As most things I’m quite accustomed too these day’s it was a long old struggle conditioning my sensitive tastebuds to appreciate the grown up flavours from red wine to olives, beer, gin and now coffee.
I was a late starter and couldn’t quite fathom the explosion of coffee shops in and around South Wales over the years especially in some of the towns and villages I thought would never appreciate and savour the complex caffeinated flavours of freshly ground coffee especially paying up to £3 when a packet of 100 teabags will set you back about the same for some Dutchy Originals Orgnanic blend ed tea from Waitrose.
I can remember it now one afternoon stuck working in a business development event about 2 years ago bored out of my skull wishing my life away when all of a sudden a strong whaft of a roasted perfume seemed to seduce my concentration or lack of it from the coffee shop in corner. Coffee up to this point just brought me out in a cold shiver thinking of chomping down on a coffee Roses chocolate by mistake or playing russion roulette trying to steal a Revel off my nan who if you know her guards her Revels like her life depended on it and picking the bloody coffee one out of all the other posibilities!
So I thought come on your a grown up now, you should of grown out of the carton of Caprisun a long time ago it’s time to start enjoying or at least attempting to drink something a bit more refined and delve into the coffee culture I’d looked on in bemusement until now.
I thought I’d ease myself in gently plus I didn’t have a clue what the difference was between a coffee, latte, machiatto, cappuccino and the rest on the list the length of my arm so opted for a latte as it seemed to have the most milk content and I was pleasantly suprised how much I actually enjoyed it.
It was a long old slog after that mind switching up to something a bit different but probably because of the quality or lack of that a latte was quite strong or bitter enough to entice me to grow some balls and have something with a bit less milk in it up until a few months ago. So the scene was Riverside Market in Cardiff, the drug dealer (well coffee is more or less a drug and got me hooked since) – Coffee am Byth, the caffeinated beverage sampled – The Flat White, the result – I haven’t looked back since!
This led me on my quest for the best coffee or more precisely the best Flat White in Cardiff. Check out some of the coffee traders sampled below and my favourites in order of preference.
1. Coffee am Byth – Roath Market Saturdays & Riverside Market Sundays
It might of been my first sample of a flat white but it raised the bar so high it just hasn’t been rivaled yet and finding it hard to imagine anyone actually presenting to me a more pleasant, smooth and sublime concoction in a carboard cup than this.
The guy might be cheating a bit by pimping the flat white with his “Cuban” upgrade option, which comes with subtle hints of brown sugar and cinnamon that are planted in amongst the freshly ground coffee beans before it’s poured so it leaves just traces of the golden caramel and christmassy taste in your mouth instead of being mixed post pour in your cup of coffee leaving ugly remnants and floaty bits of cinnamon to choke on.
I don’t mean this with any malice but the guy who owns Coffee am Byth is the ultimate coffee geek and that’s exactly what you want when ordering a steamed, golden cup of brain surging juice. We’ve asked loads about coffee when we’re shivering in the deathly wind storming down the taff opposite the Riverside Market on a Sunday just out of a love for the coffee and in an attempt to recreate the Cuban flat white at home after recently investing in a De’Longhi Coffee machine and his knowledge on the subject is second to none.
2. Uncommon Ground – Royal Arcade
I stumbled on this coffee shop after deciding to bite the bullet and get my head scalped the week before next door at Keep the Faith. I was on a mission that evening though as I had a spare 10 minutes to get the final few strands on my skull expertly sheared off before jogging to the appartment to get ready for a works night out so didn’t have time to sample a coffee at the time so vowed to come back the week after when i did.
The wait wasn’t long (thank god) and I was presented with my 2nd favourite, skillfully decorated, steamed and golden nectar in a cup. Mwsh wanted a bit of added flavour to hers but I liked that they were complete purists and don’t stock syrups it’s just coffee, milk and sugar if you’re that way inclined which I did add my customary half a teaspoon of brown sugar.
3. Cana Deli – Pontcanna
I don’t know if it was the rocket fuelled swift pint I’d just slurped across the road at Pipes open bar before walking over or the relief in comfort the warm cup had on my numbing fingers as we opted to sit outside due to the lack of available seating inside at the time but I did do an overly loud mmmm. Of which, I thought was in my head but turned out my mouth wasn’t connected to my brain properly and blurted it out much to the received satisfaction of the waitress.
The hidden gem of a coffee shop was nestled between two buildings with a little courtyard with 3 businesses adjoining, decorated in wood, which was a nice contrast to the rest of the buildings in the street.
We were a bit peckish as it was just after midday and hadn’t had much of a breakfast for a Saturday so opted for a Cheese board, charcuterie board and a sausage roll to go with the flat white, which were also delicous and highly recommended as an accompanyment or on their own.
