The Instagram account @judging_cam_cafes has rated multiple cafés in Cambridge Emily Lawson-Todd for Varsity

What prompted you to start the account?

To be honest with you, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but I had always thought the idea of “rating” something in Cambridge was a good idea. You could describe JCC as a spin-off of Rating Cambridge College Bars, as that is a venture I am also part of. Obviously, college bars are important for Cambridge students, but so are cafés, and considering the amount of shocking coffee out there, I felt like it was important to let the people know where they can go if they want to get a coffee with someone.

Approximate number of coffees since starting the account?

Gosh. I’m an MMLer, so I can’t be bothered to do the math, but just know that I am one of those insufferable people that do the whole, “I’m not myself without a coffee” shtick, and I do it at least twice a day. I started the account on 1 November 2023, so that’s ample information to figure it out if you care enough.

“College butteries don’t really care that much about whether the coffee tastes good or not because they know people will go there anyway”

What is your go-to place for a good café experience in Cambridge?

That is a very tough question. It used to be Café au Chocolat, and Pages is very close to my heart. But it has to go to Tatties, on Sussex Street. It’s in my backlog of cafés to be rated, but expect a flattering rating. If you have been for a coffee with me in the past four months, I have most likely taken you there. In my opinion, the interior is lovely, the coffee is top-tier, and the outdoor seating is some of the best in Cambridge. Shoutout to Dino as well, who is a great barista.

Where can I find the best coffee, and what should I say when ordering?

For me, a double espresso is the go-to. That is the way to properly taste a coffee. If an espresso is too strong, you can still gauge the taste well through an Americano or a Macchiato. Pages, Tatties, Bean Theory, and Harvey’s have the best-tasting coffee in my opinion. I like to be melodramatic about people drinking anything other than espresso, but if you don’t fancy drinking pure black coffee every day and are on the lookout for good café drinks in general, I find that if the espresso is good at a place, then everything else tends to be as well. If you like Iced Matcha, Pages does a great one.

Will the college buttery ever compete with cafés around Cambridge?

No. In my opinion, college butteries don’t really care that much about whether the coffee tastes good or not because they know people will go there anyway. Plus, colleges tend to be cheapskates and buy the cheapest stuff possible. They sell loads of other things as well, so they don’t need to have good coffee. Of course, they are more convenient and often cheaper, but in my opinion, it’s always nice to go for a walk outside of college to a nice spot, and cafés allow for that.

“It’s weird how we need an excuse to talk; whether it’s a coffee or a drink”

What has been your best and worst café experience?

My cynical nature means that I remember my worst café experiences much more than my positive ones. My worst café experience has to be between waiting 30 minutes for an iced Americano at Harvey’s and an absolute monstrosity of an ‘espresso’ I was served at Gail’s on market square. I’ll go for the latter, considering that the iced Americano was actually really good. My best café experience has to be at Sidge Buttery, where the barista, Gianmarco – shoutout btw – is always down to have a Mediterranean-to-Mediterranean conversation and is always inspiring on grey rainy Sidge days.

Has having too much caffeine ever been a problem?

Yes, but the maturity of second year has meant that nowadays I only really consume one or two coffees a day. I find that with how busy I am, combined with my policy of no coffee after 6pm and my very high coffee standards, I am only really able to have a maximum of two coffees a day.


Mountain View

Latte love! Sidge Buttery icon on frappuccinos and flirting

In your ratings you mention the people who you “chat” with when visiting these establishments. How important would you say the people you go with and the conversations you have are to a good café experience?

For me, having a coffee is a social experience, and I think it’s a great way of taking a pause during the day and having a conversation with someone. It’s weird how we need an excuse to talk; whether it’s a coffee or a drink. I barely go for a coffee on my own to be honest; I have a moka pot in my kitchen, so if a coffee is all I need, I just go for that. As for the people in my posts, I may use negative terms when describing the “chat,” but that is all in jest; if you feature on JCC, just know you are a real one.

What can we expect to see in the future from @judging_cam_cafes?

Unfortunately, JCC has been on a bit of a hiatus because of exams. I’m not savvy enough to find a quick way of making posts, and I haven’t been as free as I was earlier this year. But, as I am going on my year abroad next year, JCC is at a bit of a crossroads; perhaps the gauntlet will be passed on to someone, or maybe it goes international and rates Basque and Parisian coffee shops. Who knows. You’ll just have to wait and see.