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 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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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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