I wrote about Edinburgh's Police Box cafes for Barista Magazine Online

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A Low Supply of Beans

Written by . Published on under the Spooky Stories category.

I’ve never tried Tapas Excelsior before. I’ll give them a shot. Do you have any recommendations? “Ask the proprietor to serve you the house special. Tell them that Eon sent you. It’s a taste experience like no other.” said Eon, one of my closest friends.

Eon asked me whether I’d ordered any new coffee beans lately. I told him that I was getting low on my supply and that I’ve been really digging a blend from Steamhouse Roasters. They are a thirty minute drive from where I live. I go every two weeks to pick up a supply of coffee. I love the smell of the roastery. Sometimes I get to see the coffee roasting. Steamhouse is the only roastery where I’ve actually seen the roasters. Every other roastery I’ve been to seems to be more of a cafe than anything else. Steamhouse is special to me.

Darn, I thought. I haven’t ordered any beans. I look at my calendar. It’s the 22nd of October. I have about two days of coffee left at my home supply. That’s not ideal but I can drive over and grab some beans. I’ll need to go after work one day. I usually plan out my consumption so that I can go on weekends. That’s right. Maria came over and asked me to brew her a speciality coffee. Her eyes looked at me with glee on the first sip. I don’t regret spending some of my precious coffee supply on my girlfriend, soon to be wife. But I’ve been so busy. I wish that Steamhouse delivered.

It’s approaching three in the afternoon. I’ve already had two cups of coffee today. I text Maria to tell her that I’m not going to be at home. “I need to go grab coffee beans. I’ll try to be back by 4 so I can help with the dinner.” “Okie, sweetie!” Maria replies. All is good.

The sun has been blasting all day. I considered making myself a cold brew this morning. I could not deviate from my principles. It’s autumn and I did not want to risk a sudden change in temperature. It happens every now and again. I make myself a cold brew and suddenly it gets colder in my home office. My hands freeze as I pick up my cup.

“Click.” My car has just unlocked. I pull out of my parking space and work my way down the street. I pull off on the next turn to get to the road that takes me directly out of town and to Steamhouse. I’ve got a thirty minute drive ahead of me. I may as well put on some music. What was that playlist that Eon recommended? Oh yes, Coffee and Chill. A song called “Coffee” plays. I’m in heaven.

The sky suddenly turns. As I approach closer to my destination, the clouds get darker and darker. I think back to earlier today. I am glad I didn’t make a cold brew. I’m happy I didn’t make one for the road. I’d be freezing by now if I had to drink a cold brew. I could not drink a cup now anyway. I need to conserve my coffee supply in case I don’t get to the roastery on time. They close at 3:45 for training on a Thursday. The rain comes on, slowly. PItter, patter. I need to use my windscreen wipers. It hasn’t rained in a few days. I guess this weather is overdue.

I feel a strange force overwhelm me. I get a taste of the coffee I’ve been drinking. Hallowed Hills. I taste raspberry. Dark chocolate. A hint of treacle goes down my tongue. I think about my next cup of coffee. Soon, I’ll have a fresh bag of beans from which to brew. I’ll be in heaven once again. I might even try extending the time I brew this coffee with my Aeropress. I have a feeling there is more to this coffee than I’ve been able to extract.

I approach Honeyville, home of Steamhouse. I only visit this town if I’m travelling or if I am ordering coffee. I have fond memories of ordering coffee. I always enjoy my conversation with the baristas. Iain and Cheryl are two of my best friends. I’ve known them since Steamhouse opened up three years ago. I remember my first encounter with Iain. I asked for tips on how to improve my Aeropress game while I ordered a coffee. I told him that I used the standard method. He recommended the inverted method. He said that he’d show me when he got on his break.

I remember this encounter because of what happened next. “Ouch” cried Iain. He had burned himself on the flip. What was he most worried about? Whether this would taint my interest in the inverted method. “Trust me, he said, the inverted method is great. I’d say that it’s maybe best for people who like living on the edge.” I don’t usually live on the edge. I like consistency. That’s why I’ve been ordering from Steamhouse for a year and a half. Their coffee is great. I’ve never had a bad bag before. I know that when I order coffee here I’m going to be pleased.

