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.