Head barista and owner Tristan Harries’ ardent followers at Welsh Blacks already know this, but there is definitely something comforting about visiting this café and sipping your coffee while seated on a humble bar stool. Perhaps it is because it stations you in the loud, steamy, boisterous centre of it all – warmed by the feeling that you are involved in not just the conversation but the coffee making ritual itself.
This widely-adored little café may look and feel like a cosy, inner city bar, but what Harries has achieved in here is the spirited commotion of a bar without having to sell a single drop of the hard stuff. As small circles of espresso lovers gather around the entrance and residents from nearby come and go with their afternoon cups, the intimate and neighbourly atmosphere at Welsh Blacks is as distinctly Parisian as anywhere in town.
But the star of the Welsh Blacks show will always be the coffee and the man who first brought it to this Cooks Hill corner.
Harries has even succeeded in creating an original, gastronomically inspired menu of fancy snacks that is a credit to him and his kitchen crew. Daily specials source local ingredients wherever possible and café classics are reimagined with an uncommon artistry. Forget your simple ham and cheese toastie. Welsh Blacks will build you one ladened with bocconcini, roasted onions, rosemary and eggplant ($12).
But the star of the Welsh Blacks show will always be the coffee and the man who first brought it to this Cooks Hill corner. Harries is one of only a few Newcastle baristas who are synonymous with the next best thing. Dedicated, experienced, passionate and knowledgeable about all things caffeinated, he is the chief researcher at the Welsh Blacks laboratory and prepares every coffee with a scientific precision.
Harries is currently grinding beans from local Unison Roasters. On the morning I arrive he is using El Salvadorian beans from the San Ignacio region for his espressos. Not at all a coffee for the faint-hearted, this single origin packs a whole basket of bright and zesty, dried fruit characters. For the less adventurous, the milk-based coffees at Welsh Blacks are from a milder, medium-bodied Unison blend. For filtered coffee fans, Welsh Blacks are also serving an Ethiopian grown coffee which is sourced from the Shakiso region in the South.