I pull up to 50 Swanson Street. I’m looking at the Steamhouse sign. The doors are closed. I wonder what is going on. The doors are usually open in autumn. There were no lights on. I got concerned. I went to open the door. No luck. I looked for a notice on their window. Nothing. I have never seen the shop closed before during their regular hours. I look on Instagram to see if there are any notices about the store. There are photos of people drinking from Steamhouse an hour ago. Someone took a great picture of their pumpkin spice latte. I’ll need to save that picture. It would make a great phone wallpaper.

What is going on?

I resolve to come back the next day. I am angry. I’ve only got enough coffee to tide me over for a day. If they are not open tomorrow, I’ll need to order beans from Pickering Roast. Their coffee is good but it’s nothing like Steamhouse.

On my way to pick up my morning bagel, someone bumps into me. “Excuse me, sir.” he says. How can I help you? “You showed up to Steamhouse yesterday, correct?” I did indeed. I wondered why someone I’ve never met before was asking me this question. “I showed up a few minutes before you. I had just gotten into my car. I saw you staring at Steamhouse. You looked worried. Was it because they were closed?” Yes, I replied.

“I went back there earlier today and the entire shop had closed. The sign had been taken down. There was not a for sale sign to be seen. All of the equipment had disappeared. All that’s left is the colored glass panels that are on their windows. It’s like Steamhouse never existed.”

I could not believe this man. I’d never met him. Well, he said that I had. I didn’t see another car yesterday. Oh, maybe there was one. I cannot remember. I can’t waste my time thinking about whether I’d seen a man. I need to sort this out.

I go back home and post a message in my work Slack. “I’ve got to go. I’ll work an extra hour tonight.” My boss is fine with my taking an hour away. I need to drive up to Steamhouse and see what’s going on. I need my coffee.

My car engine revs up. I’m on my way to Steamhouse. But first, I need to pick up a snack. I never got my morning bagel. I pull over at Lucy’s Bagels. The best bagels in town. I’ve love their sesame bagels. Oh, I wonder if they have their Halloween specials in yet. I see a sign in their window. Their Halloween range is available. I decide to order a pumpkin spice latte with my bagel. It’s Halloween. I’ve been under a lot of pressure at work. I need to treat myself.

I get back into my car and continue driving. Maybe Steamhouse have been closed down by the health board. Maybe a member of the team is ill and they’ve had to close until the team member recovers. I don’t know. Surely, there must be a reason.

I approach 50 Swanson Street and see the same thing as the man explained. The store was gone. Only the steamed glass panels remain. I smell a hint of coffee in the air. I’m unsure where it comes from. I look for a sign. Maybe they have relocated. There is one sign on the door, in small text.

“We’re closed. We’re never coming back.”

My mind reels. I’ve known Iain and Cheryl for years. I cannot believe that they would close down Steamhouse. They are a popular roaster. I’ve sometimes been told that I have to order another bean because they are sold out of the one I want. How could this happen?

I wake up. It’s a lovely autumn morning. The leaves are continuing to fall. I see some bare branches. Most branches still have leaves. They look fragile. In a few weeks, all the trees at the park across from my house will have no more leaves. I go downstairs and think about my morning coffee. I prepare my Aeropress. I go into my cupboard looking for beans. There are none.

How could I forget to order beans after yesterday? I must have been in such a haze. I go straight to the shower. There is no point in me standing around. I’ve got no coffee. I have to deal with it. The day must go on.

I hear the post box. Nobody delivers mail at 7:30am. I wonder what is going on. I’ve already been rattled by not having any coffee. The effects are starting to kick in. I’ve usually had a cup by now. I do not feel like myself.

A black envelope lies on the floor. “To Tom” says the letter. I open it. “There are no more beans for you. Hehe.”

What? No more beans? I want my Hallowed Hills back. Surely there’s something I can do. But I come back to reality. Steamhouse has closed.

The letter says one more thing “You know Lucy’s bagels? I wouldn’t go there later today. It seems that they’ve fallen in the same direction as Steamhouse.”

Later that day, I go to Lucy’s bagels. I want a sandwich and I don’t feel up for making one myself. I’d rather have one of the lovely veggie sandwiches from Lucy’s bagels. They do such nice pastries and sandwiches. I go to the shop. It’s empty. One note remains… “Oops…” says the note. I have no idea what to think.

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