Neatly off the main Drag in Newport town Centre is a traditional Welsh coffee shop. (In featuring the JAVA coffee house, British Coffee Scene is leaving behind the show and display of Baristas at work.) There is no atmosphere of espresso presentation or the fancy latte art so reminiscent of High street chains. (A short walk to the main street will allow you to sample all the popular chains and the variants they produce.) Should you go with the short trip, you will miss out on some genuinely good coffee.
Alun Jones, a native of Newport, a chef by profession, and his wife Helen made the decision to run their own business a few years ago. When the opportunity presented itself in 2010, they moved into Charles Street and took hold of their dream. A bit of a traditionalist, and a man filled with passion for good coffee and food, Alun decided to produce excellent home cooking with his own expertise. Looking in the glass display, I could see plate after plate of creations, all made by him, and with that Welsh heritage in cooking looking back at me. While we were talking, Helen plated up some fresh off the griddle Welsh cakes that Alun had just made. They sell hundreds of these every month in the coffee shop and the demand is growing.
I wanted to sample a cup of J.C.H. coffee and asked for a flat white. The machine they use is a San Marco twin station with quite a few years on it, but thanks to a loving (read expensive) complete restoration, it is as good as any modern machine on the market. In listening to the tone of the milk being heated, there was no lack of pressure in that baby.
I watched the pour for my coffee and counted a 26 second total time including a pre infusion for a double. The pour itself was of an excellent quality with rich reddish brown crema filling the cup. The milk is whole milk and steamed a touch hotter (149F) because Welsh people like hot coffee. In tasting the coffee, There is a delicious sense of actually drinking a coffee that is rich and full without the, sadly normal, burnt taste of the chains. The depth and reach of the coffee infused the milk throughout. Now, as a coffee roaster myself, I was intrigued that the quality of the coffee was so high, and asked where he got the beans from. James gourmet coffee from Ross- on- Wye. An excellent job on the roasting Peter James.
Alun and Helen are not trying to out barista anyone. They are concentrating on the original coffee house theme as developed in the British Isles a few centuries ago. A good coffee (or tea if prefered), a savoury or sweet cake, or indeed an excellent sandwich or light meal. Try the Brie and Bacon with Cranberry Baguette. Oh my gosh.. amazing. In my travels around the British Isles, it is getting harder to find the smaller, but determined, coffee houses of yesteryear. This is somewhere I could bring my family, and have all ages catered for without breaking the bank or be confused by the multitude of coffee variations on the market today. I noticed that the clientele of the morning were all greeted by name and drinks were prepared without asking. Alun said that they have a large repeat business which he puts down to the fact of service at the table and the staff waiting on the needs of the customer so the customer can enjoy themselves and know their wants will be met immediately.
Alun and Helen are genuinely warm and caring people people. Nothing is too much trouble for them. Alun shared with me that he is now going to concentrate on making more traditional Welsh foods and fancies. I see only good things on the horizon.
Before I left, I was given the recipe for his famous Welsh cake. He doesnt mind sharing anything if you ask. The recipe is only half the answer he said with a twinkle in his eye..”being able to cook it like I do is the secret”.
1 lb self raising flour
8 oz butter
4 oz sugar
4 oz currants
Griddle till done.