I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats wondering which of Cardiff’s coffee shops are my all-time favorites. Sorry about that! My flight home, the one date I’ve had circled on my calendar since January, still somehow managed to sneak up on me. Buying a second suitcase (oops), cleaning out my room, eating the leftover food in the kitchen, and frantically capturing it all on film took up all of what would have been my writing time.
But I’m home now! And I’m ready to imagine myself back on Queen Street. Milwaukee, a lovely city but one that I must drive twenty minutes to reach, has shown me just how spoilt for choice I was as a coffee drinker in the ‘Diff. Gone are the days when I could roll out of bed and have a flat white in my hand in under half an hour without starting an engine or scrambling for bus fare. Cue tiny violin.
Pity party over – let’s get down to business. The following establishments are the most important places in Cardiff as far as I’m concerned. From freshers week to finals week month, they lured me back with good vibes, good food, and really good coffee. They are:
Part Dau: My Top Five
- Waterloo Tea in Wyndham Arcade
Why would a coffee girl waste precious time on a self-proclaimed tea shop? It started with a salad. Stopping in for lunch, I discovered that Waterloo Tea not only makes a ridiculous zucchini shiitake pesto salad – it also serves you that salad in a quiet, zenned-out space (must be all the tea) and finishes off with maybe the best chocolate cake you’ve ever had. Obviously I went back for more. The coffee’s good, I wrote half a paper here in one sitting, and if you visit all three of their locations you get a free piece of cake! I recommend the chocolate.
4: Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery
It takes about fifteen minutes to walk here from Cardiff’s Main Building, where most of my classes were held. I could have saved fourteen of those minutes by going to Costa Coffee across the street. But Costa doesn’t have single-origin filter coffees, and Costa doesn’t have the avocado breakfast burrito that I would literally daydream about during class. The window seats are my favorite – plenty of room to work, with optimal people-watching capability.
3: Chapter Arts Centre
I discovered Chapter two weeks before I left Cardiff and I still chose to purchase a student discount card, because I knew I’d return at least once more. The theater/gallery/performance space was one of the first arts centres in the UK! Now it boasts 800,000 visitors a year and feeds them in a huge, airy, vibrant café-bar I loved the second I stepped in. All the coffee is fair trade. All the food is locally sourced (and delicious). Chapter is obviously louder than your average café, but for once the noise didn’t bother me. Things are happening here.
2: The Early Bird
As far as aesthetics are concerned, The Early Bird is my favorite place in Cardiff. Sunny yellow on the outside, cozy and bright on the inside, Welsher than Welsh, and built from scratch by its head chef Ceri (a complete and utter boss). If they were open later, and had more seating, I’d probably never leave. Beans on toast reach their truest form here. The coffee, roasted in-house, is divine.
1: The Little Man Coffee Company
If The Early Bird is my weekend getaway, the Little Man is my workday staple. My rock. My better half, because I’m a better person after spending time there, it’s that good. The menu is small, but all I ever ate was the avocado toast with sweet onion jam, and I wanted for nothing. Their fresh cakes and brownies are equally perfect, especially with a cute little bottle of cold-brewed coffee on a hot summer afternoon. The (regular-height) men and women of the Little Man really know their V60 from their Aeropress and are happy to answer questions about the roasters they buy from, the brewing processes, etc etc.
Everything about this café meets my needs: comfy chairs. Lots of outlets. Not too loud, not too quiet. Open until 9 pm (unheard of in Cardiff!). They’ve only been around since 2014, so I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Little Man. Hopefully I’ll be back before too long. In the meantime, find me at Stone Creek in Milwaukee (where I’m writing this), or Lakeside Street Coffee in Madison. Cheers!