Beyond the beans

With rents skyrocketing and rates heading the same way, coffee shop owners are finding creative ways to utilise their cafe space after hours. From yoga retreats to whiskey tasting and drag brunches, meet the ‘spro pros pioneering the community movement.

Feature from The Ireland Independent Coffee Guide No 2 – buy your copy here

Post-work whiskey
Hollys Coffee Co., Ballynahinch, Co. Down

One of the perks of pacing the shop floor on a daily basis is that we’re always coming up with new ideas to bolster our offering,‘ says Hollys co-owner Janice Hunter.

So, alongside a daytime line-up of lipsmacking coffee you’ll also find grownup gambols going down after dark at Janice’s Ballynahinch hangout.

One Christmas, Bailies sent us a hamper which included a bottle of Powers Whiskey. It sparked the inspiration for a whiskey tasting/coffee pairing event and we sold 15 tickets within 24 hours. The first event was a great success with Joe Magowan (Powers’ ambassador) doing the whiskey bit and the team at Hollys taking care of the coffee.

The popularity of the evening has kickstarted a bill of informal events which make the most of the cafe space after hours. ‘There are more whiskey tastings in the pipeline (we’re designing some cold brew cocktails), and a gin night is on the cards for the busy events calendar which already includes candle making workshops and masterclasses,‘ adds Janice.

It’s not just boozy brew pairings filling the team’s spare time; Hollys also does its bit for the local community.

Teaming up with roaster Bailies to support the Northern Ireland Hospice Big Coffee Break, the cafe encourages visitors to raise a cuppa (and a few quid) for the charity.

The reaction to the fundraiser was incredible: it was a really special day and each year we’ve raised over £1,000 for the cause,‘ says Janice.

Fork-to-fork feasting
Boden Park Coffee Company, Belfast

Orla McKeating, entrepreneurial wonder woman and co-owner of Boden Park Coffee Company, is utilising her cafe space in Belfast’s historic Ormeau Bakery to support a fellow local start-up.

I met the ladies at Edible Flower years ago when I went to one of their supper clubs. I fell in love with their talent and passion, as well as their amazing flavour fusions, so it was a no-brainer to ask them to recreate the pop-up at the cafe,‘ says Orla.

With regular supper clubs selling out fast, Belfast’s foodie fraternity is queuing up to get its hands on a ticket for the jet-setting supper club.

Founders Erin and Jo describe themselves as ‘fork to fork dining’,‘ continues Orla. ‘They use their knowledge and experience from travelling the world – as well as produce from their kitchen garden – to create a fusion of Asian, Mexican and Middle Eastern flavours.

And the best thing about the supper club collab? Erin and Jo are big fans of Boden Park’s coffees, and incorporate Orla’s roasts into their dishes.

Some of my fave combos are the Vietnamese ice cream made with our Costa Rica Aquiares single origin bean, and the Korean beef brisket rub using our Brazil Fazenda California beans,‘ adds Orla.

I’ve also created a coffee blend for events which is a half-caf – 50 per cent Mexico Finca Linda decaf and 50 per cent Brazil Santos – which marries nutty chocolate notes with a fruity finish. I serve this with Erin’s delish petit fours to end each evening. The guests love it.

Dublin in drag
Pot Bellied Pig, Dublin

Everyone loves brunch and prosecco and, as far as I know, everyone loves a drag show. So why not combine them?‘ went Lema Murphy’s thought process when deciding how to get the most out of the space at her popular Rathmines coffee shop.

Her ponderings led to a (very successful, as it turns out) afternoon of fizz, feasting and drag drama – and there’s been no looking back since the inaugural brunch club in early 2018.

There was nothing like it in Dublin at the time. The ladies – Miss Taken, Heiress Blackstone and Athena – couldn’t have been a better fit: they work the room like they were born to do it. The events are an allsinging, all-dancing, all-fabulous show: the best craic brunch around.

Originally running every other month, demand was so high they’ve become a more regular affair. ‘They start at 3pm, with brunch served at 3.30pm and the show at 4pm. We aim to finish at 6pm … but generally this doesn’t happen,‘ laughs Lema.

It’s not all about the booze and beats either; the chefs at Pot Bellied Pig fashion a drool-worthy bill of brunch dishes and a killer chocolate brownie for the event, plus there’s always an espresso for those who need a little fuel for the post-brunch party.


Still not had your fill?

Diaries at the ready and fun friends on speed dial – coffee shops across the country are getting in on the community action.

Wine and dine
LEGIT Coffee Co, Dublin

Marcin Kotwicki, head barista at LEGIT, runs a monthly fine dining pop-up. Using his skills as a qualified chef and wine buff, Marcin satiates rumbling tums at the Liberties coffee shop with five flavour-packed courses and wine pairings.

The menu and themes are different each month: we’ve had Irish, Polish and Austrian so far. There are plans to expand the pop-ups to make them more regular, and we’re extending our shop at the back which will mean more space for dining events,‘ says LEGIT co-owner, Damien Vossion.

Bendy bods
Two Pups, Dublin

Limber up, Dubliners: yoga types are scooting upstairs at Two Pups’ Dublin patch to get their daily fix of calm at Yoga Kitchen. With meditation sessions also on the cards, this above-the-cafe spot is ‘a balance for the downstairs caffeinated craziness,’ say owners Kevin and Zoe.

Disco fever
SOMA, Cork

Fancy a spot of bopping with your bagel? SOMA launched its disco brunch to celebrate a year of being in business. ‘We wanted to have a bit of a party,‘ says director Alex Bruce.

DJ sets, mimosas, €1 coffees and super tasty brunch dishes make for an afternoon of caffeine-fuelled revelling. ‘We are hoping to make it a regular thing,‘ adds Alex, donning his neon.

Saturday night supper
Bridewell Coffee, Donaghadee

We wanted to use our space to offer customers an alternative option on Saturday nights,‘ say Bridewell owners Johnny Foster and Katie Kirk. Bringing Korean, Italian and Middle Eastern feasts to the folk of Donaghadee, the supper club was launched to cultivate friendly vibes, introduce international flavours and form new friendships.

Stories from the world of coffee

Find your guide