I liked the big wooden table’s outside as it gave us ample space to sit and stack the sharing tables out and our drinks instead of some of the dainty little tables and chairs that look like they wouldn’t support a bag of sugar let alone the mountain of nibbles and drinks we ordered there.
The flat white was very smooth and indulgent and big inviting heart shaped milk heart inticing the warm golden sugar sweetened cup into my cold hands bringing life back into them from the temperature outside.
4. Artigiano – The Hayes
I’d been here just once before around January but was still on my “Coffee Squash” at the time but loved the fact you could order a good coffee or a craft ale and food with even the mention of music and entertainment in the evening this sounded like a one stop shop.
I opted for a grown up coffee this time as my Cardiff’s best coffee quest was in full swing and couldn’t deviate from my mission and ordered a flat white.
The decorative, expertly crafted milk shaped top was the best I’ve had so far I was very impressed. The coffee, somewhat stronger and more pungent that the first three but pleasant, warm and richly satisfying at the same time.
5. Quantum – Cardiff Bay
I’d heard of most of the other coffee shops in my list previously but this one had escaped my attention and only happened to stumble on it by accident walking from the bay one Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t entirely obvious what the building was from the outsie, it was only becuase Mwsh had previously been a fan of the coffee there and mentioned it might be worth sampling a flat white to see how it compared against the others in the list recently.
The made the most of the industrial look with exposed brick, plywood and concrete with the usual funky lights that are all the rage. They had a mahooosive roaster/grinder in the corner, which was pretty cool too although I’m not sure if it was used for it’s intended purpose or just a piece of furniture.
The flat white was good, it lost a bit of it’s presentation on top but was wasn’t quite on par with the 4 spots above it so comes in at a number 5 slot.
Other Coffee shops sampled that didn’t quite make the cut of top 5 best flat whites in Cardiff
As I’m not a daily drinker of coffee when I do have one I want it to be something worth remembering and enjoy every mouthful of rich, warm bold and delicious coffee.
So for me a coffee isn’t just about the flavour it’s much more than that it’s the whole experience from the flavour, proportions of freshly ground treacle esque espresso matched against perfectly steamed , silky smooth milk, the presentation, the surroundings, the service and the love that’s gone into making cup of coffee. For those reasons that’s why on my first experience of the traders below didn’t score higher than they have.
Waterloo Tea Garden
Waterloo Tea – Ok so they are more renowned for their tea’s but thought they sell cake and do coffee so might be a winning combo. I ordered a spinach and pistachio cake to go with it although that turned out to be the saving grace of the visit as the coffee was just an OK. It wasn’t a bad coffee I just had high expectations from a tea house.
The other thing I wasn’t too impressed with was the actual coffee shop it didn’t look very inviting. Ok so most of the new places look a bit more rugged with the industrial look but i’d much rather that than something that resembled a council library from 10 years ago.
Everything was clean and tidy it just so I wouldn’t say they need to work on that I just wasn’t feeling the look and feel in there and after sitting on a few tables inside we took a pew outside in the arcade on a sofa so I didn’t get depressed in the surroundings of inside whilst trying to enjoy my coffee.
I do feel a bit quilty about placing these at a number 7 and probably due to our own fault on the visit, which was a horrible day to be out an about. It was a Friday afternoon, terrential rain and not sure if the whole of Roath had descended on the place for shelter from the rain but it was heaving. We stood around for a short while at no fault of their own it was just busy and as we had unsuccessfully tried to dine for lunch at Pettigrew Bakery 15 minutes before as we thought it had inside seating and lunch menu items and fancied a sit down drink to warm up.
We had the table cleared and were seated with minimum fuss after a few minutes of standing by the counter, which worked in their favour as my vision became quickly focused on the sharing boards but what to have the meat or the cheese as we had just shared a scotch egg and pasty at Pettigrew.
Anyway cheese it was with a flat white to wash it down with but what was presented to me was the most dissapointed flat white to date although the cheese was awesome mind. I realise they were busy and working flat out keeping everyone served and the girl behind the kitchen had smoke coming from her chopping board she was working so fast but for me the flat white is equally about the presentation as it is the taste and it came in a small (which isn’t bad when it comes to a flat white) clear glass and had just been poured. No love, no presentation, no fancy milky Picasso on top just coffee poured into a glass. The coffee didn’t taste bad but my love for what sat in front of me didn’t fill me with any excitement what so ever.
Coffee Barker – St Mary’s Street, Cardiff
For such a prominent mens fashion establishment in South Wales over the past 20+ years to turn it’s back on it’s heritage to pursue a totally new venture was a bold decision. I think 90% of guys in and around Cardiff had bought one of the rock inspired sequin tops such as kiss and AC-DC from Barkers when they were all the rage about 10 years ago or the highly popular Two Stoned brand shirts they had in every colour you could think of stacked on the rails.
The coffee shop originally set out as an addition to the clothes shop probably so the girlfriends and wives didn’t have to endure hubby doing the catwalk in a choice of 10 two stoned check shirts and could sip aimlessly thinking about their 3 visit that day to Topshop. It soon grew and grew, devouring every last inch of what was left of Barkers the clothes shop and took centre stage and the sole bread winner of the Barkers family business but I’d not ventured that end of town for a while so not had a chance to sample the coffee or cake or waffles, or ice cream or hot chocolate!!
As I’m writing this I’ve only just realised that Sunday seems to equal coffee day and the main day I get to conquer a new coffee trader in Cardiff but probably something to do with me not working in Cardiff during the week and coffee shops closes well before I finish work in Newport. So a Sunday it was we were passing and the sun was out so we decided on a pit stop to remedy a much needed dose of caffeine from our trek around town and sit outside to make the most of the last few days of summer sun.
We grabbed a table outside trying to find a table that had the smallest mountain of dirty, sticky plates and cups. Not sure if they were just exhausted from the colossal amount of trade they had the day before with the Roald Dahl celebrations taking place a stones throw away from the cafe but they took about 20 minutes to eventually decide to take our order inside as there seemed no urgency amongst those serving and no real reason for the extended wait.
Fair enough if they had been busy clearing the ever increasing collection of cups and trays outside but they didn’t even do that we had to site amongst the mess left from the previous few hours of trade. Then comes the coffee, which looked very miserable. This wasn’t what I was expecting from someone who had basically taken over castle arcade with the every increasing extending of the coffee shop but I was left bitterly disappointed. It looked like the flat white had been made with no offence to Nescafe granules there was no creative mark of approval on top with the milky creations I’d become accustomed to. It was that sad looking I didn’t even go to the effort of going into my pocket to take a picture for Instagram, which isn’t like me of late I can tell you! Not only was the place a tip outside, waited ages for no reason, coffee just looked like it had been thrown in the cup but the coffee was very bitter in comparison to all the other places I’d sampled on the list.
The place always seems busy when passing but for whatever reason I don’t know if they were just having an off day but I won’t be going back in any rush that’s for sure and wouldn’t put my name to somewhere like that after my dreadful experience and recommend it to any friends or family.
Coffee Co – Cardiff Bay
I was really looking forward to this place after being left disappointed a few weeks back when I took a you guessed it a Sunday afternoon stroll for my weekly dose of a flat white but it was closed for refurbishment and extension by the looks of it going from one shipping container to another two bolted on to the side meaning they have additional seating inside in preparation for the predicable shitty Welsh weather.
I’d be tagged in a post on Instagram two weeks ago so I was aware the place had now opened back up so set off Sunday just gone at 4.30 knowing the place shut at 5 so it was a bit of a power walk from town to just in front of the Doctor Who Experience down the bay. We got there with about 10 minutes to spare and the walk had built up a slight eagerness to sample on of the savoury pastries with the spotlights fixated on them just in front of the counter but they had quite rightly ran out of mash and gravy being all but closed in a few minutes so opted for the chicken and chorizo pasty.
Two flat whites were ordered with the pasty coming first after a quick blast in the microwave so was only right to have a little nibble whilst the “flat white” was in my mind being blasted with boiling oxygenated milk on the coffee maker and steam nozzle.
“You’re flat whites are ready” came the voice behind the counter so picked them up not really looking and parking them on the bench outside with the amazing view of the sunset over Cardiff Bay. I looked down to the oversized cardboard cups, no arty creation of the milk on top this was just a latte this weren’t a flat white even though we paid for the more expensive option of a flat white. No time to complain the shutters were going down. Maybe they just ran out of the smaller cups a flat white is usually poured in but what we were left with was an overly milky cup of coffee not what I’d busted a bead of sweat to pour down my eager throat and for that reason they are disqualified from the flat white tour as I didn’t actually get what I ordered in my eyes. It was ok if I was after a latte but I wasn’t. I’ll still probably be back to sample a pie mind but might opt for something I know should be stronger next time if they do any IPA’s as the “flat white” can have miss next time.
Independent coffee shops worth a look in Cardiff and discounts with Wriggle
There’s a few coffee places I hadn’t heard of and definitely on my list of places to sample that I came across on the newly launched Wriggle Cardiff website/app that is a daily deals site but only showcases independant traders.
Sign up on the Wriggle Cardiff site or app for a look around but use the discount code AUHPSS for £3 off your first order meaning you can probably get a free coffee on your first purchase. To use the wriggle discount code sign up, log in and go to refer a friend and redeem a code or add it at the basket just before paying for your deal.
Coffee Shops recently and regularly on Wriggle
- Nata & Co – Cardiff Bay
- Lufkin Coffee Roasters – Pontcanna
- The Outpost – Castle Emporium
- Canna Deli – Pontcanna
- Kemi’s – Pontcanna
Discount code AUHPSS for £3 off for £3 off your order at Wriggle