Waterloo Tea

A teapot brewing at Waterloo tea with dual egg timers (one orange, one green; what tea you have determines which one you use)Whisper it quietly, but I quite like Waterloo Tea, or the Waterloo Gardens Teahouse to give it its full name. No, seriously. Despite the obvious flaw (tea), it’s wonderful. It’s a bit of a trek from city centre Cardiff, but well worth the walk (or bus ride).

It’s in a lovely setting in a parade of shops, opposite a small park, and occupies what feels like an old shop. The space isn’t best suited to a café, resulting in a rather interesting layout. However, the atmosphere’s very welcoming and, if you can’t grab the sofa opposite the counter, go for one of the (very popular) window tables.

Waterloo Tea is passionate about its tea. The good news is it’s equally passionate about its coffee, taking as much care and attention over preparing the perfect cup as any speciality coffee shop I’ve seen. Honestly, I can only applaud, since speciality tea shops which takes this level of care (even for tea) are few and far between. The equally good news is that it seems to take just as much care over its cake as it does over the tea and coffee. Frankly, with a philosophy like that, you can’t go wrong!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Waterloo Tea, or to give it its full title: Waterloo Gardens Teahouse.
  • One of the prime seats in the window, caught during a rare unoccupied moment.
  • More typical seating.
  • The seating in the back room, with the walls adorned with local art.
  • More of the local art, plus a shelf of home brew (tea and coffee) kit.
  • Yet more local art.
  • When you get to the counter, you are greeted by cake, which is how it should be.
  • A view down the length of the counter towards the kitchen at the back.
  • A view across the counter of the seating area at the back. That's my friend Kate hiding behind the coffee grinder...
  • There's also a brew bar at the back for both tea and coffee.
  • Kate and I went for the sofa opposite the counter. This is Kate's best 'You're not taking ANOTHER photo are you?' look of forbearance.
  • The view from the sofa: the massed ranks of tea were a bit depressing...
  • The view from the sofa: that's better; the La Marzocco stands up for coffee!
  • I was also sitting opposite the coffee: here Staffordshire's Has Bean takes centre stage.
  • And I was sitting next to the coffee too! Here it's the turn of London's Square Mile.
  • But first and foremost let's not forget what Waterloo Tea is all about...
  • In comparison, the coffee menu looks a little lost...
  • Kate had the Tangerine Ginger infusion. Check out the dual egg-timers. I forget which one applied to her tea, but it's a neat idea.
  • I, meanwhile, had a very fine flat white.
  • We also had lunch: this was an 'open' sandwich, ie, things on bread. In my case, roasted vegatables and bree. It was excellent.
  • The other thing that Waterloo Tea excels at is cake.
  • As well as the common place, there are more adventurous offerings, such as this courgette & lime cake.
  • The staff were forever cutting cake in front of us on the counter. It was a sign...
  • Surely these two slices are for us? But no. Extreme bad planning on my behalf meant WE DIDN'T HAVE CAKE!
  • This is what we should have had instead of lunch: afternoon tea, complete with sandwiches and cake. Next time...
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Waterloo Tea is in the Penylan area of Cardiff (although there are rumours of a second branch opening in Penarth). It’s a 40 minute walk north-east of the centre, or a short ride on the No 30 bus (the 44/45 and 49/50 also go that way), followed by a gentle stroll. Don’t let that, or the name, put you off though. Despite an unreasonable obsession with tea (I counted at least 61 in seven different categories!), Waterloo Tea’s range of coffee puts some coffee specialists to shame.

Waterloo Tea inhabits an interesting space. Indeed, if I have one criticism (other that its unreasonable distance from both Cardiff city centre and my home in Guildford), it’s the layout. That said, I’m not sure I could do much better given the space.

The door, between two bay windows, leads into the main seating area, with armchairs in the windows and tables to the right. Opposite you is the counter, on the left hand side of the store, fronted by an impressive cake cabinet. Unfortunately the store narrows here, causing a natural choke point, although I don’t know where else the counter could have gone.

Beyond the counter is another seating area (tables and sofas) along with the kitchen, while there’s a very fine sofa directly opposite the counter (and in line-of-sight of the coffee; no prizes for guessing where I ended up!). Unfortunately there’s a constant flow of people between the front and back of the store (both customers and staff) who have to squeeze past the counter and those waiting to order or pay.

The front and back areas are quite different in character: although bustling throughout, it’s quieter at the back, while the front benefits from the sunlight coming through the generous windows. The walls are hung with local artwork and there was a constant background sound track of 50s/60s music which is always going to please me.

So, onto the main business. I brought my friend Kate with me (ostensibly my reason for visiting Cardiff – me: “Kate, can I come to visit and drag you around loads of coffee shops?” Kate: “go on then”). Kate has many lovely qualities, but drinking coffee is not one of them, so she had tea, a tangerine concoction which came with a helpful pair of colour-coded egg timers (which one you use depends on the type of tea you have). Kate’s tea smelt lovely and (don’t tell anyone I said this) tasted quite nice too!

I was spoilt for choice, with individual filter coffee options for one or two people complimenting the usual espresso-based range, the beans coming from Has Bean and Square Mile. I played it safe and had a lovely flat white.

We were there for lunch and had “open” sandwiches, which, judging by what came on my plate, are sandwiches with a slice of bread missing. Mine was delicious, roasted vegetables and bree, with a small salad on the side.

My only regret is not trying the cake. Waterloo Tea did its best to tempt me, with some delicious-looking cakes on display and a constant stream of cake coming out of the kitchen. However, we were saving ourselves for a visit to The Plan Café later on that afternoon. I can’t help feeling we missed out!

March 2016: You can also see what I made of Waterloo Tea’s latest branch, the city-centre Wyndham Tea, as well as its second branch, Washington Tea in Penarth.

5 WATERLOO GARDENS • PENYLAN • CARDIFF • CF23 5AA
www.waterlootea.com +44 (0) 2920 456073
Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Roaster Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:00 Seating Sofas, Tables
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:00 Food Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 18:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 18:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 1st May 2013

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23 thoughts on “Waterloo Tea

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  2. CAKEFAIL!
    But at least you acknowledge your crime. Nice salvage operation planning though! Afternoon tea: all of the cake things in one job lot 🙂

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