The Book of Kells, James Joyce, pubs, The Guinness Storehouse. Dublin, Ireland is famous for a lot of things, and we think coffee should be added to that list. When we say coffee in Dublin, we don’t mean a cup of joe with a shot of Jameson, we mean world-class coffee served by barista champions without the slightest pretension.
Here at the Coffee Compass, hospitality is really important to us. As we’ve written before, hospitality is the difference between getting a good cup of coffee and having a great coffee experience. More than once (particularly in America) I’ve been served excellent espresso, but only after putting up with some condescending remarks from the barista who assumed I didn’t know anything about coffee. It’s hard to enjoy even the best cup of coffee if you’re recovering from being patronized.
Champion of Coffee in Dublin
Thankfully, Third Floor Espresso (3FE) is the antithesis of the stereotypical pretentious coffee shop. This Dublin cafe serves coffee from renowned English roaster Hasbean and is owned by three-time Irish barista champion Colin Harmon. But what stands out about 3FE is not the incredible coffee, but the friendly, genuine service. Admittedly, the Irish have a cultural leg-up when it comes to hospitality, but the crew at 3FE is raising the bar in what to expect from your neighborhood coffee shop.
3FE has a second cafe now with a more decided third-wave aesthetic, but the original location (the only one open when I visited) is situated in the Twisted Pepper, a rather eclectic nightclub that specializes in underground EDM and hosts a variety of locally-minded businesses during the day. Although the ambiance is more fitting for a dive bar than a cafe, it gives 3FE a certain uniqueness and certainly doesn’t detract from cup quality. And besides, most dive bars don’t make pour overs with an Marco Über Boiler.
Tasting vs. Drinking
3FE is famous for popularizing the concept of separate “Drinking” and “Tasting” menus, allowing both groggy commuters in need of a caffeine fix and coffee aficionados with time to kill to get what they’re looking for. The drinking menu features cafe classics such as espresso and cappuccinos, expertly crafted by their baristas with their Nuova Simonelli espresso machine. Nuova Simonellis may not be the sexiest espresso machines around, but they are reliable workhorses that have been the main sponsor for the World Barista Championship for several years now. Conversely, the tasting menu offers the opportunity to do a side-by-side pairing of two different filter coffees, try the same espresso straight and in a cappuccino, or taste the same coffee as an espresso and filter. I visited 3FE four times while I was in Dublin, which allowed me to thoroughly exhaust both menus. Full disclosure: I visited in June 2011, so if they still have any of these coffees, it’s a new year’s crop. Here are my tasting notes:
- El Salvador Batalla COE . Floral and clean with an impossibly sweet finish. Had this as an espresso, cappuccino, and bought a bag of whole bean to brew as filter coffee at home. Wonderful as all three. One of the best coffees I’ve ever tasted.
- Malawi Viphya Geisha. Sweet, creamy, citrus. lemony tart as espresso, super rich chocolate in milk .
- Brazil Sao Judas. Chocolate, honeycomb. Tasted this as a filter coffee (Chemex).
- Kenya Kaguyu AA. Apricots and Peaches. Tasted this in a side-by-side tasting (Chemex).
- El Salvador – La Fany Bourbon. Chocolate and caramel. Paired well with the Kenya Kaguyy AA.
- Mystery cold brew (not on the menu). Since I had ordered everything on both menus, Colin brought me some coffee they had cold brewed for fun. They didn’t remember which coffee they brewed, but it was super floral and delicious, so I’m guessing it was the Batalla.
The Twisted Pepper’s dim lighting and red and black color scheme is not ideal for photos, but thankfully freelance photographer/ local latte art hero Danny Loeschen was in Dublin last week and stopped by to snap some pics for us. Danny also brought back a bag of Hasbean’s Guatemala Carmona COE, and has been nice enough to share it with some friends. It’s an incredibly juicy coffee with a Granny Smith-acidity. Yet another reason to make 3FE a priority next time you’re in Dublin.
**UPDATE: According to Colin Harmon’s blog, the Twisted Pepper 3FE is closing January 26, 2013, and being passed on to a former barista.