In these turbulent, uncertain times it’s oft we encounter something that just ain’t right. Only here it’s in a good way. A very good way. The excellent folk of the Coaltown Roastery host the best kind of surprise.
[Dear reader, I do not mean to decry their amazing people, nor food nor beverages, nor damn them with faint praise: it’s just not the kind of thing you expect in a Welsh backwater.]
Think: that expression you wear when something just shouldn’t do what it does. Bemused, surprised, delighted.
When a 100% electric Porsche gives you neck strain in silence, when you drink cocktails doing origami, when the hipster gourmet coffee roastery you are visiting is in Ammanford, not Shoreditch, not Osaka, not Brooklyn.
Even where Coaltown are located is akin to misinformation. I mean, check their address: Foundry Road. Y’know opposite Lidl, by the railway track. Almost like that movie moment when the bookshelf swings open to reveal a secret lab’. (No, that’s too much, I am merely trying to share its incongruity but have overdone it. (Damn that extra shot of espresso.)) I don’t recall that documentary foretelling Ammanford as [ahem] ground zero for coffee, do you? I mean Uncle Eddie lived here in the ’70s, lots of industrial revolution activity happened and (post 20th century) closed down here. But coffee roasting as its renaissance? Really?
This locale is not known as a tourist destination yet the place is packed with lunchtime visitors. The barista spoke warmly of getting the enterprise set up right – they 100% have I’d say – and now it’s about creating the right kind of habit. (With it being a caffeine based venture, habit is an apt choice of word.)
I won’t pretend to understand the nuances, subtleties and general zeitgeistiness of coffee, but am happy to be an appreciative ignoramus. The coffee was – forgive my technical language – bloody lovely.
The physical setup is an industrial shed of the kind that you’ve driven past a thousand times. Inside lurks an industrial coffee roastery – all steampunk machinery and hessian sacks – with smells and noises to match. Lovely seating, on-trend fittings and fixtures, splendid tableware, sleek iPadish tills, a mezzanine, the on-show wood-fired oven. Attention to detail and no nonsense. Kind of. Confession: another thing which caught me off guard I guess. Namely, lots of Brits, especially – let’s face it – the Welsh, would find all this focus on artisanal eating a tad unnecessary. To use a horribly dated vernacular, “a bit poncy”. And yet here we are, early November, Tuesday lunchtime, in West Wales, in an ex-coaltown sampling on-site-roasted-and-ground espresso and wood fired foods. We are a zillion miles from the ubiquity that is Starbucks. The place is buzzing, the team are splendid. It’s rather brilliant.
And the scoff? More local lingo – “Tidy mind.”
St David’s pizza: wood fired, with rarebit sauce, Welshman’s caviar – IE: laverbread – cockles, leeks and bacon. No passata on the base. Mmmm. Intrepid Mum sampled the belly pork flatbread with emmental, ham, gherkins and sriracha aioli. (She found the latter unbearably spicy which made her glow rather. How palettes differ: I thought it perfect for drawing out the flavour of the pork.)
Two varieties of single origin coffee with gooey GF brownie to follow.
Me? I’d come back just for the cakeage.
Then, having drank wayyy too much coffee, we splurge in the shop buying ker-ching bags of ready-to-go coffee to drink at home. Along with a jar of suitably expensive/crazy-but-it-might-just-work Espresso Martini Marmalade.
As you do.
Do come round and try some. But only if you bring decent sourdough bread.
And as long as you promise to mail order from Coaltown Coffee.
PS: I am currently sporting a beard. If I become any more hipster, shoot me.