Spilling The Beans on Dublin’s Coffee Scene ‘‘Why purchase something you can also buy in an airport on the other side of the world when you could get a truly special beverage in Dublin?’’

Coffee is a beverage inextricably linked to student life. Typical sights around Trinity campus include sleep-deprived Arts students desperately gripping onto their skinny soy lattes whilst trying to make sense of life, or Hamilton students casually strolling to a lecture accompanied by a flat white.

For a tea-drinking nation, Ireland has changed significantly in the past ten years as more people are switching to coffee. According to Allegra (a foodservice consultancy group), over 60% of us drink coffee every day, and that figure only increases for students.

These beverages consumed by Trinity students and Dubliners alike are often purchased from global coffee chains such as Starbucks, Costa and Insomnia, which have proven very popular in Dublin, and Ireland as a whole.

Figures from The Independent indicate that Irish Starbucks now has more outlets per capita than any other country in Europe, with over 70 nationwide, 53 of which are in Dublin alone. Other massive chains in Dublin include Insomnia and Costa, which own almost 50% of the coffee market share combined.  

Why are coffee giants so popular?

Surely the number of coffee chains operating in Dublin reflects a public adoration of these multinational institutions – so what do people like about them?

One element is the personalisation of coffee – it’s no longer a simple espresso or latte; customers can order a multitude of beverages with exceedingly long names – flavoured syrups, powders and additives can be mixed in to make the ultimate personal beverage. Most chains have also kept up with the times – soya, almond and coconut milk alternatives are now available at the cost of a supplement.

Familiarity is also a factor – everyone recognises brand names and will probably have a favourite drink that is consistently served. Starbucks in particular has been very clever in choosing the location of its outlets; often facing each other on opposite sides of the street.

Another interesting argument is that unlike smaller coffee shops with limited menus, chains also cater for those who don’t enjoy coffee; they provide exotic beverages like ‘frappuccinos’, which come in many sweet flavours, usually topped with whipped cream.

Finally, Starbucks has cracked the social media craze. People LOVE seeing their names written on the cup, especially when there is a mistake in it or better yet, someone else’s name, which is followed by the inevitable post on Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook showing off the coffee with the (mistaken) name.

Why independent coffee shops are worth a try

The abundance of coffee chains in Dublin makes it tempting to stick to them, but the city has a growing barista culture with lots of interesting independent coffee shops which are worth a shot! Here’s why.

Firstly, independent coffee shops are unique. Why purchase something you could buy in an airport on the other side of the world when you could get a truly special beverage in Dublin? Buying from smaller coffee shops not only promotes more diversity in the variety of coffee available, but also supports the local economy.

Whilst coffee chains often purchase fair trade beans, an advantage of smaller coffee shops (particularly in Dublin) is that they often use fair trade/organic coffee beans which have been specially picked for a stronger, distinctive flavour. Many shops will offer a ‘house blend’ which derives from beans of a specific region, giving the coffee a more intense flavour. Many Dublin coffee shops source their beans from small Irish roasteries where the beans are treated with love.

For many, coffee would be undrinkable without milk or sugar, and independent cafés often stock condiments of higher quality, purchased in smaller batches. They also tend to use fewer chemical additives in their drinks, which makes them healthier for the mind (and soul).

Last but not least – smaller coffee shops don’t necessarily mean higher prices, as you’ll discover in the suggestions below…

Some really trendy cafés

Dublin has so many cute and cool cafés scattered around the city centre. There is such a broad range that you will undoubtedly find one that suits you.

