I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I mean, a lot. Whether I’m sipping a cappuccino in the name of a gossip with the girls, taking photographs for Instagram, or working out of the office, I’m always looking for an excuse to spend time in a place where I can find myself constantly caffeinated.
The writer in me truly believes this is where I get my best work done. I’m not sure if it’s the clunky sound of coffee machines or the humming noise from small seas of strangers, but something about these places brings out the best in me.
There’s every chance this is the excuse I use to justify my frequent hot beverage purchases, but I’m going with it. Please play along.
A while ago, I discovered one of my favourite haunts and for once, it wasn’t in Cardiff.
I’d started to spend a lot of time in Barry, mainly to get out and about with my camera. After driving past one too many times, I made a stop on Hood Road.
Academy Espresso Bar is situated in a grade II listed building, an old Pumphouse that once powered Barry Dock gates. With a family friendly setting and a warm welcome to every dog who behaves himself, it’s easy to see why it’s beloved.
Throw some craft beer, cocktails and the occasional street food vendor into the mix, and you have yourself the ultimate hangout spot.
Let’s not forget the selection of cupcakes, freak-shakes and cronuts that often grace the Academy menu.
Often slipping into caffeine charged daydreams of West Village hipster hideouts and writers scribbling in notebooks, I pay attention to the fact that all good coffee spots provide some much-needed escapism.
Let’s talk about one thing first, the décor.
Plush leather seating and industrial twists are set against exposed brick walls and towering windows, and with mirrors, statement lighting and a hint of greenery, you’ll have to stop yourself from filling your camera roll with photographs. If you’re visiting Academy, it’s a bad time to run out of memory on your phone.
Many coffee shops and cafes have capitalised on the same sort of vibe, but few accomplish it without a pretentious edge. Academy Espresso Bar manages to be all that my Instagram dreams are made of, without the superficial undertones that others are often guilty of.
Why? Its people.
The staff are a huge factor at Academy. They work with the motto “Work hard and be nice to people”, and honestly, they’re some of the nicest baristas and bar staff that I’ve ever come across.
As someone who worked in coffee shops, pubs and cafes in my early 20’s, I know just how exhausting the job can be, and how it’s hard to maintain a sunny demeanour with every customer. The team here do a great job of making you believe that’s not the case.
You’d be forgiven for assuming I love this place because of how beautiful it looks, but the coffee itself is incredible. Many coffee shops look the part, but some fall short on the actual product.
With coffee beans from Clifton Coffee, Academy only serves coffee that is in season. If you ask, they’ll happily tell you the story behind the grind. During the colder months, they served me a cup of Dirty Chai that I’ll be obsessed with for the rest of my life, so there’s that.
If you’re an early bird, the breakfast menu is always a winner. With warm ciabattas and buttermilk pancake stacks, you’ll struggle to resist the temptation of a morning treat.
As the sun dips down, the real Academy comes to life. Corners glitter with white fairylights and Edison bulbs cradled by wire copper shades, as customers glide through the doors in search of their favourite cocktails and artisan sharing platters.
Pick your poison wisely, because with cocktails such as the Birthday Cake Martini, French Kiss, and Cherry Bakewell Sour, you’ll be sipping through them at a speed less ladylike than you’d prefer.
You’ll also be guilty of taking new profile pictures, like this…
Whether you visit them for a quick jolt of coffee after a walk with the dog, or a drink with your best friend, it’s easy to forget you’re even in South Wales, when Academy Espresso Bar is full of escapism and rustic charm where Barry and Brooklyn collide.