Much has been eulogised about coffee; the provenance of the beans, science behind the blending, the roasting and the barristas’ art are all elements that determine the damn-fineness of your coffee. But let’s get this out there now. Matt doesn’t drink coffee. He used to. He used to a lot. And then he decided that he’d ease off – but that didn’t mean that Cat did too. We are our own people, people.
You might think that the Island’s coffee market might be <ahem> saturated. Gone are the days of being handed a carton of UHT to dribble into your lacklustre splash from a stagnating coffee pot; its contents turning to bitter sludge as the water gradually evaporated. No, coffee is not just a drink these days, it’s some sort of lifestyle statement. Whether you are clutching a McDonald’s take-out brew or downing an espresso while sucking on a French cigarette outside Olivo (that’s an eSpresso, not eXpresso, outside Ohleevoh) there is a cuppa for you. Here are our favourites; feel free to disagree and recommend your own.
On the Island we have a few stand-out local coffee producers. Wight Marque company Island Roasted, based in Newport, describes itself as a ‘craft roaster’. Its supplies are ethically-sourced from small coffee producers, and roasted to ensure consistency. You’ll find Island Roasted at its cafe, Caffe Isola, both to drink and to buy to use at home – and at various events throughout the summer.
Jasper’s produces its own coffee; artisan-roasted in Brading and sold throughout the Island. We first encountered Jasper’s via their cute vintage Citroen van which has been kitted out as a pop-up coffee (and cake!) shop. But you don’t have to chase them around the Island; one of our favourite places to sup a delicious Jasper’s brew is the Coffee Room at Skintrade. Cat loves the neo-modernist-style crockery – and the cakes! THE CAKES!
Talking of cakes, have you been to Ryde’s Chocolate Apothecary? We promise we’re not diverting from the coffee theme here as this beautiful cafe and chocolatier serves a decent Americano, in vintage ‘Arabesque’ Denby. But you gotta have a cake while you’re there. We’re usually unable to resist the chocolate indulgence; half white, half plain chocolate swirled into a gooey brownie. Another favourite is the ginger and chocolate cookie to help the coffee go down.
Most of our Island coffee drinking has been in the towns; Newport certainly has a glut of coffee purveyors. Even over in historic Yarmouth the coffee trend has arrived with the opening of cute PO41. Here, to help your spectacular homemade meringue make its way into your eager belly, the team serves London-based Union roasted coffee.
The coffee at Cantina, Ventnor has an excellent pedigree. The owner of the restaurant also has London’s Prufrock in his portfolio. Prufrock, you say? No, not the poem, but the “leading resource for coffee education… here to support you in your coffee journey.” Pretentious? A tad. But then Prufrock offers barista skills training and accreditation. They take their coffee seriously, folks. Back on the Island, Cantina serves Square Mile coffee, roasted in London. It’s intensely-flavoured and Cat likes it served as affogato – a shot of coffee poured over a ball of ice cream.
We’re probably getting to the nub of our coffee recommendations here. It’s Cat doing the talking, remember, so it’s clear that it’s all about the pudding! French Franks, with branches in Newport and Ryde, serves Italian-roasted Illy coffee. It makes a decent cup, to be sure, but what Cat likes is FF’s coffee frozen yoghurt – or FroYo. It’s hard to believe that it’s a low-fat treat when it tastes this good!
Another of Cat’s favourite places for a coffee is Pizza Express. Since Orange Wednesday became some other thing promoted by those irritating marketing meerkats, we haven’t been there so often. What does draw us in is the ‘dolcetti’ mini desserts, specifically caffe reale. Combining one of Cat’s favourite fruits with booze and coffee, it’s figs in a cinnamon and white wine spiced syrup with mascarpone, plus a drink of your choice. For The Cat this is always Americano with milk – none of your foamy, milky nonsense. And, for around a fiver, it’s the perfect sweet end to a meal.
So there you have it, Cat’s favourite places to go for a coffee, where Matt works his way through the speciality teas menus. Tea, you say? Now that’s a whole other article!