The growth of the coffee shop culture on the UK high street is nothing short of a phenomena. A report, earlier this year, suggested that the combined turnover of coffee shops (albeit based on a pretty wide definition of the term) in the UK topped an astonishing £8.9 billion in 2016 (that means people in the UK spend more each year on cups of coffee than the annual GDP of Haiti, – a country of over 10.5m people). Based on current growth projections, coffee shops will outnumber pubs in the UK by 2030 (I am surprised it will take that long as it seems like they do already) and thus can (with some legitimacy) lay claim to being on the verge of becoming the new “local”.
Much of the growth is down to the likes of Starbuck and Costa (chains for whom I have no great love), but over the last few years it has has been the independent sector, with single or small chain outlets, which has taken the lead in this amazing level of growth. In Cardiff think Little Man Coffee Co., Uncommon Ground, the Plan, Outpost Coffee & Vinyl, Kin and Ilk, Brodies and Lufkins, to name but a few.
One of the newest coffee kids on the block is 200 Degrees, a small independent chain (set up in 2012) with 6 outlets in total including most recently Cardiff.
Inside it is all stripped brickwork and dark wood. There are enough lights to populate any self respecting department store’s lighting department, but weirdly none of them give off any appreciable light
On the day (a typically overcast one) of my visit, towards the end of this miserable summer, it was quite dark inside. An afternoon in mid winter would I imagine result in the place descending into a Stygian gloom.
Notwithstanding my dislike of this kind of lighting (about as useful as a chocolate teapot in terms of achieving its raison d’être), it is a comfortable sort of place and many people seemed to be in for the long haul, with laptops out etc. I often wonder how the “I bought a coffee, so that entitles me to sit here all day using your free wifi” attitude effects these place’s bottom line. Not great I suspect, but so long as it is in the minority I suppose it makes places look busy which in turn entices people in (or maybe not). If I owned a coffee shop it would annoy me immensely, but then again so do lots of things!
In short nice enough, but buy some proper wattage light bulbs.
The food is predominately (hot – more warmed up really) sandwich based (a little pricey at £4.95 across the board), with far from your standard fillings. On top of this are a few added extras like sausage rolls, salads and frittatas.
I originally thought the paper and string wrapping on the sarnies was a classic case of style over substance, but they actually serve a purpose in allowing the sarnies to sit nicely on display and more importantly hold their shape when they are given a blast in an oven.
I went for a cider and mustard pulled pork (everywhere these days, although brisket is now giving it a run for its money in the ubiqutousness stakes ), with stilton, sweet apply chutney and watercress.
Warmed up this was very nice, with a generous amount of filling. The pork was tasty and tender and the sweet apple chutney came though nicely. The only downsides for me was the advertised stilton was a little on the subtle side for my tastes and the bread (a rather soft and palid baguette) could have been a touch more exciting. All in all though a good (decent sized) sandwich, in my opinion.
Other fillings on offer included a veggie one (roasted aubergine, lemon, basil, tomato, pumpkin seed and black pepper hummus) and a very appealing sounding meatball, provolone and creamy mushroom number (I would have probably gone for that had I clocked it before I ordered the pulled pork one).
For those with a sweet tooth, there are some nice looking cakes and pastries on offer.
I resisted (barely) the temptation of the salted caramel stuff (love salted caramel).
The rationale for the place’s “200 Degrees” moniker is perversely due to them turning down (rather than up) the heat when they “in-house” roast their coffees, with 200 degrees being on the cooler side in terms of roasting temperatures for coffee beans.
The result of this slower and lower roast (so the marketing blurb states) is a smoother coffee.
Prices for the coffees range from £1.90 (for an espresso) to £3.20 (for the brewbar – a very interesting sounding V60/aeropress Guatamalan Waykan coffee at the time of my visit).
I went (perhaps slightly boringly) for a Cortado (£2.60), a style of coffee I always have on my frequent trips to Spain. It works for me as the hot milk cuts the acidity of a straight espresso (which I can find too much of good thing of an afternoon) and makes for a longer drink.
This had lovely mocha notes to it and was a very pleasant, mellow, cup of coffee. Certainly bodes well for trying their brewbar stuff (next visit perhaps).
They also sell, retail, bags of their coffee. Will be tempted next time to pick one of these up.
Whilst not keen on the gloomy lighting, I enjoyed both my sandwich and my cortado.
Prices are on a par (I would say) with Starbucks and Costa (I paid £7.55 in total – so far from cheap), but to me the product is better and you are not fueling the corporate juggernauts.
Not every independent is good, but 9 times out of 10 I find them better than the corporate behemoths and their presence helps to add a bit of variety to the increasingly homogeneous nature of the high street in the UK.
Would I go back? Yes, decent sarnies and good coffee. Staff are also friendly and knowledgeable.
For budding baristas, they have a barista school. Who knew you could do a course in Advanced Latte Art (£95 for a 3 hour course – previous experience of steaming and texturing milk to a high standard -whatever that means – is apparently essential). Not for me (sounds a bit too much like it requires a degree of dexterity and skill – which, being a cackhanded, clumsy oaf, I sorely lack), but I am sure it will appeal to the hipsters (perhaps they can learn how to recreate their face furniture in milk foam) and potentially a wider audience out there.
I like the place, so I wish it was a bit closer to my end of town. They are in the unit on Queen Street that use to house Barley and Base and I, personally, think the unit recently vacated by Artigiano on Working St. (up from the Hayes) would have been a better site for them. It was pretty busy mind, so what do I know.
Address: 115 Queen Street, Cardiff, CF10 2BH.
Tel: 029 21320708
Website: click here
Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 07.00 – 20.00; Sat: 08.00 – 19.00; Sun: 09.30 – 18.00.