Cranky About Coffee: ‘Do you know who I am?’

In Ireland we benefit massively from the fact that Starbucks has not yet conquered each of our street corners – unless you’re on Westmoreland Street.  Dublin has a very European café culture  and its independent coffee shops are always busy, whether it’s time for brunch or the last coffee of the evening. This is a side to Dublin that isn’t immediately apparent, particularly for those who prefer to stick to Irish clichés – but it’s indicative of the city’s rich culture.

Contrary to popular belief, sitting in a café all day isn’t a case of posing with a book or a laptop and pretending to be highbrow – it’s about finding an alternative to wasting away in a pub or languishing at home. As a freelancer I spend a lot of time hiding out in cafes, in order to escape the distractions that tease me at home. Each trip I make into town lands me with the same decision to make – whether  to spend hours in Starbucks milking the wifi for free or enjoy the more intimate and often quirky surroundings of an independent café. Apart from the fact that Starbuck’s global ambition to wipe-out local businesses and bleach out local variety with its shite coffee is wrong, it is the Starbucks addicts who put me off the most.

Alice Hodgson                            Alice Hodgson

How many times have you spotted a condescending Facebook status about a Starbucks barista’s apparent inability to spell their customer’s name right – ‘OMG’ ? For some reason, it seems trendy to dash about clutching Starbucks coffee cups and so why not ridicule their staff for not knowing how to spell your name – it only reinforces your  superiority, right? Those who stick photos up with their wrongly spelled names on coffee cups, to ultimately demonstrate this superiority over the barista, are accomplices to Starbuck’s agenda. They reinforce the coffee shops’ claim to status. It may market its thousands of branches as ‘European’ coffee houses, but in Europe coffee is not loaded with sugar or doused with milk and cream – and lazing around with an espresso is certainly not an expression  of class

Visiting London makes you realise how far chain coffee houses have encroached on local high streets – we’re talking about Café Neros and Costa Coffees too. Cityscapes suddenly become so bland and predictable when local businesses are stripped away from them by fat-cat companies .It seems so damaging to restrict this entrepreneurial creativity and flair, that in turn creates character and stimulates the community. That’s what those sniggering sheep are supporting. This doesn’t mean that they should necessarily boycott Starbucks – the wi-fi is free after all – but at least, give the staff some credit.

Great Cafes in Dublin

  • Mochaland  – This a great spot on a sunny day thanks its enormous windows and street corner location on Lower Ormond Quay – looking out over the Liffey towards Temple Bar. The coffee is good and the menu is very affordable. Meanwhile, there’s wifi and the staff are warm and welcoming. What more could you ask for?
  • Lemon Jelly Cafe – Situated on Millennium Walk in the Italian Quarter, you can’t deny the European vibe as espresso drinkers sit outside and watch the world go by. They also do great smoothies and if you’re peckish you’ll be spoilt for choice. The best bit for those wifi hoggers is that an entire section of the cafe caters to you! With individual power points and the opportunity to look out onto the walkway as you ‘work’ away –  this is definitely a top spot.
  • Foam Cafe – Mag pie alert: this cafe could push those mad for shiny, glitzy kaleidoscopic colours into a frenzy thanks to its quirky decor. Foam Cafe has a full menu of fine foods and homemade dishes – whether it’s coffee, cake, lunch or dinner you’re after. There’s little point in bringing your work here, there’s too much to take in, so enjoy it with friends and lounge on the sofas as you absorb the kitschy creativity. Foam Cafe is the antithesis of Starbucks – it demonstrates how much fun can be had with independent coffee shops.

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