Specialty coffee shops are springing up in Dublin like mushrooms after a sweet, spring rain, proliferating faster than you can say macchiato. The thing that distinguishes Dublin coffee culture is that Dublin’s smaller than most other cities. Here, your local coffee shop is like your local pub and you will know your barista by name. Since coffee culture is new, for many of the key players, this is a second career; they all started as sound engineers, graphic designers, journalists, and investment bankers. So, if you fancy, you can pull up a seat and listen to their stories of how they got here.
Like in many cities, your café’s chic will depend on your neighborhood. Therefore, your city centre cafes, while lovely, will not be as boho-cool as the spots in Stoneybatter, Liberties, and Portobello. As far as beans are concerned, if a café is using 3FE, Cloudpicker, and Roasted Brown, they are coffee roasters you can trust.
Here are some cafes to bring your laptop, ipad, or just an old fashioned book. Find a sofa, a beanbag, or a bench and be prepared to stay for a while.
One of the originals and still one of the best. Canadian-born journalist Karl Purdy started the Irish coffee revolution back in Belfast in 1995 and brought it to Dublin in 2000. It was a caffeinated dream and not without its growing pains; when Dublin wasn’t ready for coffee, Purdy was hawking espresso on the Howth pier. These days Coffeeangel is in several locations in the city, but hasn’t lost its edgy pedigree. Our favorite is the space on South Anne Street, which everyone still calls the Coffee Angel pop-up because that was how it started life. The quirky SAS Coffeeangel sports high swinging stools in a space the size of a box, and not long ago, we spotted Eric Bana there making froth behind the bar.
Cafes: 3 Trinity Street, Dublin 2; 15 Leinster Street South, Dublin 2; 27 Pembroke Street Lower, Dublin 2; 16 South Anne Street, Dublin 2.
Carts: Sean O’Casey Bridge,Custom House Quay, Dublin 1; Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1.
This candy-hued haven on Drury Street is a mecca for the pretty, healthy, and well-heeled. There’s something for every taste and trend in Kaph. The coconut green tea matcha is ravishing, and the flat white is some of the most perfect on this side of the river. Expect to wait. On rare days when Dublin is lovely, the bench outside is a prime people watching spot.
31 Drury St, Dublin 2, (01) 613 9030
This baby-faced Smithfield café is just one years old, run by a pair of award winning bearded baristas, and sources its beans from the world-renowned London Square Mile roasters. However, Proper Order’s charm lies in its playful spirit. Look for guest roaster and, lattes of the day flavored with homemade syrups (blood orange marmalade lattes). The “slap and tickle” is Proper Order’s answer to a daily pairing – expect shots of Square Mile espresso paired with whimsical cordials, sodas and cookies. Get in early on Saturdays, for delicious goods from the cooler-than-thou bakery Sceal – sourdough miso breads and cruffins (croissant-muffins) in weekly flavors like caramel miso, chocolate cremeux and marshmallow, and Armagnac, almond cream and prune. Contrary to its name, a lot of the delight of Proper Order is the element of the unexpected.
7 Haymarket, Arran Quay, Smithfield, Dublin 7.
The Liberties is the latest buzzing neighborhood in Dublin and Legit is its newcomer café. Originally known as the hub for down-on-their-luck weavers, the Liberties has a reputation for not giving two f—ks about authority. In the Liberties, they keep it real, and so makes sense that today, the coffee shop of choice is Legit. The space used to be a butchers, and repurposed Ikea items make up its furniture. The owner is French-born Daniel Voisson, who started out in the IT industry but decided he preferred pastry and coffee.
Additionally, it’s laptop friendly – there’s tons of outlets in which you can plug. The barista hails from Coffee Angel, and the brew is from the single-origin bean roaster, Celbridge. But when you’re at Legit, you have to get Voisson’s sausage roll. Greasy, airy, a taste of both French and Irish market culture with a contemporary twist. Eat it while swigging a cafe standing at the bar, and you will have an Emile Zola novel in a Dublin bite.
Meath Mart, Meath St, Dublin 8.
Arthouse cinema and coffee, was there ever a better match? Ger O’Donaghue took over this airy, sunlit sanctuary about FilmBase last year, and we guess that it got its name, First Draft, from the word processing programme that is both the boost and bane for aspiring screenwriters everywhere. Toasties (aka grilled cheese sandwiches) are made with local artisanal Tartine bread. Come for the space and stay for the flights, which is espresso, filter coffee, and a flat white made from the same beans from the Barn, the award winning Berlin based roaster of which First Draft is the sole distributor.
