It’s been a good while since I visited a coffee shop – excluding an airport act of desperation that resulted in a horrible cup of Nescafe – and I put off the temptation to visit just any coffee shop in Aberdeen until I finally found myself in the right place at the right time.
After doing a quick search on the internet of places worth interest (this was before I ventured to MacBeans and was handed a list of places to visit, mind), Books and Beans stood out amongst a selection of cafes, offering both food and second-hand reads. I was not interested in acquiring a new print, but the lovely idea of combining the two – although not very ingenious – put the place on the right books for me right from the start (apologies for this rather unoriginal pun).
Whilst going about my business on Union Street I decided to take a 15min break and set my footsteps in the general direction of the cafe hub in this part of town – this is a fair statement, as MacBeans is just around the corner from Books, together with a few other highly reviewed coffee shops.
It was easy to find too – bright orange among the Aberdonian grey – but, surprisingly, upon entering, a sign further inside the place leading to the books also said “Staff only.” Although surprised, I was aiming for the coffee shop anyway, which was on the right hand side from the entrance, with window seats overlooking the side street I had just crossed to get there – and bang in front of the pastry case and the counter.
There was a bit of a confusion behind the bar, as questions in different accents were flying up in the air, bouncing off a seemingly senior staff member on the till who was also trying to sort out a customer’s order at the same time. Let me just clarify that by senior I meant ‘most knowledgable’ as all of the four baristas/assistants present seemed to fit in the under-25 bracket, which, however, did not result in cockey attitude, but some relaxed banter in the quiet time.
After the moment of till confusion, my previously taken order of Fancy coffee was processed and that’s where I discovered that there was an option to sit upstairs – which made the “Staff only” sign irrelevant. Nevertheless, I opted for one of the window seats and was shortly able to pick up my Fancy from the smiley barista who took my order in the first place.
Now, this review can be deemed as biased for two reasons: one being that I didn’t actually order a mocha, as Fancy is a white chocolate mocha with cinnamon; second being that I had been once more attempting to diet and had been cutting down sugar drastically in the previous days. If you go back to my first point you can imagine the shocking sensation my taste buds experienced upon the first sip.
Fancy was sweet. Very, very sweet – but be it my no-love relationship with dieting or the lack of energy caused by hours of high-street shopping, I have to say – I loved it. The sweetness was eye-watering, and next time I would probably ask for half the chocolate – if I somehow happened to order another one of these little devils – but it also had a lovely texture and the temperature was perfect for drinking.
However, I felt my mission was not complete until I was also able to assess their Espresso, which was slyly hidden under the layers of white mocha, for which reason I went to the other extreme and ordered a Con Pana. It was rather amusing to see the confused expressions on both of the cashier and the barista faces when they received that order, and I had to correct the ‘senior staff’, who had by then taken the reigns on the bar, that it was whipped, not double cream that went on top, to which she replied: “Sorry, people don’t often order this one.” And they should, because the Espresso was really tasty – and that coming from a non-regular Espresso drinker. Of course, the little bit of cream helped to digest the drink, but because it was a thin layer of whip on top it did not manage to sink through the Espresso before I was done with it. The brew was smooth and pleasantly cocoa-nutty, but without the sharpness or punchiness that I am used to with so many kinds of Espresso beans. Looks like I finally found an Espresso I can really enjoy.
So, with a clear conscience I can honestly say that Books and Beans – despite its second-hand, cheap deli look throughout – is a great place to go to for coffee, as well as for lunch or a snack, as far as I can gather from their food menu and pastry case. The staff are upbeat but natural and the multicultural aspect just adds to the warmth of the place.
For a first cafe in Aberdeen, I think we have a winner – until the next one, that is.
Fancy coffee: £2.59 (sit in)
Espresso con Pana: £1.49 (take away)
Verdict justification: Lovely coffee – even the Espresso! – warm atmosphere and reasonable prices – conveniently, in the centre very of Aberdeen.