Great coffee in Newport; just a shame about the tea…

For some reason I expected the opposite, but the coffee in Newport was excellent; it was the tea experience that was just disappointing.

Before I go anywhere new, I try to put aside any negative images that the place may have in public perceptions. After all, I come from one of the cities that usually tops UK polls of ‘worst place’ to live, but I quite like Hull these days.

Newport didn’t look too promising if you believed the YouTube video that came out a few years ago (I forget the exact title but something along the lines of “Newport State of Mind”).

But I had a great start to the day as I walked into Java Coffee House on Charles Street.

Java Coffee House in Newport, Gwent

A warm welcome from Alun and Helen, a wonderful cup of coffee (they get their beans from the same supplier as the tea room we went to yesterday – I must meet this Peter James some day…) and some freshly-baked Welsh Cakes marking my first entry into Wales for a couple of years…

Coffee and Welsh Cake at Java Coffee House in Newport

This is exactly what Fancy a Cuppa? is all about; tracking down small independent coffee and tea places run by enthusiastic people who really care about what they do, and share a passion for their local community.

If I hadn’t spent so much time later in the day trying to find the same experience on the tea front, I’d have been back for a second cuppa later in the day!

Newport’s star attraction is its Cathedral. It sits high up over the city with great views of the docks, the river and the city centre.  They don’t do formal guided tours, but I was lucky enough to find a lady whose husband used to be a vicar round here and she was delighted to tell me some of the stories of the place – we’ll hold these back for the book, though. Well worth a visit.

Newport Cathedral

 

A lot of the city has seen better days, though. The famous hotel where the Chartists fought for the right to vote back in 1839 has closed down (Starbucks now occupies the ground floor – how do they manage to get so many prime sites???); the Castle on the Usk looks rather sad and neglected.

The river front looks nice, though, and if it had just stopped raining for half an hour, I might have tried the new nature trail from the Transporter Bridge (yep, the sister of the Middlesbrough bridge) to the coast.

Instead, I spent my time searching for tea…

Now, I don’t name names where I haven’t had a good experience, but let it just be said that I didn’t feel at all welcome in the first tea room I tried in Newport; and the second place I went to was just too ordinary to go into any Fancy a Cuppa? blog or book.

I decided to drive up the Welsh Valley and try to get a cuppa in one of the two tea rooms a google search had come up with, a few miles north of Newport. But, as we had found time and time again in the States last year, you can’t always trust a google search…

The first place, in a small town called Risca, must have closed down ages ago; it’s an Italian restaurant now! The second had just shut up shop for the day as I pulled in to the car park…

As the rain teamed down, I decided to give up for the day. Happy enough to leave Java Coffee as my only venue in Newport – I’m sure they’d rustle up a good cuppa for anyone who didn’t fancy a coffee. And their scones, shortbread and Welsh Cakes are worth trying anyway.

So, Newport has become the first city in my cathedral tour where I haven’t managed to find tea AND coffee.  It probably won’t be the last (still 55 to go this year!), but the issues raised today made me think I should reflect on this in a separate blog posting, away from my reviews of the cathedral cities. So, watch this space for thoughts on warm welcomes and what it means to be an ‘independent’ coffee shop or tea room…

Video: Great coffee in Newport, but what would the Chartists make of things?

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