Just how much did Tammie Walker spend at Espresso Royale during her Illini years?
“Let’s just say, my assistantship stipend should have just been direct deposited into the cafe rather than routing through my checking account first,” says the two-degree UI grad, now the director of the University of Iowa’s School of Music.
“Espresso Royale is where I started my annual love affair with hot chai in the fall, then a mocha addition through the holidays, and usually surfaced with a straight espresso habit by spring.
“I habituated myself so that I could not practice the piano without an Espresso Royale cup next to me — it was so bad that I would weather rain, snow and ice, walking from my grad office in Smith Hall to the cafe. Even if I was short on time, it just had to be done.
“Around the time I started feeling bad about my empty wallet and caffeine addition, I started to notice how many empty Espresso Royale cups were in the garbage can of my piano professor, Ian Hobson. And it was shortly after that time that I started running into him in line at the cafe — often.
“Several years after graduation, I was in Urbana for a quick visit and of course stopped for a coffee. And who did I run into in line? Ian Hobson and a former piano student.
“While I learned an incredible amount from my studies at U of I, which has served me very well in my career, I also learned about the magic fuel that keeps many musicians going: good coffee. And I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it.”