With coffee chains such as Costa and Starbucks popping up on just about every street corner, it’s easy to see why such franchises make huge amounts of money and draw in large cosmopolitan crowds. Offering a generic atmosphere store to store, these chains promise a standardised experience which is no doubt suited to the average commuter, city-goer and coffee-craver. This is all very well, but the recent surge in independent coffee shops enlightens us to the possibility of a quirky, cosy and indulgent coffee shop experience. You only have to veer slightly off the beaten track to find some of Cardiff’s coffee (and tea) gems, often occupying the quirky arcades and the often overlooked streets of Cathays. With each coffee shop promising an individual experience centred on the raw passion of coffee, homemade produce and friendliness, it’s easy to see why independent coffee shops are becoming more and more popular. With the help of coffee-craving and hungry students we have collated the Cardiff coffee guide to independent coffee shops.
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse
5 Waterloo Gardens, Cardiff
Hidden in a leafy residential area of Roath is an independent gem providing pretty much every available flavour of tea under the sun- Waterloo Tea. With a chilled music playlist and a bustling atmosphere, it could be argued that Waterloo Tea’s only flaw is that it needs extending to cater for its growing local and visiting fanbase. Scones and cakes are served on traditional English cake stands and sandwiches are garnished with side salads that look so good that there’s no chance of them being left on the plate. Local Welsh artists have their canvas’ displayed on the walls, and the huge wall of silver jars showing off the vast array of exotic teas to choose from allow for the rest of the décor to be minimal. Drinks are cheaper than the usual coffee shop giants- perfect for students- and free Wi-Fi is available also, so bring along your laptop to get some all-important work done. The coffees and hot chocolates (for those who aren’t as adventurous to try Hibiscus Berry or Nettle tea) are rich, flavoursome, and definitely Instagram-worthy- this coffee shop is well worth a visit and proves a nice alternative to the usual experience at a chain coffee-shop.5 Waterloo Gardens, Cardiff
Bute Park & Arboretum, Castle St, Cardiff
Hidden by entrance to Bute Park, this little tearoom is an absolute treasure, not to be overlooked again! Your best bet is to try Pettigrew on a week-day because you’d be very lucky to get a table on a weekend, especially if the weathers good, as anyone with any sense will have probably flocked there after a stroll around Bute. The cakes on show are always sculpted perfectly, whilst the coffee is a delicious middle blend; I would encourage you to try one of their smooth ristrettos! They also have a great selection of herbal and fruity teas, which come in the most divine vintage tea sets, such a special extra touch alongside the 30s music, you can really feel like your transported back in time. Why wouldn’t you want to treat yourself to an afternoon of sophistication?! As the evenings get longer and the days get colder, what better way to warm up than with a nice cuppa and a tasty cake or something from their Christmas high tea menu? There’s no better way to get into the festive spirit.
The Plan Cafe
Morgan Arcade, 28-29, Cardiff
There is a strong coffee philosophy at The Plan Cafe. Situated in Morgan Quarter, one of Cardiff’s Victorian arcades, this delightful cafe is the perfect spot for any coffee lover needing a caffeine fix. You will find a constantly changing selection of coffees available as espresso, or in a personal cafetière with welcoming staff on hand to advise you about the different characteristics and flavours. Head Barista Trevor Hyam, a UK Barista Championship finalist, is a strong advocate for Third Wave coffee, a modern movement striving to promote top quality artisan coffee, which is not only delicious, but also entirely traceable to individual farms and cooperatives. Maintaining high standards throughout the whole chain of production, culminating in preparation by the highly skilled baristas, ensures a perfectly balanced cup of coffee. If you don’t take your coffee black, then you certainly won’t be disappointed with the beautiful Freepour Latte Art on the espresso-based drinks. The food menu is simple but tasty and uses organic and locally sourced ingredients. Lunch is served between 11.00 and 16.00 and costs around £6, with plenty of veggie/vegan options available and a range of tempting cakes and pastries. Take a visit to The Plan Cafe and it will become clear that there is a genuine passion for great coffee that you simply will not find anywhere else.
83 Crwys Road, Cathays
Stag Coffee on Crwys road has accomplished the ultimate goal of any new coffee-shop; convincing the customer that it has always existed. Leather wingback armchairs and an ancient trunk-cum-coffee-table remove patrons from the sterile repetition of franchise cafés and into the muddled, yet satisfying world of independent coffee.
Independent is as independent does, and in using Wales’ own Coalhouse coffee as their grind of choice, along with any cuts of meat from Pring’s butchers not 5 minutes from their premises, Stag Coffee a shining example of local businesses supporting each other.
Opening at 09:30 means Stag Coffee might miss the earliest of birds, however a closing time of 18:30 means you can easily nip in after lectures for a coffee, a (highly recommended) carrot cake and a read of their in-house books, ranging from the Complete Home Knitting Illustrated, to The Land of the Red Dragon. Even if reading isn’t your thing, stay off your phone and look around; Stag’s interior is beautifully and subtly designed, with an instantly recognisable cervine theme. Stag Coffee’s relative youth is well hidden behind a confident, competent and engaging staff, friendly and open to conversation if asked, informative if requested, and always accommodating. An excellent find.
Unit 13, Castle Arcade, Cardiff
Coffee Barker is a veritable stalwart of Cardiff’s coffee culture, recognised not only by sleep-starved and caffeine-craving students but also to the normal, well-adjusted general public. Barker’s has enjoyed considerable success in Castle Arcade since its opening in 2010, thanks in no small part to its exemplary staff, excellent coffee and a mesmerising interior. There are no green aprons emblazoned with garish logos, no twee taglines about their newest product, just a sign above the door saying ‘Coffee Barker’ assuring you that you’re supporting one of the keystones of Cardiff’s café culture.
The staff in Coffee Barker aren’t simply looking for a job to fill in the hours between education and sleep, each staff member is passionate about what they do, something that really shines through in the knowledge of their product and their enthusiasm in serving each customer. The interior of Coffee Barker is really something to behold; each table has a set of chairs and seats seemingly unique to each other, accompanied by equally unique and interesting lighting; Edison bulbs hang from old piping in the walls, while par cans and pseudo-streetlights hang from roof fixtures. It sounds like it couldn’t possibly work, but like peanut butter and hot sauce, it just does.