Food: Top 5 coffees in Swansea

Coffee isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when someone says ‘Swansea’ but the city has a rich history with coffee and cafe culture reaching back to the late 1800s. South Wales saw an influx of Italian immigrants looking for work in the South Wales mines. They quickly saw a gap in the market for small cafés, ice cream parlours and fish & chip shops to the extent that they sprang up all over South Wales. It’s said that for every colliery there was at least one ‘Bracchi’ cafe – named after one of the families that made their name during the period.

Swansea’s cafe culture has always been strong but with an influx of new blood onto the scene it’s gone from strength to strength. From the traditional to the new, young blood. Now is a good time to be a coffee lover in Swansea. Here are my picks for the top five best cafes in Swansea, in no particular order. If you have your own ideas or suggestions feel free to mention in the comments.

 

#1 Coffee Punks

Situated halfway along the Kingsway, what was once Swansea’s premier drag racing strip, Coffee Punks is a recent addition to the city’s coffee scene. With its exposed wood, concrete and metal interior Coffee Punks offers a focused menu of reasonably priced coffees with a variety of cake options. A variety of vegan cakes are supplied by Naturally Kind Food plus some of their food is supplied by Ultracomida, a Spanish/Welsh delicatessen based in Narberth and Aberystwyth. On evenings and weekends they’re often open for events like record sales, they even sell Chemex and their own mugs! Don’t expect Pumpkin Spice Lattes but do expect pour overs, flat whites and a killer espresso.

#2 La Parmigiana 

This one’s a little off the beaten track but it’s around the corner from Joe’s and The Westbourne, just up from St Helen’s Road. Blink and you miss it, La Parm is a Deli, Cafe and Restaurant all built into the downstairs of an old Fish and Chip shop. Francesca, the owner and primo barista/chef, holds court to a cross section of old school Swansea locals. It’s super friendly, the coffee is Italian (vis a vis, superlative) and you’ll end up coming away with an armful of deli meats, cheeses, pesto you’ve never heard of and a booking for the restaurant.

#3 The Kardomah

Now, here’s the place to go to sample a real slice of local history. Situated around the corner from the market, the Kardomah has been a hotspot for the older generations to pit stop for a coffee after a long Saturday of hitting the M&S sales, for generations. Actually on its second site (the first one was bombed during the Blitz) the cafe’s history has links to a group of Swansea based bohemian poets known affectionately as the Kardomah Gang – a group that included among its members Swansea’s most famous literary son, Dylan Thomas. The decor of the Kardomah screams the 1950s and hasn’t changed much – mirrors give a sense of space but the wood panelling and the Oriental aesthetic give the place its character. If you like the coffee you can even take a bag of beans home.

#4 Cinema & Co

Another relative newbie, this one’s also very central, situated at the top end of High St, nr the castle. Cinema & Co is a cafe and cinema combined. It sounds like one of those pie in the sky ideas you have in the shower – “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…?” – but never get around to doing. I can guarantee it’s as awesome in reality as it is in your imagination. With a similar smart industrial aesthetic as Coffee Punks, C&C offers another spartan menu of drinks over which you can choose whether or not you want to come back later and watch The Breakfast Club or Stand By Me. Out back, in the cinema part, the seats have been converted from packing crates but are actually incredibly cosy and comfortable. At the bag is a well stocked fridge of craft beers, perfect for avoiding the inevitable autumn showers.

#5 Square Peg Coffee

This one’s situated in Sketty, not far from the heartland of University life, on the other side of Singleton Park. Square Peg is quickly becoming a real student hub with a strong and lively atmosphere. It regularly has live performances and evening events from talks to acoustic sets. It prides itself on the fact it donates its profits to charity and provides jobs and training for people who “need help to get started in life”. Serving a wide range of drinks (including a variety of teas!), you’ll turn up early one morning to work on an essay, stick around for a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake before ending up having lunch there too.