  1. Dublin Barista School
    Of all the coffee places in Dublin, this takes the biscuit on a number of grounds – its proximity to Trinity; located on South Anne Street, a 5 minute walk from the Arts Block. It’s accessible at all times, whether you’re too hungover to walk to the bus stop or fell asleep during lectures. In addition, the coffee is cheaper than most other shops – averaging just €2 for a latte if you show your student card.
  2. 3FE
    Though a little bit of a trek for Trinity students, this gem situated in Lower Grand Canal Street is worth a mention. It has been ranked one of the best cafés in the world and uses beans from its very own roastery in Dublin 1. Not only does it serve award-winning coffee, but it also boasts an impressive seasonal menu which changes every week.
  3. Cracked Nut
    If you’re still craving those tongue-twister coffee names with special ingredients, why not venture  to Camden Street where the Cracked Nut offers a range of exotic coffees including turmeric, charcoal and beetroot lattes, not to forget the infamous ‘blue latte,’ which has always intrigued me.
  4. Network
    Are you an Arts Block lover? This is probably the most hipster café in Dublin. All the guys serving here have beards and probably play the guitar between shifts. The cups have edgy designs on them and the croissants are really nice. Make sure to get there early!
  1. Science Gallery
    Not only is this very practically located, it serves a range of specialist coffees for true aficionados. In fact, the beans used here are hand roasted in one of Dublin’s few micro roasters, Cloud Picker Coffee, situated in the Docklands.

The list goes on and on: Kaph, Il Fornaio, Clement and Pekoe, Grantham’s, Coffee Angel… are all worth a visit!

The Expansion of Dough

Whilst coffee shops have been steadily proliferating in Dublin for a few years, donuts – coffee’s eternal companions – have exploded in popularity over the past year, with over twenty shops opening in 2017. What has triggered this donut obsession? Here’s a little history.

A long time ago: The Dutch were the first to fry balls of dough in animal fat and christen them ‘oily cakes.’ They were probably not quite as appetizing as the ones we have today. As the centre didn’t cook properly, they were often stuffed with nuts, which may be the origin of the name ‘donut.’

1847: Trust an American ship captain, Hansen Gregory, to come up with a solution and punch a hole in the dough ball to ensure even cooking.

1920: Young Russian entrepreneur Adolf Levitt invents the first donut machine in New York.

1930s: French baker Joe LeBeau sells his secret recipe for Krispy Kreme donuts to a shop in Kentucky. Businessman Vernon Rudolph exports the brand to North Carolina where it becomes very successful.

1950s: Dunkin’ Donuts creates fierce competition for Krispy Kreme, both of which open stores around the US. As competition heats up, brands become more innovative and start sassing up their donuts with fancy icings.

1988: The Rolling Donut sets up its first kiosk in Dublin, bringing the humble cinnamon donut to Ireland.

2012: Donuts enjoy a surge of popularity in the US, particularly in Oregon, where social media sites such as Instagram push donuts to popularity with their colourful and appetizing decorations

2017: Dublin is encircled by dough; twenty new donut stores open across the city.

Success story

The donut craze in Dublin has definitely been influenced by the US, along with other food trends like burritos and Frappuccinos. What makes the Dublin donut scene interesting is that it is virtually free of the American donut chains.

Instead, what has developed is an array of unique donut ‘boutiques’ selling artisan donuts with original fillings and toppings. These little rings of glory are no longer seen as Homer Simpson’s favourite treat but as works of art.

They have proven to be popular among all age groups, particularly students craving a sugary fix at a modest price. As a student with a massive sweet tooth, I consider myself an authority…

I had to list of some of the most noteworthy donut shops around Dublin.

  1. The Rolling Donut
    Probably Dublin’s oldest donut provider, The Rolling Donut offers a wide range of these little delicacies. Old-fashioned ‘hot rings’ are sold from the original kiosk on O’Connell street, whilst more choice can be found at one of their two stores in Dublin, which also have vegan options available.
  2. Boston Donuts
    This relatively new brand has rapidly become a firm favourite in Dublin, with four stores across the city. The donuts here are truly scrumptious and come in lots of interesting and original flavours.
  3. Revolution Bakery
    Though these donuts don’t yet have an official home, they are sold in a few bakeries across Dublin, including Roasted Brown, Merrion Café and 3FE. Made with slow-fermented dough, these are of excellent quality and also look fantastic.

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