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The Coffee Scene in Swansea - Old and New

coffee (n.)

"drink made from the ground and roasted seeds of a tree originally native to Arabia and Abyssinia," c. 1600, from Dutch koffie, from Turkish kahveh, from Arabic qahwah.

Did you know?

Coffee is the second most popular drink in the world, so it’s not surprising that one of the first questions I’m asked in my English classes is not how to remember vocabulary but where can I get a good cup of coffee in Swansea!

So, while this article is not to advertise individual establishments, (I’m not being paid in coffee to include them!) a visit will be a chance to practise your English and take in some local history and culture along the way.

From the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, hundreds of individuals and families from Italy made their way to the bustling valleys of south Wales. Long before Costa, Starbucks and Nero, South Wales was home to hundreds of Italian cafes. Each establishment had its own unique charm, and the family businesses have been handed down through the generations.

There’s something about cafés like this that stand the test of time. Places filled with nostalgia and familiarity where they treat their regular customers like family.

Kardomah- Morris Buildings, 11 Portland Street

The original Kardomah was opened on Castle Street in Swansea in 1905, but destroyed by bombing in 1941. It was made famous by a group of friends known as the ‘Kardomah Gang’ who were regulars in the cafe in the 1930s. The 'gang' included poets, artists and composers such as Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins, Daniel Jones and Alfred Janes.

Kardomah, Castle Street, Swansea (Old)

The cafe was re-opened at its current location on Portland Street in 1957 and today is run by Marcus Luporini, who took over from his Italian father. The interior hasn’t changed in all that time, with its original tables, pillars, tiles and overall appearance staying exactly the same as the day it opened. This is why it is regularly used as a film location for scenes of the 1950’s.

Kardomah, Portland Street, Swansea (Current)

Gershwins Coffee House – Nelson Street

The property was a tea merchant sometime in the mid-19th century and later became a bakery. But since the late eighties it's been Gershwins. The family-run business has hosted thousands of customers over the years including Hollywood actors and sporting world champions. It is especially famous for its vegetable cawl (Welsh for soup) which has been on the menu for 33 years!

Gershwins Coffee House – Nelson Street, Swansea

The coffee scene in Wales has been constantly improving over the last few years and two coffee venues in Swansea have been listed in a guide of the best independent coffee shops in Wales.

Ground Plant Based Coffee - Francis Street, Brynmill, Swansea

This is Swansea’s newest coffee shop and is 100 per cent plant-based. They serve barista coffee and sweet and savoury bites to eat, made only from plants.

Reacting to customer’s concerns about over the state of the climate, the owners are determined to put the environment first in the business. They don’t sell any products in plastic, and serve drinks using 100% biodegradable cups and lids.

The coffee shop is part of Swansea’s growing SUP (Stand-Up-Paddleboard) community who understand how important our oceans are and the impact our diet plays on the future of our marine life and environment.

Ground Plant Based Coffee - Francis Street, Brynmill, Swansea (Current)

Haystack Café - Brynhyfryd Square, Swansea

The Haystack is an Independent Speciality Coffee Shop & Café using locally sourced ingredients to create a range of breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes.

They are situated in the Heart of Brynhyfryd, on the main square, 5 minutes by car from Swansea town centre. There is a 20 Foot mural on the side of the building, so it’s difficult to miss it. They change the mural every 6 months - it now says “All you need is Coffee and Brunch.”

Haystack Cafe - Brynhyfryd Square, Swansea

Haystack Cafe - Brynhyfryd Square, Swansea

The interior is really interesting; they used hay to make the counter, small working men figures are in the 120-year-old brick wall, and an original fireplace is surrounded by comfy sofas. Just what you need to relax and enjoy your coffee.

So, whether you want a slice of local history with your latte or culture with your cappuccino, Swansea has plenty to offer for us coffee lovers. Just make sure to chat with the locals while you enjoy your visit!

Choosing Wales as a destination to study English will provide you with opportunities to visit stunning historic places, a wonderful coast line and plenty of coffee shops.

Blog Written by: Sandra Warner, Academic Team, City School of Languages

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