Local Heroes | Belfast's Best Coffee

11:31:00

Seeing as it's UK Coffee Week and I am a non-functioning heap of beard and belly without coffee most days, I thought I would share my favourite coffee haunts around my home town.


Go back about 5 years and all Belfast had to offer in terms of coffee really were an abundance of Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero and the usual small traditional cafes who's selections were limited to over-done espressos and really milky lattes.
The modern coffee shop puts focus on the actual coffee, not on the massive muffins and overpriced traybakes. Really getting to the guts of good coffee, the interiors were pared back, the affectations were reduced and the coffee became the star. This isn't to say you can't just have a cappuccino or espresso, but your coffee will have a story and a history and your barista will do more than just push a button on the machine.

So here are some of my favourite coffee shops across the city, places that have caught my eye and attention with their service, knowledge, look and most importantly, coffee!

Town Square



Situated on Botanic Avenue, Town Square boast award-winning baristas and use Dublin-based Roasted Brown coffee. They even offer nitro brew (although it's always been off when I go)
If you are with a group and feeling indulgent, go for a Chemex and get the smore's campfire!

Guilt Trip


Based in east Belfast, Guilt Trip is a stone's throw away from the busy Ballyhackamore area but worth the short travel. A relative new-comer (I can measure it's newness as I've only been once), it keeps the menu simple: coffee and donuts (ok, there's tea & hot chocolate too for the non-coffee folk but the less said about them, the better)
The coffee is good and the donuts are immense!

The Pocket 



Across the road from Queen's University sits The Pocket, a diminutive powerhouse. But a testament to the saying that good things come in small packages, the Pocket offers great freshly made food and donuts (I almost drowned in the coffee cream donut one day when I bit into it and the filling went up my nostrils) and offering my favourite variation on a cold coffee; Vietnamese coffee, made super sweet with the addition of condensed milk. They also host regular themed menu nights and although I've not made it to one yet, the menu always sounds so delicious and always vegetarian friendly.


Root & Branch


Boasting its own roastery, Root & Branch is one of the leading names in the Irish coffee scene. With a second location in Ormeau Baths and a newly announced extension to the Ormeau Road site, I'm excited to see what the future has in store.
The set-up reminds me of Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco where you would find one of their coffee shops nestled away just off a main street in an unassuming front. Just like that Root & Branch have a simple shop front and let their coffee do the talking.

Established 


One of the first in the new wave of coffee shops and one of the only in the city centre, Established have established themselves in the heart of the bustling Cathedral Quarter.
Offering tasty breakfasts and brunch ideas, amazing bakes from Ursa Minor and a rotating list of guest coffees, it's rare to find it empty any day of the week. They also host coffee tasting, barista training and brewing workshops regularly if you are keen to improve your home coffee experience.
(BTW if you are coming here to do some work and don't have a MacBook, you're going to look out of place. Better get that Moleskine out!)

Ground


Last but not least is Ground. I'm regularly in the Wellington Place shop on an early morning, catching up on blogging, reading (or playing Pokemon Go). With several stores across the province, Ground is a chain with a local focus. Their own house blends (Bobblehat and FlipFlop) are exclusive to the brand and combine beans from Honduras, Peru and Brazil. They also host guest blends, including favourites of mine such as Five Elephant from Berlin.
Ground also sell Keepcup, the original barista-standard reusable cup; something to consider investing in light of the recent coverage of disposable plastics. Bring a reusable cup into any branch of Ground and get 50p of your coffee, a little incentive to do something big.

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Coffee has become something of an obsession over the past few years. I'm fascinated by the processes, the science and the skill it takes to make something we take for granted. 


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