Michael Wells is no stranger to the Cambridge coffee scene, being one of the first employees in Hot Number’s original shop and then becoming manager of its second branch on Trumpington Street Summer Gainey with permission for Varsity

The Cambridge coffee-shop scene has long been a well-established one, with names like Fitzbillies, Aromi and Benet’s so familiar to visitors and students alike that they have almost become landmarks in and of themselves. Recently, I chatted to Michael Wells, the proud owner of the latest addition: Harvey’s Coffee House.

Michael Wells is no stranger to the Cambridge coffee scene, being one of the first employees in Hot Number’s original shop and then becoming manager of its second branch on Trumpington Street. This position first ignited Wells’ passion for coffee and, in particular, it was the opening of the Trumpington Street cafe which first opened his eyes to the wide student demand for coffee-shops, this being one of the regular haunts of students emerging from their nearby departments.

After a few years studying in Denmark, Wells returned to Cambridge and joined the team at the well-known cafe The Locker. It was the passing of hands to new owners of this establishment that prompted Wells to finally open his own business. Like many of us, as a result of Covid restrictions Wells began walking around Cambridge, with West Road becoming one of his regular routes. But he remarked that unlike on the high street and along the river, there were no coffee-shops or cafes on this side of town. And so, he decided to remedy this himself by opening his own cafe in the unused space offered in Gonville & Caius’ Harvey Court JCR.

“Wells believes that a coffee-shop should always have an audible hum in its background, not one created by music but rather one created by discussion”

In what Wells has termed a real “team effort from the college and staff behind the scenes”, this space was transformed over the summer into a lively and bustling cafe, providing a great space for students to work and socialise in an ideal location just off of the Sidgwick Site.

With Cambridge already brimming with so many iconic, almost institution-like, cafes and restaurants, one would have thought that opening a new cafe would be a daunting challenge. But Wells realised that by catering to the needs of students and with a lot of hard work and effort he could make this new business a success. And one is not hard-pressed to find the idea that lies at the heart of this particular establishment – that of fostering interesting and lively conversation over great-quality coffee and locally sourced cakes.

“So, Harvey’s makes for a much needed breath of fresh air in the Cambridge coffee scene”

He hopes to create a more social space for students which contrasts to the silence of libraries, and instead hoping to encourage the forging of new friendships and collaboration between customers over lively conversation which he believes to be “healthy for [your] mental health and healthy for creativity”.

Wells hopes to use this space as one in which students collaborate and work together, providing a nice change from the otherwise individual study environment of libraries and other workspaces. The atmosphere and ethos of Harvey’s Coffee House evokes the old-time romance of the stereotypical Italian espresso bar, where there is lively interaction between barista and customer, and between the customers themselves.


Mountain View

Spilling the tea on the UL Tea Room

Indeed, his constant presence allows him to interact with his customers on a personal level. Rather than this being one of the many spots on a tourist’s “To-Visit List”, this coffee shop instead aims to become a regular stop for students, one where you are immediately recognised and met with: “The usual?”

This is very much a space led by its customers, one which Wells is continually adapting and altering so as to “make it work for the people coming in” in the best possible way.

It is one which provides the ideal environment for ideas and friendships alike to flourish.