How Coffee Shops Saved My (Social) Life

This morning as I was on my way to get my daily coffee before work, my brother said something so outrageous that shocked me to my very core. “There’s too many coffee shops in Belfast.” It pains me to even type the words.

Once I had a chance to gather myself, I replied “Ammm, ain’t no such thing” (I’m very street like that).

He then went on to list some: Caffe Nero, Hotel Chocolat, Tim Horton’s, Bob & Bert’s, Pearl’s, Clements, Costa, Starbucks (all of which I’ve got loyalty cards for) as if that was too many?

It got me thinking, where would I be without all of these coffee shops? A lot better off financially yes. But also a LOT more tired, and a lot less social.

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I’m a placement student, which means that my schedule doesn’t really sync up with any of my friends who are still at uni. They’re free during the day and out at night, I’m in work all day then in bed by 10pm most nights.

But there’s that glimmering, cappuccino coloured window between 5 and 7pm, after I’ve finished work and before they’ve to go home and start preing.

I mean, what can you do at 5pm? No one under the age of around 60 (no offence) has dinner that early, and going for “a drink” isn’t really an option.

Coffee. That’s what you do.

What do you do at 8am, when the shops are all still closed and you can’t exactly sit at your desk for an hour before work?

Coffee. That’s what you do.

After lectures and seminars to procrastinate actually doing uni work?

You guessed it- el caffe. (See how I’m mixing things up?)

six white ceramic mugs
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Don’t get me wrong, I do love coffee. But for me its not about the drink; I go for coffee because I want to go somewhere nice and sit and catch up with my friends. Even those who hate coffee love going for coffee; there’s steamers, tea, weird flavoured lattes and those ridiculous drinks in Starbucks with a mountain of cream on top and another mountain of sugar inside.

I must admit, Belfast doesn’t have much when it comes to nightlife, everything sort of closes in the city centre at around 7pm (except the glorious night that is Thursday). But there’s always a light on in that Starbucks opposite Europa, or Tim Horton’s (yeah, we’ve got one of those now). Well, until 10pm when they close, but you know what I mean.

All of these coffee shops have actually really shaped my (and Belfast’s) social life.  They don’t just provide us with my daily dose of caffeine and free wifi (yay), they give us a place to sit with our friends and catch up on everything going on each other’s lives.

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And it’s not just big multi-national chains, it’s wee small independent coffee shops and chains throughout the north of Ireland like Clements and Bob & Bert’s. I always try to go the local shops and give them a turn instead. If you think about, I’m basically a caffeine-fuelled modern-day Robin Hood.

I’m helping support the local high street -which God knows it needs all the help it can get after the Primark fire reduced footfall by 30%. And with amount of money I spend a week on a coffee, I’m probably single-handedly sustaining the local coffee industry.

Coffee shops are so important to Belfast. We need somewhere to sit have a good chat- and God knows we need caffeine. Coffee’s what we drink, it’s what we do, it’s who we are.

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So, I’ll raise my skinny cappuccino and toast to the coffee shops of Belfast, “thank you”.

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: Niamh Murray.

Coffee dependant lifestyles

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As a final year student I am not alone in saying that coffee is an essential part of my day…

Whether I am in uni and about to go to a lecture or I am in the library trying to make a start on an assignment, I NEED a coffee. Anyone who drinks coffee will understand the feeling. Everyone associates coffee with one word – Caffeine.

Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed drugs, noted for its ability to promote wakefulness and provide energy. 

It seems over night that the coffee culture has exploded into life. While there are so many international coffee chains spread across the UK and Ireland, there is also more and more local start up coffee shops which is refreshing to see. The next time you are grabbing a coffee and not in a rush, look out for one of the local coffee houses instead. Your custom may actually be helping to pay for a youngsters pair of football boots, or dance lessons. It makes a change from giving your money to a multi-million pound established organisation!
It is more common now than ever before that people will go to coffee houses with friends for a social experience. It is a meeting point and routine for some people. Then there are people who go alone- maybe to get some work done, maybe just to relax and for a change of scenery.

Traditionally tea-drinkers

The UK and Ireland were traditionally known as tea drinkers. For a long time Ireland were second only to Turkey in terms of tea consumption per person. (This probably explains why every time you go to a friend or relatives house you are asked 4 or 5 times if you would like a cup of tea).
The coffee drinking craze is largely down to the amount of cafes available to people in towns and cities. In 2013 there was almost 4000 tonnes of coffee consumed in Ireland alone, that is a staggering amount for a country so small. The coffee shop market in Ireland for 2015 was valued at around £85 million and was continuing to grow every year.

The next step in order to keep up globally is to increase the amount of speciality coffee houses which may lead to more in-home coffee brewing. Many countries around the world take coffee very seriously and have cafes that only offer certain types of coffee depending on the time of year, mainly down to growing conditions.

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Coffee in Italy

Italy is a fascinating country when it comes to coffee. It is like a religion to them. They drink coffee every day and very often more than once. In the summer months you can find men sitting outside a coffee shop chatting and sipping on their drinks as if they were in a beer garden. It was while holidaying in Italy that I became curious about coffee and the culture behind it. I became curious about how it is made and why people are so dependant on it. The Italians believe that you should only drink a cappuccino, cafe latte, latte macchiato or any milky form of coffee in the morning and never after having a meal. They would seriously frown upon the thought of milk touching the stomach after having a meal during the day. Maybe you will be more Italian and consider this the next time you are ordering a caramel latte while evening shopping!

