When I left Bristol a year and a half ago, there were precisely zero places at which you could get a truly brilliant coffee. There were a couple spots that claimed to offer a good cup with the words ‘freshly roasted’ and ‘crafted with care’ adorning their websites and twitter feeds. These cafes, however, always left something to be desired. If you wanted a drink that made you stop and enjoy every sip, you needed a trip to London. Not a bad task, but a bit far when you’re craving a cortado.
Luckily, I’ve finally found good coffee closer to home, in Cardiff. The first thing I did when planning my trip was google the best cafes in the welsh city. There were a bunch of reviews and suggestions that were directed to a different sort of coffee drinker — I’ll pass on Coffee #1, thanks — but I unearthed a couple that seemed promising. I was heading to The Plan in the Morgan Arcade and The Caffeine Kid at the Sunday market on Fitzhammon Embankment.
The market’s hours were woefully short, so I went there first. The baristi were still setting up, but happily made me a macchiato. The stall was small but well equipped, with a little La Marzocco machine and proper grinder. They steamed some milk and placed it all in a dainty paper cup, costing £1.70. While I expected to be drinking and walking, I found an empty table nearby and sat down, enjoying a picture perfect view across the river.
Getting coffee from stands and trucks has never been something about which I am particularly enthused (though I love buying coffee in laundromats and real estate offices). The novelty usually takes precedence over the quality. Not so with The Caffeine Kid. My macchiato was delicious with a lemony bite and a cinnamon warmth. It was sweet, but also deep and rich. Not that this should be a surprise. The Caffeine Kid, the name of the shop and nickname of barista Will Corby, has won several UK barista championships. If you’re in Cardiff on a Sunday, you’re in for a treat.
After drinking my macchiato, I was well fueled for the morning and eager to sample more of what I thought to be Cardiff’s stellar coffee culture. That’s why, when I went to The Plan in the centre of town, I braved the cappuccino. I should have known better. The drink that arrived, while it looked pretty, was basically milk. Not even in Italy had I drank a cappuccino that was so reliant dairy. There was barely a hint of coffee. Luckily, I ordered a tea cake on the side and dunked pieces of the toasted sweet bread into the so-called cappuccino. It didn’t improve the drink’s taste, but it made me feel a bit better about wasting the money on a drink.
Coffee and following reviews of cafes is always hit-or-miss, though, fortunately, the hits are more common. The Caffeine Kid was a truly fantastic experience in regards to both coffee and location. The Plan, however, was the opposite end of the spectrum. After disappointments I always wonder if it was my order, the barista or the cafe in general that made for a lousy experience. I can’t be sure, but I think my days of drinking cappuccini are quickly closing.
What’s your most memorable coffee experience?