3 Curved Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
Think of Love Supreme in Stonybatter as the Jil Sander of Dublin coffeeshops, minimal earth tones with a downright feminine aura. There’s pale beige wood and potted green plants and the vibe, as behooves its John Coltrane name, is mellow. Cloudpicker is the brew of choice and to eat, there are simple, homemade treats perfectly presented in ecru napkins. Also, there’s kick-ass hot chocolate. Come here if you want to sip your macchiato in an oasis of no clutter and calm.
57 Manor Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, (01) 549 6489
Accents Coffee Shop and Tea Lounge
Like we said, modern café culture in Dublin is probably only really five years old, and before baristas and bespoke roasting came about, there was Aroma on Drury Street, with the mission to provide a cozy, queer-friendly, alcohol free space where one could grab a cappuccino, a cookie and hang out for hours. The furniture is vintage, slightly tattered, and velvet and there are books on the shelves that invite you to open. When drag queen and local heroine Panti Bliss becomes a grandmother, her living room would totally look like the inside of Accents.
As a bonus, unlike many of the cafes around the city that shutter at five PM, Accents is open until eleven PM.
23 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2, (01) 416 0040
Cloud Picker Coffee
Roasting is arguably the most crucial part of the process – beans must be selected from all around the world, toasted to bring out its most seductive characteristics, and then blended to create those notes of citrus, caramel, chocolate, butter, or what have you. In today’s buzzing world, there are those who brew, those who roast coffee, and those who do both. Cloudpicker is Dublin’s first micro coffee roaster, operating since 2013. Find Cloudpicker beans, which are designated by their baby blue logo, at Fallon and Byrne, at cafes like Oxmantown, and also at their hub in the Science Gallery on Pearse Street. For you expats jonesing for an icy start to your day, Cloud Picker bottles a wicked cold brew, which is coffee made by steeping chilled water in coffee grounds.
Science Gallery, Naughton Institute, Trinity College, Pearse Street.
3FE is the prodigy of the Dublin coffee scene. Cherub-cheeked Colin Harmon quit his job as a banker in 2008 to devote himself to coffee, and then he proceeded to win, in rapid succession, a number of worldwide barista awards. Harmon, who started on at the bottom as a barista at Coffee Angel, began roasting his own beans in 2014. These days the 3FE Momentum is one of the most coveted blends on the market, sweet and tempered with notes of plum, bourbon, and walnut. The headquarters of 3FE in the IFSC is a café, but also has a shop and a training space.
32 Grand Canal Street Lower, Dublin 2.
Despite what the name might imply, founder and former sound engineer Ferg Brown was a brewer before he was a roaster, and before that he was a serious drinker. Having developed a coffee habit in childhood, sound engineer Ferg Brown worked his way up the caffeine ladder, starting with a coffee cart that he took around Ireland. He opened his first café, Roasted Brown, in the FilmBase space now occupied by First Draft. It was in 2013 he started roasting his own in county Wicklow, and we’re glad he did, especially because of his espresso with its flavors of caramel, hazelnuts, and honey. Look for Roasted Brown in cafes around the city, like the swanky Love Supreme. Roasted Brown also has its own Dublin café, the somewhat preciously named Laine My Love on the industrial strip of Talbot Street.
32 Grand Canal Street Lower, Dublin 2.
Bewley’s Oriental Café
Long before contemporary specialty cafés, there was, in the 17th-19th centuries, a buzzing culture of the Dublin coffeehouse. Students, scions, writers, politicians, and philosophers, fired up by the cool, new drinks of java and cha, would gather to debate and pontificate, and occasionally plot rebellions and challenge each other to duels. The Dublin coffeehouse lost its luster in the mid-twentieth century, but in its heyday, it was quite the scene.
For a taste of the way they did it in the old days, step into Bewleys Oriental Café. Samuel Bewley, a Quaker entrepreneur, was the first man in 1830 to import Chinese tea directly to Dublin. Bewley’s Oriental Café on Grafton Street still stands when the Bewley family opened it in 1927. Take in the velvet seats, the kitsch but still dazzling Orientalist mosaics, high ceilings, and the stained glass windows. The waitstaff are in starched white shirts, and there are twisting staircases and the nooks for private conversation. Occasionally they even do a reading or put on a play. It might be a bit of a tourist trap, but Bewley’s is still magical.
Bewley’s Oriental Café on Grafton Street is closed for renovations, and due to reopen next year. There are other Bewleys in the city, easily recognizable by its retro, copperplate script logo. Our thoughts? If you want the Bewley experience, hold out for the Oriental reopening.
32 Grand Canal Street Lower, Dublin 2.
Written by Mei Chin