Coaltown Coffee: Wales’ new black gold

Coaltown Coffee roastery, Ammanford © Kerry Walker

Sometimes dreams really do come true… When Scott James opened an ultra-hip coffee roastery in the ex-mining town of Ammanford, he took one hell of a gamble. But boy did it pay off. Lodged in a slickly revamped former industrial unit, the open-plan roastery does a roaring trade in small-batch coffees, plus delicious wood-fired pizzas on the side.

Why we love it….

Rarely does coffee come with such an interesting story (see our interview with Scott here). Obsessed with bringing fresh opportunity and a proper coffee culture to the ex-mining town where he grew up, Scott began roasting his own beans in a garage back in 2014. Since then, Coaltown has become one of Wales’ true success stories, producing high-grade, small-batch, ethically sourced coffee that has carved out a reputation for itself as some of Britain’s best. When you see twentysomethings toting Coaltown coffee bags on the Tube in London, some 200 miles away, you know you’ve made it.

Besides running a little espresso bar in Ammanford’s Victorian arcade, Scott pours passion and tireless energy into his pet project: a coffee roastery lodged in a funkily converted industrial unit on the fringes of town. Now there really is a reason to linger in this neck of the Valleys, with the roastery giving Ammanford newfound cool and a much-needed source of local employment, not to mention a cracking place to go for coffee or lunch.

Coaltown specialises in small-batch, ethically sourced coffee © Kerry Walker

The vibe

Who would think that Lidl was just across the road? Step inside and you’re winged into a much hipper world than Ammanford usually affords. In a revamped industrial unit, the roastery is a little slice of Brooklyn, with its airy, open-plan design, monochrome colours, urban beat and post-industrial flair. There’s a brew bar manned by some expert baristas, a mishmash of vintage furniture and an impressive-looking 1950s roaster from Italy (this is Scott’s baby – a rare model that took him two years to restore).

You can see coffee – the entire process from bean to brew, in fact – smell coffee and taste hands-down some of the best java in the country. And should you wish to go a step further, there are regular barista training courses you can sign up for, which take place at mezzanine level.

And as if that weren’t enough, a coal train still rumbles past each day on the railway nearby!

The brew bar at Coaltown, © Kerry Walker

The welcome

Locally trained and knowledgeable, the baristas here bring you coffee with an artistic flourish. Scott oversees things personally, keeping the atmosphere nice and chilled.

The menu 

Naturally you’ll be guaranteed an outstanding cup of coffee. Options swing from a highly aromatic Brazilian espresso to a Rwandan single origin big on ripe fruit flavours. A nod to Ammanford’s mining past, Black Gold is their signature blend, with a rich chocolate-biscuit base.

The roastery rustles up amazing breakfasts (think the likes of wood-fired sourdough bread with raspberry and violet gin jam) and creative salads championing seasonal ingredients (we particularly liked roast butternut squash with cavolo nero and borlotti beans). But trust us, it’s the thin, crisp pizzas fired in a wood oven that really steal the show. The ultimate Italy-meets-Wales number is the St David’s pizza, with rarebit, laverbread, leeks, cockles and bacon.

Wood fired pizza at Coaltown © Kerry Walker

NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From the roastery, it’s 10 miles northwest to the comical, spectacularly-set folly of Paxton’s Tower

At a glance

Welcome: 9 A largely young, local team of baristas, offering engaging and efficient service.

Food & drink: 9.5 Well-edited selection of speciality coffees, light bites and wood-fired pizza and, within the eats and drinks that it offers, there is the thinnest of cup rims separating this from a perfect ten.

Location: 7.5 A capital reason to visit Ammanford if ever there was one. We like the fact that Scott is giving this former mining town a new raison d’être, and has single-handedly sexed up a previously bland part of town.

Overall: 9

Cost: Moderate. Coffees around £3. Pizzas around £8.

Opening hours: Post-lockdown hours are currently takeaway only, 10-4 daily.

Address/telephone number: The Roastery, Foundry Rd, Ammanford SA18 2LS; 01269-400105