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Saying as you have made it this far, have a look at how to make the perfect Irish Coffee! (Ingredients and preparation from The Irish Times)

Ingredients:

40ml Irish whiskey

120ml freshly brewed coffee

20ml demerara sugar syrup or demerara sugar, to taste cream

Freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation:

Preheat a glass with some warm water and discard. Add the whiskey, demerara sugar syrup (or sugar), coffee and hot water and stir to combine.

Warm a large spoon and gently pour the cream over the back of the spoon to float on top of the coffee. Garnish with a light dusting of grated nutmeg.

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It is absolutely fine if after reading this you feel you need a coffee, or some alcohol… whatever you are in to!

Daniel Lewis is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. He can be contacted at: LinkedIn

 

5 Places You Need To Know About

DISCLAIMER: if you don’t like coffee or people who take pictures of their food then you’re probably going to want to click off this.


In this new ‘café culture’ there are a select class of caffeinators and connoisseurs who have the beans to categorize themselves as a coffee/food snob, and let me tell you that there is no snob more outrageously self-righteous than these.

Personally, I am convinced that coffee doesn’t taste any better if you brew it in a ‘GCSE science-looking’ contraption. This is something coffee-snobs may want to disagree with but for me, it’s not autumn until you’ve walked through the vividly coloured, leaf-scattered Botanic Avenue on an October afternoon with a pumpkin spice latte in your hand. #basicwhitegirl

If you follow me on social media, you will know how much of a pain I am when it comes to food and coffee pictures. In my opinion Mondays are for coffee and two coffees a day does indeed keep the grumpy away – but within reason, because if it’s after 4pm I won’t sleep.

Let me ask you a question – are you even really a student if the majority of your loan isn’t spent on needless brunch stops (or McDonalds) as well as those three coffees you really didn’t need between getting to and during that 9am lecture? If your answer to that is no then you’ve probably ignored my disclaimer and kept reading, which was at your own discretion.

So, whether you are a student looking for somewhere to kill a few hours between classes, a full-time bruncher or coffee enthusiast here’s my top 5 places all you caffeinators and foodies need to know about if you’re wanting inspiration for somewhere new to try:

(NOTE: most of the pictures featured are of coffee, mainly because I’m too impatient to take pictures of food before I start eating it, sorry not sorry).

 

5A Lockview Road

@5Acafe

Situated on the doorstep of Stranmillis University, 5A takes a wholehearted approach to brunching despite their tiny yet charming premises. With exceptional attention to detail, particularly allergies, and quality food for a reasonable price – 5A is a must if you haven’t yet been. Not only is their coffee consistently delicious but paired with a warm ‘Californian’ sandwich, peanut butter ball to follow, or 2, (seriously, if you haven’t tried one of these yet you haven’t lived) and cozy atmosphere: your Sunday afternoons are well and truly sorted.

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Established Coffee

@establishedcoffee

Situated in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, and therefore being just around the corner from the UUB Campus (my poor little bank card is thankful I’m not here for classes yet), Established Coffee is a bright and spacious coffee shop, with productive space for work or relaxing and an incredibly chilled atmosphere. This ‘city centre trendsetter’ offers an exceptional variety of coffee brews, including Farami from Costa Rica and Bulega from Ethiopia. Check this out -they also serve iced lattes and Americanos without looking at you like you’ve totally lost it! With poached eggs, avo toast (again, #basicwhitegirl) and a weekly Sunday pie to die for, this is the perfect spot for catch-ups, people-watching (we all do it) and coffee’s to-go if you’re out and about in the centre of Belfast.

 

General Merchants 361

@generalmerchants361

 Co-owned with 5A, the Australia-inspired General Merchants 361 boasts similar qualities only on a larger scale and with a secondary reputation as a luncher, General Merchants really know how to do it. One Monday morning over summer, as a devoted ‘I’ll start eating clean next week’ kind-of-girl, I opted to switch my typical ‘Melbourne Breakfast’ for a ‘Bircher muesli bowl’ and I haven’t gone back since – hands down the tastiest muesli bowl I have ever had. Their food menu, coffee and vibrant ambience all go hand-in-hand to create an authentic experience with a unique vibe and though I’ve never been to Australia, it makes you feel as though Belfast is right on the edge of the Tasman Sea.

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Kaffe O

@kaffeo

Inspired by Nordic coffee, Kaffe O was a new find for me and has quickly become a favourite. Their unique beans, from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Costa Rica, are roasted and shipped from the Danish capital to our very own little Belfast – delicately combined to create the perfect flat white. If you’re looking for a minimalistic place to get work done or simply to just hide from the rain, here is perfect.

NOTE: their brownies are fab-u-lous, but if you live nearby this may prove dangerous.

 

Guilt Trip Coffee and Donuts

@guilttripcoffee

After seeing the most aesthetically-pleasing pictures of Guilt Trip Coffee and Donuts on a daily basis all over my Instagram feed, I decided to give it a try because despite not being a huge fan of donuts, at least it would make a good picture. After hemming and hawing over what flavour to try, I eventually decided to have a blueberry and peanut butter donut (because that counts as one of your five a day, right?) and boy was I thankful I had ordered a whole one for myself. With their aim being to ‘sell the best donuts in town’ they certainly have my vote. These were the first donuts I’ve ever eaten that weren’t sickeningly sweet and actually tasted how they claimed – peanut butter heaven, perfectly combined with a flat white. If you are planning on visiting I highly recommend going early to get the best selection of donuts!

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NOTE: After seeing these pictures you’re maybe thinking “I bet she doesn’t drink cortados” but as an avid flat white sipper I thought a cortado was a type of instrument until a few months ago (although, if you are a cortados drinker then check out 5A – apparently the best in town).

 

Amy Greer is a second year BSc CAM student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr