Washington Tea

Washington Tea, the new offshoot of Waterloo Tea, down in Penarth in the Washington BuildingsThis time last year I went to Cardiff for the first time with my Coffee Spot hat on and I liked what I found. A lot. So much so, that I promised myself I’d be back… So, after trips here, there and everywhere, a year has gone by and finally I found myself back in Cardiff, ostensibly visiting my friend Kate (the tea-drinker), although she knows me well enough to understand that many cafes will also be visited.

First stop was a short train-ride down the coast to Penarth, where the fabulous Waterloo Tea had opened its second outlet, Washington Tea, shortly after my visit last year.

“But, but…” I hear you splutter (or is that just me?), “it’s a tea shop!”

Well, yes it is, and, while it’s true that Waterloo Tea can be found in some of the best coffee shops in the country, the reverse is also true: some of the best coffee in the country can be found in Waterloo Tea… And in Washington Tea too, which also has a full food menu. Brunch is served all day on Sunday and it stays open late on Friday for live jazz, and five-course food and tea events.

September 2015: I’m delighted that Washington Tea won this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Tea Experience. Congratulations!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Washington Tea, as seen from Stanwell Road...
  • ... and from the Herbert Terrace end.
  • The main entrance is on Stanwell Road though, via this terrace.
  • The view from the counter, with the communal table between counter and window.
  • Meanwhile, you are greeted by the counter where the cake immediately catches your eye.
  • There's a lot of cake, you know...
  • ... an awful lot of cake!
  • This one caught my eye, more of which later.
  • The tea menu is, as at Waterloo Tea, on the wall by the counter. That's a lot of tea!
  • There's still space for a decent coffee menu though.
  • Talking of tea, here it is, behind the counter. Is that all of it?
  • Wait, no, there's some more!
  • There's also a shelf with some coffee and coffee- and tea-making kit.
  • The rest of the seating is in the other half of the building.
  • The half-length wall is put to good use with this tea infographic. I've no idea what it means!
  • Okay, to business. The espresso is made with this orange La Marzocco...
  • ... while the tea and filter coffee get made over here, behind the counter.
  • Wait! Did you say filter coffee? Yes, Washington Tea has a pretty comprehensive coffee menu. Are you sure it's not a coffee shop in disguise?
  • The breakfast menu looks pretty good too, but I'd already eaten.
  • Coffee time! The beans are ground...
  • ... the portafilter attached...
  • ... and here it comes!
  • My flat white, plus Kate's slice of pear & ginger cake.
  • And here on its own, beautifully presented on a wooden tray with a glass of water.
  • Kate's tea, meanwhile, arrives with its own set of timers (yes, we were told which one to use)
  • My sweet potato and mixed berry cake, which tasted far nicer than it sounded!
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Washington Tea is named after the Washington Buildings it occupies on the corner of Stanwell Road and Herbert Terrace, a few minutes’ walk from Penarth train station. An old gallery, Washington Tea is flooded with light, aided by the plain, yellow-painted walls, white-washed ceiling and wooden floor. Instantly similar to the original Waterloo Tea, it’s simultaneously very different: much more spacious and open, with fewer cosy spaces, but feeling much less crowded, even when busy.

It’s also got a really weird layout, sufficiently weird that when I tried to draw a floor-plan while there, I gave up! It’s probably best considered in two parts, the first to the left, with an entrance on Stanwell Road, the second on the right, with an entrance on Herbert Terrace.

Starting on the left, you enter via a raised platform, set back from/above the pavement. It has four tables, and can be part-covered by an awning to give protection against the elements. The shop itself is up another two steps and through a floor-to-ceiling glass door in a row of floor-to-ceiling windows. To your left is a communal table with eight stools, while behind it, opposite you, is the counter. The remaining seating is to your right in the other part of the building.

There are 10 tables here, mostly seating four, but with a few two-person ones thrown in for good measure. The layout is slightly confused by the curving frontage of the corner, not helped by a half-length wall in the middle of the room, which further subdivides it. At the far end, on the left, a second door opens onto Herbert Terrace.

Whatever the pros and cons of the layout (possibly the only con is it makes my head hurt trying to describe it), the interior feels spacious and uncluttered, making it a lovely place for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, or coffee and cake (tea and cake, if you must) any time of the day.

So, to business. I counted 68 teas (15 black, five white, three Puerh, one yellow, nine Chinese green, eight Japanese green, seven oolong, six Rooibos, four fruit and 10 herbal). Out of this bewildering selection, Kate had Blood Orange (Puerh), which smelt gorgeous, but had surprisingly little taste. It was, however, quite pleasant. I went for a flat white, made with some Nicaraguan Has Bean. This came strongly through the milk and was a great way to start the day. The coffee is rotated on a roughly weekly basis, with various roasters being represented. Before Has Bean, Washington Tea had James Gourmet Coffee, with Round Hill Roastery lined up to take Has Bean’s place on the grinder.

When I was at Waterloo Tea, I made a major mistake in not having cake, so we rectified this, even though it was before 11am. Kate had the pear and ginger cake, while I selected the sweet potato and mixed berry cake, largely because it sounded horrible and therefore (so my reasoning went) had to be really good. As it turned out, I was right! It was sweet, moist and extremely tasty!

As a closing note, we ordered at the counter, but in the ten days since my visit, Washington Tea has changed to table service. Damn, out-of-date already! I guess that means I’ll have to go back…

March 2016: You can also see what I made of Waterloo Tea’s latest branch, the city-centre Wyndham Tea.

1-3 WASHINGTON BUILDINGS • STANWELL ROAD • PENARTH • CF64 2AD
www.waterlootea.com +44 (0) 29 2070 9158
Monday 08:30 – 18:00 Roaster Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 18:00 Service Table
Friday 08:30 – 00:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:30 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 16th May 2014

If you liked this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Cardiff’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Cardiff.


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6 thoughts on “Washington Tea

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