Cafe Physics Reviews

One of the motivations behind Bean Thinking is to slow down and notice the things that surround us and the things that connect us. Where better to do this than in your local, independent cafe with a good cup of coffee and perhaps a slice of cake?

Cafe-Physics reviews feature independent cafes with good coffee and friendly atmospheres that additionally have something about them that links to an aspect of science. Featured below are ten, fairly recent, cafe-physics reviews that were particularly memorable, either for the cafe, or the physics or perhaps even both (listed alphabetically). If you find a cafe you think needs a cafe-physics review, and it isn’t yet reviewed on the Daily Grind, please contact me.

The Alchemist, Singapore

Is brewing coffee alchemy?

Brewing good coffee requires a combination of chemistry and technique. The alchemists of old were looking for gold by experimenting with urine. Arguably coffee is liquid gold that is also a diuretic.

How does a cafe in Singapore come into all of this? It is all in the lighting.

Katsute 100, Angel, London

An unusual one, particularly because Katsute 100 is more of a place for tea than for coffee. Nonetheless, a well made pot of tea together with an ichigo daifuku prompted a series of reflections on that most famous of Quantum Physics thought experiments, Schrödinger’s Cat.

What is wave particle duality and how can a teapot help us to discover what that is about?

lines on a table, parallax

The Observatory, Bloomsbury, London

Part photography gallery, part cafe, The Observatory in Bloomsbury was a perfect place to contemplate issues of perception.

From parallel lines to perspective and parallax, how our way of viewing the universe influences us psychologically and, perhaps, even influences how we interpret the results of our scientific experiments.

discoball cafe

Pritchard and Ure, Camden, London

With Workshop coffee and edible cactuses, this cafe in a garden centre offered plenty of food for thought. And yet, it was something that we rarely feel and cannot easily directly see that grabbed our attention at this lovely spot for a coffee.

How do we know that the Earth rotates and can we see it in the movement of a glitter ball hanging from the ceiling? Over the course of a good lunch of fried egg on cactus leaves, we watched as the reflected sunlight danced around the room and wondered, how long is this pendulum anyway?

signboard at Rosie and Joe

Rosie and Joes, St Giles Churchyard, London

The history of this area of London goes back a long way and this coffee cart in the churchyard is now part of that long tradition. In the past, this was where the condemned could get a ‘cup of charity’ on their way to execution at Tyburn, but now, this space offers a quiet space for reflection and a more relaxed drink than in times gone by.

Yet, being in central London, emergency sirens are never far away and the way we hear them as they pass us can help us to understand how to see the cosmos, and how we know that cloudy planets like Venus are rotating underneath the clouds.

Rosslyn, The City, London

With coffee from Modern Standard and seating over looking the busy junction of Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street, Rosslyn offers a perfect place to pause for a coffee and people watch. You can also physics watch as there is plenty to notice here.

An interesting effect of the geometry of the table-bar connected the cafe, Rosslyn, to experimental physics labs. A connection that contrasted the busy-ness of the City to one of the quietest places in the world (near the M6 motorway).

Second Shot, Lisson Grove, London

Second Shot employs people who have been affected by homelessness and helps them to re-establish themselves for their future. In many ways homelessness can be a hidden, and occasionally invisible, problem. And so it was interesting to note that some of the artwork around this friendly cafe was drawn with ink made from coffee. It is relatively easy to make ink from ingredients you can find in parks (or in the kitchen). Sometimes though, if you omit a crucial ingredient, you can make invisible ink instead. Invisible ink that can be made visible if you pay enough attention and treat it the right way. Perhaps there is an allegory there.

Story Coffee St John's Hill Clapham

Story Coffee, Clapham, London

Every coffee tells a story as does every cafe. The history of this cafe is particularly rich. With coffee from Red Brick and Square Mile, there were many things to observe and to notice in this neighbourhood cafe.

The edge of the bar was lined with trees that had been cut down exposing their growth rings. These rings tell us stories too, stories of the weather that the tree encountered in its growth and stories of climate change when we ‘read’ the tree rings of trees felled across the world. Looking around, what stories do you see?

coffee and cake Kennington

The Sugar Pot, Kennington, London

There is a lot to appreciate at this friendly and local, community cafe. A lovely banana bread and good coffee, it is definitely a place to visit if you are in Kennington. The notices advertised within the cafe also featured local projects including the nearby urban farming project “Bee Urban”.

Which prompts several questions, including how positive are bees (in the electrical sense), and why does this matter for pollination? And, perhaps more deeply, what does it mean ‘to be’, or even ‘to bee’?

The Wren, St Pauls, London

A spacious cafe in a relaxing space with coffee from Workshop. It is impossible to avoid the history that surrounds this cafe. St Pauls cathedral dominates the skyline around this area and was itself the location of a famous physics experiment during the seventeenth century. The physics experiment concerned is that of Galileo dropping two weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Only that specific experiment probably didn’t happen with either Galileo or Pisa. It did however happen with Isaac Newton in St Paul’s cathedral, and it did have a surprising result.