Friday, 10 February 2012

Where to get good coffee ..

I get asked this question a lot. Where can you get good coffee ?
It’s such a hugely subjective topic. When answering, I feel some people are considering the cafe or restaurant environment, as opposed to evaluating the coffee as a single entity. They consider service, the price, the comfort of the seats etc etc. and these are all worthy contributors.

So should the question be ‘what makes a good coffee experience ?’
Now we’re into a whole new ballpark.

I have always felt that if a property did everything reasonably good, as in, really good; friendly greeting, timely service, tasty food, some pleasant chit chat (or to know when to leave me alone), drinks served in the proper manner, ask how was everything and then wish me a good day, then the combination of these will make the experience excellent. It’s the sum of the parts.

When it comes to coffee though, things can get very complicated. I visited the Irish barista championships last week, as I do every year. I was shocked to see that Badger and Dodo were the only Irish roasters represented in the finals.  And this is a statement of where the majority of Irish suppliers of coffee beans are at. 

Bewleys, in my opinion are a brand in decline, and Java are the new Bewleys, mopping up the hotel accounts and push button bean to cup market. And then we have a host of let’s say ‘coffee importers’ bringing in stock piled coffee and sending the bulk of the money for this outside our country.

The reality is the general public are far more discerning when it comes to coffee these days. Yes it used to be about the ‘overall experience’ as mentioned above, but now we are looking for latte art, bean origin, single origins, freshly roasted, freshly ground, blends, and this is just the start of it.
For me, and my day to day work with coffee culture  its great to see the evolution of coffee.

Our training courses in coffee making (barista skills to be more specific) are more and more popular. And this is great to see. People are bypassing the easy option nespresso and investing in proper home espresso machines and even making the move towards v60, aeropress and chemex.

So where can you get a good coffee?
My advice is to get your fix where you can see they care about what they offer.
There are some questions you can ask and some “must do’s”
– is it roasted in Ireland (a must do these days)
– where and when we’re the beans roasted (no longer than 4 weeks ago)
– are they grinding to order (absolutely imperative)
– do they at least try to get the latte art on cappuccino’s and or latte’s (one of the most difficult parts)
– do they employ a barista (a complete giveaway – any barista worth their salt won’t touch a cafe where their coffee offering falls outside these parameters)

This is just the start of it.
When you find a place that makes coffee in these ways tell me, and post your findings here


Going round the Blend

So I robbed the title from the Article... but hey I liked the title.

Its from York Press – The Press in York
A brilliant article on the current standards of coffee (namely independent cafe’s) in the states, and how their focus is artisan roasted and boutique coffee. This is where Ireland is headed in coffee standards, and certainly some cafe’s are there already.

So yeah, i suppose we have people closer to Ireland (in the UK) doing similar stuff, but you cant beat an interesting article to encourage you to want more of the same in Ireland.

I've blogged about it before over at and for those of you who are new to this blog, you'll see its recurring theme.  I cant express how invigorated I am about the cafe industry in Ireland and the direction it is going in.

It’s all very exciting.
A focus on locally roasted beans, the artisanapproach, coffee as it never tasted before - instead of astringent bitter generic coffee flavour, cutting your throat, we have caramels, plums, ripe fruits, chocolate, mouthfeel, acidity and SO much more.  I implore you, to start investigating now... dive deeper into your coffee experience and see what you can uncover.

Read the article here

Beyond the Bag

I’m really excited about 2012. 
More and more people are getting into what i call serious coffee, and thanks to industry leaders such as Brock Lewin at Badger and Dodo or 'Dublin Barista' Colin Harmon , the general public finally have access to the real secrets and enjoyment of a coffee experience.

I really admire the work of artisan roasters such as Brock at Badger and Dodo, and the drive and passion of coffee experts  such as Karl Purdy, David Walsh, and Colin.  These people are shaping the cafe industry to a level of expertise and knowledge unseen in this country before.

If you are a cafe owner or looking to open a cafe, its not whats in the bag and the price of it that is your most important consideration.  Sure we all have to make a margin and we are all happy to do a deal, but its the stuff that doesn’t come in the bag that is far more important. 

Coffee expertise, knowledge of the beans, understanding the flavours and complexities of blends, training, commitment to standards and your coffee supplier working with you to achieve a level of excellence in coffee.  Your coffee supplier is also a resource and knowledge base that you need to use so you can give more to your customers.

As a cafe owner you need to get beyond the bag, talk to your supplier, talk to these experts, and get into the whole coffee experience. These guys, Colin, David, Karl, Brock are just a snapshot of the excellence available out there, and there are a host of new cafe/coffee shop entrants into the market and more coming….  follow their lead and you wont go far wrong.

The most important thing ? buy local, dont buy imported roasted beans, cos you're sending half the bag price out of the country.  Buy locally, fresh roasted beans and you'll be amazed at what the options are.. and you'll feel better about it too..

Opening a cafe ? talk to Alan at Coffee Culture for all things Coffee, cafe and more.