Local Heroes | Belfast Coffee Tours

13:57:00

It's no secret that I enjoy a good cup of coffee. A quick search through my blog archives will unearth several posts on my love of coffee and my love of local coffee shops.
Combining all this, the recently launched Belfast Coffee Tour takes in several of these great stores with a healthy dander and some amazing coffee and company.

The Belfast coffee scene is growing and this is a good thing. However, some bare bulbs, reclaimed furniture and a cafetiere do not a coffee shop make. Without drive, passion and knowledge, there is no differentiating them from any other cafe offering your standard cappuccinos and lattes.

What sets these businesses apart is the sheer amount of work and love that goes into their craft. And it is a craft. I am always astounded at the alchemy that goes into roasting, blending and brewing of coffee.

We started our tour on Belfast's Ormeau Road. It is becoming something of an indie food destination with some truly great cafes, restaurants and coffee shops opening in the past few years.

Tucked away on an unassuming side street is Root & Branch. A compact set up belies this coffee powerhouse. Home to its own roastery, Ben & Simon of Root & Branch roast, blend and brew their own batches of coffee. They don't need to offer fancy frills and gimmicks; just great coffee and a small selection of treats. (Root & Branch have recently extended a new city centre "branch" in The Ormeau Baths which has been converted into a shared digital workspace)








The guys kindly gave me a bag to take home

After downing a tasty espresso (and a sneaky affogato that was used for an Instagram post), we set off to our next destination, dandering down the Ormeau Road and cutting through Belfast's Botanic Gardens, we emerged in the Queens Quarter and our next stop; The Pocket.







Living up to its diminutive namesake, The Pocket is set up in a refurbished Victorian terrace right on the doorstep of Queen's University. 
Offering soup and light lunches and delicious homemade donuts, The Pocket also serves one of my favourite types of cold coffee. 
I have a very sweet tooth but that doesn't always translate to my coffee, usually filter and without milk or sugar. However, I am a total convert to Vietnamese coffee which is an iced coffee made with condensed milk for a sweet, chilled treat. Made using Dublin's 3FE coffee, we were also treated to a smooth espresso as contrast to the milky sweetness of the Vietnamese.

Crossing over to Botanic Avenue, we stopped at Kaffe O. The bigger sister of the original Kaffe O on Ormeau Road, Kaffe O brings a Nordic flavour to Belfast. Hygge-hysteria is still in full swing so anything with a Scandi vibe encouraging comfort, warmth and a sense of wellbeing is welcomed. Serving a fusion of Mediterranean and Scandinavian food (panzanella with rye bread -yum!) and Ricco's coffee shipped directly from the roastery in Copenhagen twice a week.






Continuing on Botanic Avenue, we arrived at our penultimate stop; Town Square. This hotel was previously a so-so restaurant but has reinvented itself as a cool bistro and coffee shop, winning awards for its menu and the work of its baristas.




This was the first of our shops to offer a filter coffee to sample. As much as I like the short hard hit of an espresso, I prefer the flavour profiles that you can only get with a filter coffee. Using Roasted Brown Coffee from Dublin, Town Square are a relatively new face in the coffee family but have made a name for themselves winning 1st & 2nd places in the 2016 NI Aeropress Championships.


We finished our tour in Belfast city centre in one of my usual coffee haunts; Established. A modern, California-inspired interior with a big shared social space for creatives and bloggers to work, serving great food and great coffee.
Another user of 3FE coffee, this time we were treated to it as a filter (my preferred style).



A filter coffee was something previously looked down upon, seen as a lesser version of elaborate milk combinations of lattes and such. However, in my opinion, there is no better way to experience the fragrance and flavours of coffee than with a drip filtered coffee. The aromas and tastes change so much according to the water:coffee ratio, the temperature, the grind size; the list goes on. So the next time you're meeting for a coffee, skip the foam and ask for a filter!

The Belfast Coffee Tours is the brainchild of historian and tour guide Thérèse. Her background in history brings life to the streets of Belfast, combining this with a love of coffee and it's a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning. 
The tours are usually held around twice a month, meeting on Saturdays. The next tour is scheduled for 29th July and spaces can be booked here

Thank you to Belfast Coffee Tours for inviting me along and to the teams in Root & Branch, The Pocket, 
Kaffe O, Town Square and Established for making us so welcome.



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