Coffee Industry

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Something’s happening in a strange space outside of the city centre of Cardiff, known as the Capital Quarter.

For many locals the sight of a blue sky takes on a mythic status. But with the help of an over-sized set of chopsticks, there seem to be some complex metal jig-saw puzzles rising where once there was mud and the dereliction of industry from a bygone age…

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What this emerging conglomeration of metal and glass structures are meant to offer is anyone’s guess. The well-being of indigenous Cardiffians, and the post-Brexit still welcomed immigrants of the world, is duly promoted by the purveyors of dubious post-industrial dreams. But surely, the only real industry of any note in the developed world of the 21st century is coffee shops. You don’t have to look too far (about 5 yards buys it) for the nearest coffee shop, as Kin + Ilk promise a future marriage of coffee and industry, in the form of a ‘small business’ promoting venture.

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In modern parlance, we now have an artisan coffee shop, whatever that is! A quick glance at the menu offers the first hint…

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If you prefer your avocado + chilli + lime on toasted sourdough to be sampled in a minimalist setting, this is your place…

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The cappuccino just about holds its own against the masses of competition occupying the city centre.

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But clearly it is early days, and these premises look perfectly located for the hundreds of anonymous captains of industry who will no doubt descend on the business edifices (or is that edify?) sprouting out of fertile former docklands grit. Located on Smart Way, it is yet to be determined if it is a smart move, but they are at least extending a daily welcome to anyone passing by (or is that lost?)…

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computer-cat

 

Though she is sadly long passed, Juno was always one for a contemporary coffee shop pose, as no self-respecting cat has a cup without an accompanying screen.

Until we speak again, don’t forget that those cups of coffee are not only your pleasure, they are also contributing to the next industrial revolution (or should a ‘not’ be inserted somewhere in that sentence?).

 

Cats in search of fish

Trinidad cat and Welsh cat converge on unfamiliar Italian terrain, and with noses pointed skywards there was nothing better to do than search out the local catch. But why make this a challenge, when the best starting point is milk-based beverages of choice? The guide tells us that Antico Caffe Spinnato is one of the better pavement-side cafes for the best in cappuccino’s or a caffe ginseng… accompanied by a 7-layered chocolate in-house design, and a wild strawberry tart.

Antico Caffe Spinnato [1]Antico Caffe Spinnato [2]

Suitably refreshed, it was time to go in search of the elusive scaly edibles. This place is known for its local fishing fleet and characterful street markets, but where is a street market when you need one? Down back streets and through piazza’s we  meander…

Albergheria streetPiazza Bologni [2]

 

 

 

 

Perhaps these guy’s might provide a clue as to the whereabouts of the local fish, after all they seemed as uninterested in strenuous activity as any self-respecting cat…

Piazza Belini [1]As we turn one corner after another the clues are hard to find, but as for Garibaldi (Teatro Politeama, that is)… that’s got to be taking the biscuit!

Teatro Politeama Garibaldi

So, we might need to resort to a hope and a prayer at this stage. Never fear, if it’s a prayer you’re after this place is over-run with prayer shops of all shapes, sizes and states of decor…

Cattedrale di Palermo [exterior 1]

 

Cattedrale di Palermo [interior 3]

 

 

 

 

 

From cathedral-sized praying venues to piazza-edged confessional sheds, or the simple street vending of pious niceties, this place has you covered…

Chiesa di San Giovanni Degli Eremiti [church]

Chiesa Del Gesu [church dome]

 

Church interior on Via Maqueda

 

As we were seemingly running out of the right kind of prayers a sight of a couple of locals emerges, as if to give us a message… ‘keep going’, was the clear  instruction, but where to?

 

 

Piazza San Domenico Via Argenteria (Keep Going)

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how cool a cat you are, you just need a matter of the luck to fall your way; and so it was to be, as two cats retreat to the accommodation of choice…

Quattro Canti [1]

Centrale Palace HotelThe statues of the Quattro Canti were smiling down on us as they shaped up to herd tired cats in the direction of fish-focused culinary delicacies. The Centrale Palace Hotel might not have projected the most promising of entrances, but the invitation to a top floor roof garden restaurant was always a throw of the dice worth taking. A mouth-watering starter of melon and locally-sourced ham or the prawn salad was eagerly supplemented by a Sicilian red wine of clear nomenclature ~ the Etna Rosso:

Hotel starters

Then, the journey was complete, as the elusive catch gets caught! A swordfish and capers affair, delicately dressed with cranberries and aubergine, or a finely prepared sea bream were laid out for our magnificent consumption.

Fish main in hotel

Successfully replete, what do you do after such a feast? Well there is always the home of the operatic and balletic cats… the Teatro Massimo provided the venue for the final scenes of the Godfather trilogy:

Teatro Massimo by night [1]

As Juno would say, until we speak again ‘that’s Palermo for you’! Grazie, arrivederci.

Cats love coffee

Preening the whiskers and slinkingArrival in Cardiff around the city centre it became very clear to Juno that the great new industry of the 21st century has become drinking coffee. Whilst slurping it from a bowl would more likely have been her choice (and no, for the RSPCA affiliates out there I didn’t feed my cat on coffee!), it would appear that people are becoming more sophisticated and even somewhat nostalgic about how and where they take in their beans. A quick slurp of the hot and wet stuff is so 20th century Britain!

Connoisseurs of the art now have several locations around the city of Cardiff, with Brains Brewery even being the owners of a favourite independent chain of Coffee#1. Then, as you turn into the Castle Arcade you are rewarded not just with a light, airy and fascinating space, but also a great example of the new world of consuming coffee… welcome to Coffee Barker.

