The Patriotism of Survival

Posted by Karl Purdy on Oct 10, 2010

I will probably annoy a few people with this post – some of them industy colleagues and friends. But I was heartened and motivated by the comments made by James Hoffmann in response to a recent article in The Atlantic. James writes:
Great coffee should be fresh, above all it should be local. The lack of relationships between roaster and cafe across the world undoubtedly contributes to the poor quality of coffee. The disconnection of distance significantly impacts the probability of deliciousness.... I would encourage every cafe to work the way most do in Italy – source locally from a roaster you can build a great relationship with.
Coffeeangel's roaster is Irish – and always has been (insiders please excuse the pun). Our relationship goes back many years and I would like to think that we have grown to be friends. And as friends, we are both very comfortable in complimenting and criticising the work each does. This is a good thing and I believe we continue to grow and improve each other's businesses by virtue of this. We both accept that we have much to do and learn, but neither of us is disheartened, but rather motivated by the prospect. I believe I play a key role in the both the selection and roasting process. I cup, blend, comment and challenge everything that is on the table. For my part, I also regularly order coffee from some of the worlds finest roasters to taste and benchmark against what we have on our shelves. And there are times that I am envious / jealous / amazed at the quality of some of the coffees I recieve. But equally, there are many times that I am delighted, because I feel that coffees we are offering are at least equal to some of the coffees supplied by these greats of the global coffee industry. ((This is of course my personal opinion; the only person of any importance is the customer and whether they believe it or not.)) So where am I going with this? Once again, I feel I must reference the sorry state of the Irish economy. And by the 'Irish economy' I really mean the Irish people. I would like to think we have reached rock bottom both financially and mentally – though that remains to be seen. Our global image is a joke. Surely we must now exert control over those areas within our grasp and support each other wherever possible. And I am by no means implying charity! My own height-of-the-bubble mortgage dictates otherwise. I am talking about the patriotism of survival. I am saying we should be endorsing and supporting quality Irish producers first before casting our eyes and euros further afield. The only caveat I attach to this call to action is 'quality'. Seek out quality and do not compromise. Absolutely benchmark Irish producers against the opposition. Qualifiy and quantify quality, price, service, sourcing, freshness, traceability, etc. and whatever else you feel is relevant to you. I have grown weary and frustrated seeing illuminated signs hanging off the walls of countless well-respected Irish cafes, coffee shops and restaurants implying the sophistication and quality of foreign brand, imported coffees. I am equally sickened by restaurants waving the Irish flag and preaching provenance with the names of local suppliers on the back of menus, yet have imported coffee running through their machines. This is bullshit and there is no longer any excuse! Ireland has a multitude of coffee roasters. I assure you some are doing great work and there are others who are working at improving what they offer (as they should and must). And there are some who do not belong in the game - but they really are their own worst enemy and generally easy to spot. Below is a list of all the Irish roasters (in alphabetical order) that I'm aware of. If there are those whom I've omitted, please let me know and I'll add their names to the list. I have purposely not named my own wonderful roaster – though he is on the list below - to avoid accusations of this being a veiled advertorial. ((If anyone would like information on my roaster, please contact me directly on here.))
Roaster Location
Ariosa Co. Meath
Badger & Dodo Co. Cork
Bailie's Coffee Company Co. Antrim
Bewleys Co. Dublin
Clive McCabe & Co. Co. Dublin (?)
Coffee Beans Co. Limerick
Cork Coffee Roasters Co. Cork
Green Bean Roasters Co. Louth
Java Republic Co. Dublin
Johnsons Coffee Co. Antrim
Mocha Beans Co. Galway
Ponaire Co. Limerick
Ristretto Co. Down
Robert Roberts Co. Dublin
If you are using an imported coffee or something you believe is below par, I encourage you to seek out some of these people and at the very least taste what they have to offer. Do not buy into fancy packaging, websites or slick salesmen. Trust your palate and do shop around. If it doesn't meet with your standards, by all means look elsewhere. If my experience is worth anything, I would be very suprised if you could not find someone on this list who could provide you with what's needed to refuel both you and this economy.