The best relationship you have, is the relationship you have with Coffee

July 15, 2014 – Cafe culture, Food & Drink
Here we have our bright eyed Susie Kealy. She’s bushy tailed when perked up. The description will explain itself in-whole below!

I’m Susie; a coffee addict! Coffee is my focus. For me, coffee is an essential part of the city culture that I am engrossed within. It is how I start my mornings and continue my afternoons. It is my job to talk, make and serve specialty coffee and I enjoy it. It’s a busy job, but it’s an industry where everyone is continuously learning and willing to teach one another and share information. When I first decided to talk about coffee, I was at a bit of loss on where to start. Where is the starting point when talking about such a complex and huge trade that has such an international and growing presence? Do you talk about the culture around it? Do you discuss the specific Dublin culture and how it was back in the days where it first appeared? At this point you would have to decide when the culture even began in the city, shrouded by the ever-present supping of tea. Or do we go right back to basics and just discuss what we find in the cup and how it got there?

There is a bleedin’ awful lot to say about coffee, if it isn’t obvious enough. I plan to focus on not just what is in the cup, but the people and processes that got it there, specifically in the Dublin context. The Dublin coffee community and scene is presently evolving. Baristas are opening up coffee shops, and coffee shops are starting coffee roasters. In the last few years, coffee has crept its way into the Irish culture as a staple. Tea is still there, and probably won’t ever disappear, but it seems people are drinking nearly as much coffee as they are the traditional cup of ‘scaldy’. So was it the Italians or the Americans who introduced it to the little corner businesses of the capital? Or was it when the first industrial coffee grinder was lugged onto the counter in the old hall of the Bewley’s café? It is unlikely that someone came booming in on horseback to announce the triumphant arrival of the humble brown bean to the old Irish shores. Let us leave it a vague assumption for now about when the first cup of joe or tiny espresso was guzzled.

I first became interested in coffee when I began visiting inner city cafes such as Vice on Middle Abbey Street and Roasted Brown in Filmbase around 2 years ago. I knew very little about coffee, at the time only consuming hot drinks for a year, and sugary coffee for less than that. These two establishments were placed in different hubs of creativity (one in music, and the other in film) and had different atmospheres, yet they strove for the same goal. That goal was to serve an incredible cup of coffee in a comfortable environment that was made by a knowledgeable and trained barista. But these places also had to recognise the common and hurried customer who wanted their Americanos as fast as they walked in. Specialty Dublin coffee has to keep the balance of making a coffee to be proud of to the time of an office watch.

When I first began drinking coffee at Vice and learning about the origins and processes, I learned about an English roaster called Has Bean, run by Steve Leighton. The vibrant red bags sat nestled above the gurgling coffee machine, describing the tastes and flavours that you could find in the cup. This was pretty new to me, as I came from a family who stored the crumpled Bewleys bag in the fridge door to keep it fresh (a sin!) and coffee always took two sugars to edge off the bitterness. As I was walking around town to different locations and meeting with friends for a chat, the bright red bags shone out in dim shop windows. They would sit at the top of shelves and beside cash registers, blaring. They weren’t everywhere, but the strong colour was hard to miss wherever it dwelled. Red bags of Has Bean changed to white bags of Third Floor Espresso, a new Dublin roaster. I discovered new coffee shops where I found a product similar to Vice and Roasted Brown. I ended up discovering other guest roasters from around the world, presenting the versatility of a roast.

When I started working with coffee it was a revealing experience. Suddenly the café that was focused on displaying comfort, ease and tasty coffee exposed all the thought and work that went into making it so. It was like lifting up the hood of a car to see how the engine really worked. But this made it all the more interesting. A cup of coffee that at first seemed so simple arrived there through a complex amount of effort. It had passed through expert farmers, buyers, roasters and baristas. It had seen water, fire and air, and weighted to recipes and extractions. These little coffee beans had been on a journey where there was always a watchful eye.

So for my focus on coffee, I’m going to specifically look at coffee shops around Dublin (and maybe a little further afield) and the culture and community around it. It is always a rewarding experience to see a new face enjoy what you have made them, and be able to tell them where it is from and how it was made. Its even more rewarding when you see them pass through the door again. The people involved in the Dublin and Irish speciality coffee community are the ones that make it. They are the ones with a passion too big that it needs to be shared. There will also be a focus on what is in the cup itself, and the recipes and processes that got it there. You’ll see the science of a good tasting espresso and juicy filter, and why it might take a few more minutes than your usual coffee order.

There are new coffee shops opening up nearly every week in Dublin, on leafy street corners and quiet roads, and we want to get involved and document the movement as it happens. Coffee has gotten itself tied up with a lot of different local artistic and cultural movements, from food, to music and film, and it would be a shame to leave out the liquid fuel that keeps it all ticking over.