I spent a few days in Cardiff in May, mostly to attend the conference of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting but also to enjoy a day or two of roaming around the city and getting in as much of its coffee culture as I could!

There had been a coffee festival scheduled for the Sunday, and I had enthusiastically booked for both sessions, but it was unfortunately cancelled for “technical reasons”. The organisers were very pleasant and offered to reissue the tickets for whenever the event was rescheduled, but immediately gave me a refund after I explained I wouldn’t be in Cardiff. Feeling deprived, I did looked around and put together a shortlist of places that I wanted to visit while I was there.

I arrived late on Wed 17 May and had a wander around town, although it was soon clear that it was a lot more pleasant in daylight hours than it was at night. I grabbed something to eat and got an early night, but not before finding out if there was anywhere on my list of coffee places that I could stop into on my way to the conference. 

Thankfully there was – Uncommon Ground!  They had two specialty coffees (Nicaragua and DR Congo) listed when I first looked in, plus their house blend and what looked like a very nice breakfast (which I kept meaning to go in for but never got around to, not so much of a morning person).

I asked for the Nicaraguan on the Friday, and got aromas of orange and brown sugar, and flavours of tea tannin and blackcurrant. That gave me two out of four on the tasting notes, better than usual!

Was just in time to get the last of their Burundi on Saturday, and spent a few minutes listening to staff explain why their coffee is more expensive than other places while they brewed with a V60. I had primed myself by reading the tasting notes, but the first thing that hit me in the smell was acidity, not so sharp, which must be the red apple. The taste was curious, muddy, almost like yeast extract. The was acidity, but it wasn’t overpowering. I didn’t get any peach as such, but maybe a bit of silky mouthfeel?

Wish you could save smells and tastes to play back later. 

Next stop on the Saturday afternoon between the conference and the ITI Food & Drink Network dinner was Little Man Coffee. On the corner of a narrow road just outside the shopping centres, it had a bright, eclectic interior with lots of space and friendly staff. I went for the Campbell & Syme Brazil/Murango blend as an Americano. The smell was strong, sweet, faintly floral. Once again, actually getting the tasting notes. (Or I completely primed myself by reading them, far from impossible.) The taste was murky, almost tomato-like (although that’s Kenyan) with very little acidity. Suspect it’s one that tastes better hot.

And why yes, a macaroon. I knew I was going to be having a lot of food later at the Potted Pig, but couldn’t resist.

I was back again the next day to try the Colombian Las Mangas. There might also have been some shortbread involved. 

It had a strong, yeast extract-like smell, and I could definitely pick up honey from the tasting notes. Again, a soft acidity that must be what’s being described as apple. I was also getting a sourness (berry from tasting notes?), and a taste like 100% bitter chocolate or cocoa.

My final coffee destination was actually first on my list, but it wasn’t open early enough to get to before the conference so I ended up visiting on  my last day in Cardiff, stopping off for lunch at The Plan before a last walk around Bute Gardens.

I tryied the Guatemala Finca Bourbon. The first thing I noticed was the colour, but I’m not used to French press and it might be just down to the difference between that and filter. The aroma was subtle, slightly citrussy. I was also getting honey, and something like orange blossom? The aroma is subtle, but definitely had notes of honey or brown sugar. The taste was also subtle, a bit murky, with very mild acidity (grape?) and, thinking about it, chocolate. There was a slightly sour aftertaste, not sure if that’s also a French press versus filter issue but it left me a bit underwhelmed. Definitely not a fan of the sediment.

Even though I really needed to get going, I ended up having a lovely chat with the barista (who turned out to be Trevor Hyam!) at about seasonality, origin and the never-ending discoveries of coffee. Very passionate man!

My final food and drink related stop was Science Cream! Like most of places I wanted to go, it wasn’t open early or late enough to get to around the conference but I made it on a blazing hot Monday and loved every moment. Definitely recommended. Ex-pharmacy student in a lab coat dispensing liberal amounts of liquid nitrogen into a mixer and finishing it all off with marshmallow browned with a propane torch. It’s a good thing I live as far away as I do.

Very often on my trips I find that it’s something I wasn’t planning on doing or didn’t have high hopes for that ends up being great (and vice versa). I was tempted by a packet of Coaltown Coffee Roasters Black Gold No. 3 ground coffee in the Cardiff Castle gift shop, based on the description and the heavenly smell through the air valve. It had an amazing aroma of chocolate and – wait for it – biscuit! The taste was strong but well-rounded with floral, almost orangey notes, and I think the unwashed process carried the strength really well. Loved it.