 

 

 

 

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Food: Vegan espresso gelato

This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made. It uses a handful of ingredients and minimal effort, but produces a rich & creamy dairy-free ice cream.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • A splash of soy milk/almond milk
  • 3 tbs of freshly brewed strong espresso
  • A Splash of Amaretto
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • A sprinkle of salt

 

I had nearly a full tin of coconut milk (left over from the Spicy sweet potato and chickpea recipe here) that needed using up. I started to think what to make with it – and vegan gelato popped into my head.

Only full fat coconut milk will work here, so put the can of reduced fat milk away!

The actual recipe is easy, begin by spooning it into a mixing bowl, and with an electric whisk, mix until it comes together into a thick batter. Next, add a splash of soy milk/ almond milk – or any non dairy milk to loosen it up a bit. Mix again. Add the espresso and amaretto and mix again. See I told you this was easy 😉

Sift in the icing sugar and you guessed it, mix. Add a sprinkle of salt. Mix on the top speed to add a tonne of volume to it. When it’s nearly doubled in mass scrape of the excess from the whisk and pour into a lidded container. Now place in the freezer. It’s essentially done.

There’s only one thing left to do, it’s not hard though – every hour, just take the container out and stir it thoroughly with a spoon. Do this about 5/6 times and then leave it a few more hours to set properly (I left mine overnight). This will make sure the gelato is smooth and creamy when it hits your tongue.

The next day I made a salted chocolate sauce to serve with it.

To make this all you need is:

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao solids)
  • 1 tsp flavourless oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1tbs agave
  • A pinch of good quality Sea Salt (I used Maldon)

 

To make: chop and melt the dark chocolate in a pan on a low heat on the stove. Add the agave and oil and stir until it comes together into a glossy, dark mixture. Take off the heat and pour over the gelato. The temperature difference should start to set the chocolate mixture. Sprinkle the salt on the dark topping & devour!

Food: Coffee Punks, Swansea

Opening just 5 weeks ago, I’ve passed this little treasure on the bus into town many a time. On Saturday finally myself and Tom went in. The brainchild of Glen Adams, this new coffeehouse might be a David compared to the likes of the Goliath big name high street chains, but its coffee certainly packs a punch.

With an interior of mismatched chairs, reclaimed wood panelling and Edison filament light bulbs galore, the whole place has a stripped back, industrial feel without removing the warmth. Think Shoreditch mixed with a warm jumper knitted by your gran.

As you walk in the place, you’re invited by the welcoming scent of coffee and the sight of the yellow custom Kees van der Westen Arte coffee machine pumping the air with coffee scented steam. The counter, made from reclaimed wood, is pitted and weathered with age,  imbuing the place with a sense of real history (albeit only having been open 5 weeks!) and adds to the warm edge of the place. But the real star of the show is the coffee and Adams is a real expert of his craft.

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Myself & Tom sat down and ordered two latte’s and a parsnip, lemon and ginger cake, supplied by local Swansea baker, Naturally Kind Food (maker of all things sweet, vegan and awesome). The warm spice of the ginger really complimented the smooth warm tones of the coffee. At under £3 for a great coffee in a great space, it beats getting ripped off in a conglomerate coffee shop, feeling like you’re just a number. Plus their food is supplied by Spanish/Welsh Power house Ultracomida, whose spots in Narbeth and Aberystwyth have given the towns a Mediterranean glow with their great food and wine.

The coffee was brought out by one of Tom’s old friends, Izzy – who was warm, friendly and great to chat to – to the sound of the Beatles playing in the background (great soundtrack guys btw!). We enjoyed the experience so much we even bought some of these funky mugs. And they even match and compliment the colours of our kitchen!!

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Visiting Coffee Punks is a no-brainer. Don’t just keep on passing by, walk in, support a local business and they’ll reward you with some of the best coffee (and cakes) in Swansea.

 

Find them at:

32, The Kingsway, Swansea

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