Café Culture

Katy Gaffney is a graduate from the Visual Culture department at NCAD, a culinary connoisseur and one-half of the coffee|culture collective.


It’s a well-worn adage that coffee and creativity go hand-in-hand, not least because of caffeine’s ability to kick us into a higher gear. Rather, it’s the simple act of sharing a coffee with another human being that has seeded projects and partnerships the world over. In cosy cafes the membrane of dusty professionalism is shrugged from the shoulders, leaving space for ideas to whir and buzz like the machines with which the humble beverage is prepared.

In recent years the traditional office space has become less desirable, to the extent that multinational corporations are spending astronomical amounts of money designing workspaces that could be mistaken for amusement arcades. It appears that an office without a foosball table, chipboard furniture or at least one buddha bag is not an office by modern standards. However, no matter how many meetings are held in an artfully-placed vintage phone booth, the fact remains that these spaces cannot compare with the gentle hum and casual atmosphere of a small independent café.

It’s easy to be spoiled for choice in Dublin where speciality coffee is concerned; new and exciting cafés are popping up regularly, alongside stalwarts that have been thriving since the city’s coffee culture was in its infancy. Testament to this is this year’s Dublin City Coffee Map (Vol.II), which lists a whopping 30 on its beautifully illustrated pages. If café culture is, as has been suggested, a signifier of economic growth within an urban environment, then the city’s prosperity is increasing at a rate of noughts.

Despite this we have had, as every city does, the problem of soulless coffee chains purchasing well-placed shop fronts and undercutting local independents. To combat this there have been a number of initiatives led by Dublin residents concerned by the proliferation of cut-and-paste multinational coffee houses. In March 2016, the hashtag #NailingCoffee was pioneered by Andrea Horan of Tropical Popical nail salon, encouraging patrons of independent cafés to photograph their take away cups artfully displayed in their well-manicured hands. More recently, café owner Ciaran Hogan orchestrated a ‘Free Coffee Day’ in response to yet another Starbucks opening in the city centre, during which some local businesses offered free beverages to Dubliners in order to attract custom away from the US coffee giant and its ilk.

These valiant attempts seem to be succeeding, as with each year the city’s coffee scene becomes more vibrant. Growing in tandem with this is Dublin’s creative ecology; festivals of dance, music, theatre and food are colourfully unfolding throughout the year, a cacophony of cultural offerings that are astounding for such a tiny metropolis. Perhaps it could be coincidence that the two are evolving in parallel, yet a connection seems enticingly probable. With more cafés come more space to dream, scheme, and create; more space for ideas, like coffee, to percolate.

Words by Katy Gaffney.

Photos by Róisín McGannon

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