And mid-morning cup. 

And the new year is mere hours away, I’ve been thinking about alcohol. (Which is actually no different most days of the year,) but in particular their is one coffee and booze marriage that has stood the test of time-  Irish Coffee.  

So naturally I’ve been exploring ways to ruin it. My new years gift to you, is a ‘variation’ on the drink:


* 100ml FRESH BREWED COFFEE. (Brew it stronger to balance out the booze and sugar. Kenya Kiamabara is full of punchy blackcurrant notes that hold their own.)
* 50ml WHISKY (if you’re staying Irish, try and get a bottle Paddy’s for extra esoteric points. Personally I prefer the bold sweetness of a high corn bourbon, in this case Benchmark.)
* 15ml GINGER SYRUP. As seasonal nod to Lebkuchen.
* DOUBLE CREAM. (lightly whipped to help it float.)
* CHRISTMASSY TINCTURE (An optional extra for seasonal points. See below)

For the Ginger Syrup: chop up 100g of fresh ginger, stick it in a blender with 100ml hot water and 100g brown sugar. (1 : 1 : 1) Blend and strain through a fine mesh. (cheese cloth works best.) Its a bit of extra effort but it really brings a nice fragrant heat to the drink.

For the Christmas tincture you’ll need about a weeks worth of patience, coupled with any wintry spices and a jar of over-proof vodka. (Blue Stolichnaya worked for me.) Grind up the spices and let them sit in the dark for a week, shake it up once a day, then strain it through a paper coffee filter. The high alcohol content means you can get the aromas of the spices into your drink with just a few drops. 

Build your drink, making sure to heat the glass beforehand, keeping the coffee hot will create that satisfying contrast as the hot liquid breaks through the cool cream floating on top. Now, everyone knows, for it to be truly an Irish Coffee it needs to be served in a Libbey6 oz. Georgian Irish Coffee Glass (Model 8054.) If you cant find yours, just pick a glass that your nan would approve of. Rinse out her sherry first though.  First person that actually has a go at this and tags Hot Numbers and myself (@sjlillustration) in a photo (Twitter or Instagram) will get a bag of the Kenya Kiamabara on me. 

HAPPY 2016!!








Hot Numbers

It’s International Coffee day! 

So this seems as good a day as any to announce that I am almost definitely considering getting this blog as a regular occurrence again. This post is just a re-introduction, a quiet ‘hello’ from the silent void. 

The thing is, ideas for these blogs come thick and fast- but eventually very few seem to be anywhere close to meaningful/useful for whoever might chance upon it. This might be procrastination but too much Caffeine has this effect: 

“..Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination's orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink—for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water[.] ”                                                     - Joseph Smith (chap that invented Mormonism.) *

When memories and ideas bowl in on this caffeine cavalry the brain has very little chance to make any permanent record. The ideas ebb away in the outgoing tide leaving dwindling cognitive reserves and an edgy feeling in the rib cage. I’ve crossed the water though, been on a little holiday, and so have avoided caffeine for over a week. The first 3 days were like reading the twitter feed of a minor celebrity with all the words reversed. Everyday occurrences seem a demoralising reminder of the trivial nature of human existence. And your head hurts. But then you get better. 

Since the last blog a year ago we’ve been getting on with the business of building a new cafe, polishing up the old one (with power tools), training new staff, getting to grips with new brewing information, new machines, new grinders, rebuilding the website & a little bit of re-branding. A lot has happened since the last entry on here. But what are we doing to celebrate International Coffee Day? 

Well, not a lot. To be honest, I’m ashamed to say I didn't really see it coming. Then again I’m not sure its taken off fully in the Uk. In fact according to there’s only 7 recognised events organised for our small island of tea-drinkers. (4 of which are in central London if you’re in the area.)

So we’ll be doing what we do everyday, pulling espresso and brewing up some filters to the best of our ability. Every day is coffee day for us and, I suspect, every other coffee lover. When we’re not drinking it, we’re thinking about it. 

But that isn’t an attempt to belittle the importance of what might seem like another invented ‘holiday’ to market things and push promotions.The real aim of international coffee day is to prompt us, to get us thinking about coffee in a way that goes beyond ‘black or milky?’  or ‘did I brew this badly?’ Its for raising the awareness of fairer-trade and the search for quality, for reminding ourselves of the levels of work that go into maintaining this supply chain of luxury which we take for granted, but actually isn't as secure as we might think. If we were to ignore the problems that farmers face or the dangers of a crop with an incredibly small gene-pool, or the snowballing rate at which the climate is changing then very soon we wont have any coffee.

Just imagine if half the population of the world is suffering from coffee-withdrawal at the same time. 

So ICD 2015 doesn’t just concern those deep in the speciality industry, Its a day to lift the edge of the curtain and beckon others into the vast backstage of the coffee industry. Perhaps just one person today will spend an extra minute thinking about their cup, who grew it and where, and how, and what does a coffee tree look like maybe i’ll google it oh its more like a bush though this one is tree-like what is even the difference between a tree and a bush and…  The caffeine cavalry bowls in and their idea of coffee will be imperceptibly but indelibly marked with a new grain of thought. If that happens then international coffee day will have succeeded. 

Peter Giuliano (veritable coffee hero) has written on this with considerably more purpose and knowledge on his blog which I thoroughly recommend: Pax Coffea

And for the curious people with free time, here’s a fascinating 24 mins of neuro-science on why what you’re tasting probably isn't actually what you’re tasting, from Charles Spence at last year’s Re:Coffee Symposium. (Yes, there is a Coffee Symposium.)

Plenty of other things going on too for the less coffee-centric: Thursday Night’s Jazz session is now bolstered by the appearance of The Wandering Yak, serving up some banging middle-eastern style street food & Gwydir St. Local Sam Motherwell is soon to be exhibiting some prints based on drawings he made at said Jazz sessions- which we’re very exited to have the walls for a couple of months! Also Locals are the two filmmakers who will be screening their short films ahead of the feature at our next Monthly film night (Oct 5th) 

But to keep up to date with it all we’re on Instagram now, you can follow us on twitter, Facebook or just pick up one of the What’s On flyers dotted around our shops. In the meantime I’ll be reading up on water chemistry (courtesy of Maxwell & Chris hendon) , playing with some brew methods and plotting the next blogs. 

A photo posted by @hotnumberscoffee on

*Joseph smith quote lifted from Sadie Stein’s recent Paris Review entry:  Java Jive

(Words/opinions are from Shaun & not necessarily representative of Hot Numbers Coffee Ltd.)