Coffee Culture in Ireland

Christopher C.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Espresso machines in pubs, flat whites > red ales, and Irish flags waving at global barista championships—Ireland’s coffee culture is on the rise. That wasn’t the case, though, 400 years ago. Coffee’s place in Irish society wasn’t fully realized.

Originally set up in the 1600s near popular dueling spots, in drawing rooms, and shouldered with newspapers, Irish coffeehouses were considered a “fad,” as Western Europe fancied their cups of tea over bean water. Judging from many coffeehouse locales, one could say coffee was something to hide from the mainstream. Even as coffeehouses spilled into Cork, Wexford, Belfast, and beyond, the coffee bean would still play second banana to tea for 200 more years.

In part due to the monopolizing East India Company in the mid-19th century, tea remained the go-to beverage across the United Kingdom. Coffee was also hard to get at the time (forget drive-thru idling, this took waaay longer), but then Samuel Bewley came along, establishing Bewley’s Café in Dublin.

It was Bewley who made coffee a fixture in an otherwise tea-centric Irish culture, first adding it to his menu in the early 20th century. Were it not for World War II and the Irish government’s limit on tea imports, coffee consumption might not have boomed as it did on the Emerald Isle. It probably would have, though. Have you ever had coffee? A Bewley’s bun on the side?

After its on-and-off reopenings, Bewley’s was back in the swing of things in late August 2020, becoming one of the city’s most beloved coffeeshops yet again, but it’s not the only coffeehouse in town. In fact, there are over 20 coffee shops within short walking distance of the historic O’Connell Bridge. According to Irish Times reporter Jennifer O’Connell, Dublin is obsessed with third-wave coffee. Cafés are, “eschewing bells, whistles and flavoured syrups,” O’Connell says, “to draw attention to the flavours in the coffee,” sourced from Irish micro-roasters.

The everyday American forearm-long Starbucks orders and comically large coffee mugs are nowhere to be found, notes O’Connell. That’s not to say Ireland doesn’t enjoy its coffee concoctions, it just takes its specialty sector very seriously. Like, very seriously. We’ve never heard of decreasing milk’s steamed temp to better highlight the tasting notes of the coffee, but Irish cafés do it. A latte formulated to highlight the origin sounds a bit paradoxical but we’re willing to try anything!

Coffee in Ireland has come a long way since King Charles II was in power, replacing the mass-produced beans of yore with wee espressos and more single-origin selections than you thought existed. The future of Ireland’s love of coffee looks bright, and we’re thrilled to celebrate it this St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte Mhath!

So, let’s raise an Irish Coffee Milkshake.

IRISH COFFEE MILKSHAKE

Total time: 20 | Makes: 2

An Irish Coffee Milkshake.

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate syrup
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 2 shots espresso
  • ¼ cup whiskey (optional)
  • ½ cup milk
  • Whipped cream, to garnish

Instructions:

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
  2. Transfer to a chilled glass swirled with chocolate syrup.
  3. Garnish with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

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