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Coffee Barker [2]

 

 

 

Step back into a world of dimmed lighting, leather chairs and sofas of all shapes and sizes, and celebration of stripped back brickwork and wood. Chaotic displays of bric-a-brac only add to the ambience… unless you happen to be a stickler for the post-modern clear lines and surfaces favoured by the multinational chains, who largely want you to know you are in their place (anywhere in the world), not somewhere distinctly individual!

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Barker interior

 

 

 

 

 

This is a place for cool cats (Note: other cats are also welcome!) to hang out, chat, check out their digital world, or even do some old fashioned pastimes like reading physical copies of print!

Coffee Barker [1]

But, Juno would always have been more intrigued by the goods on offer, and she would have been interested in the early bird offers (for more than one reason)… get there before midday to sample one of the best doorstep bacon sandwiches of any vegetarians nightmare:

Barker bacon

The cappuccino is also made to be savoured in a state of relaxation. So, until we speak again Juno would always wish that your coffee beans are brewed with an artisan’s love.

 

A perfect start to Sunday

If I am honest my real perfect start to a Sunday is an impression of an armadillo, curled up and ignoring the world… but I guess

Armadillo posewe all need to find some reasons to get up, even on a Sunday. The day my resident housekeeper decided we were moving out of London back to Cardiff I did have some fears and trepidations… particularly about Sunday mornings. After all, this Wales joint is known for its fire and brimstone parable-ranting preachers, scaring the hell out of the morning-after-the-Saturday-night-hangover-crowd. Back in simpler times Sunday morning always seemed to be the perfect antidote to having a good time!

Well, it seems like my tea-drinking homie, who says coffee at home just isn’t right, has discovered the place to be for the best in coffee. It was Iris Murdoch who once said “Coffee, unless it is very good and made by somebody else, is pretty intolerable at any time.” So if you are going to reserve this pleasure as a reason for leaving home, it needs to be consistently good; after all, Justina Chen once said Adventure in life is good, consistency in coffee even better.” 

Now I must admit to being a bit dubious about any place calling itself Numero Uno Coffee 1 [3]but it does tweak my interest to see if it can live up to its self-imposed challenge. I am told that a few of these coffee houses, with a particular spot down the un-castled end of Cardiff’s Queen Street, live up to the name. Not that I will find out for myself, as Karen says she is allergic to cats! Though I think it is more to do with supporting Tottenham Hotspur myself. Either way, I decide to send my personal coffee taster to experience the arduous challenge of sitting around in relaxed comfort while slurping the most important part of the coffee bean’s journey (a whole journey pictorially represented on the wall) and sampling a fine selection of the sweet and savoury stuff.

‘So tell me oh laid-back one, what is your perfect vision for a Sunday morning?’

Coffee 1 [7]‘Ok, also tell me, my surrogate cappuccino-gargler, what makes this place worth visiting?  Could it be a combination of all sorts of restored furniture, comfy chairs and sofas, fabulous coffees, delicious sausage baps, almond croissants that blow your mind, carrot cake of door-stopping proportions, and an eclectic mix of laid back music?’ Being succinct of answer they said Yes, to all of that’. Fortunately for me, other people had more to say for themselves on the subject of coffee…

Coffee#1 [1] Coffee#1 [2]

Cassandra Clare once said “As long as there is coffee in the world, how bad could things be?”

Marcia Carrington once said “A morning coffee is my favourite way of starting the day, settling the nerves so that they don’t later fray.”

Coffee 1 [6]

Dave Barry once said “It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”

‘And what of the welcome?’ I enquired of my newly found ‘coffee quotation repeating machine’… I am told the staff are very friendly and welcoming, and even regularly come out with the most pleasing of phrases… ‘Take a seat, and I will bring your coffee over to you’.

Coffee 1 [9]How civilised it all sounds; after all, us cats like nothing more than sitting around being pampered. I even hear that this place is populated by talented as well as friendly staff, with Marta in the picture doing a bit of the running thing (which only makes sense to me if there is another animal to chase), and Jadon developing as a talented artist. I can think of no better way of getting a Sunday started than letting talented people do all the work while I reap the rewards… the difficulty I am told is wanting to do anything else, at least until the football and beer step into the void later in the day. As for me, a busy Sunday is really all about finding the sunny spot and having a stretch.                                                                Sunshine at 14 2

However, it seems that my resident deluded writer doesn’t see this as the place only to be reserved for a perfect Sunday morning. While that is a relaxing quiet newspaper reading time, this is also the place where they seem to disappear off to for a break from the office at home… to people-watch the office workers doing lunch, the students studying, the shoppers chilling-out, the families gathering, the friends chattering, and the workers meeting for that all-important information-sharing decision-making time away from the workplace. Clearly these workers haven’t taken to heart what Ronald Reagan once said (or was that more than once?) “I never drink coffee at lunch, I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.”

This place feels like a throw-back to good values of the past, and at the same time feels like a contemporary part of a new culture. Fortunately, it is not stuck with some of the stranger coffee drinking experiences of the past when hot & wet was more important than quality. Jarod Kintz once said “I told the waitress I wanted some coffee. She asked if I wanted leaded or unleaded, so I had to leave the restaurant. I quit drinking gasoline years ago.” 

Coffee#1 at Queen Street lives up to the name, and my surrogate pleasure seeker does the skinny cappuccino and carrot cake thing occasionally just to torment me, I’m sure.

Coffee 1 [8]I have been Juno for yet another Sunday morning, and on the basis of many reports I suggest that if you value all that is good in life get to a Coffee#1 as soon as you can. I will speak with you again, as soon as I can stop thinking about that carrot cake while staring at the rocks I get served up in my bowl.