So much changed for us as at the roastery over the past 20 years, the same can also be said for the specialty coffee industry across Northern Ireland. We’re a small country, but we have a lot to offer; growing rapidly to rival some of the largest coffee destinations in Europe.
There is something special about being part of a unique, pocket-sized community, where everyone is so passionate about one thing…coffee.
In our unique coffee world, we seem to have developed an innate desire to walk into our favourite café, or new street addition, and initiate conversation with our barista on anything from the origin to the roast or the brew- that subtle look of approval I receive when I don’t take milk with my filter never goes amiss either.
We’re all loaded with curiosity to see what a new roaster has delivered, or what recipes baristas are experimenting with. Each day the small network grows larger and larger, with our customers wanting to cultivate a community of their own; the daily regulars, the Sunday brunchers, or the ritualistic coffee commuters who just can’t start their day without that cup of batch.
In our world, everyone seems to know everyone. Take the 2018 Northern Ireland Aeropress Championship, for example, anyone could compete, and everyone did. From baristas to roasters and even one of our very own engineers. As a sponsor of the event this year, it was particularly exciting for us to see people from nearly every local café or roastery we had been to or heard of. That weird and wonderful competition, which has evolved from only three competitors to a worldwide competition, is a perfect example of the immense speed at which coffee culture has expanded and thrived.
It seems almost paradoxical to describe a worldwide community as close-knit, but there seems to be no other word which better encapsulates the specialty coffee industry. It thrives on friendly competition, sharing and teaching, all with the intent of producing the best possible product which we are proud to serve and excited to taste.
Each month a new café pops up, challenging our customers and ourselves to evolve and grow. The team at Bailies have been incredibly proud to not only see our customers thrive, but to see our friends winning competitions and the baristas we have trained embark on new ventures of their own, fostering their own regulars and sharing their passion for coffee.
Across the country it has been exciting to witness the development and growth of related ventures such as NI Coffee Maps; sure, for some a trip to Northern Ireland is about following the history and culture, but who says that can’t be paired with a good cup of coffee? We love that it highlights so many unique coffee spots across the country and it has been exciting to see many places we know, or now want to know, encapsulated in the distinctive illustrated design we have come to recognise - and we’ve made it our mission to make sure we visit every single one.
The same can be said for the Irish Indy Coffee guide, which since its first Irish edition in 2017, has become an almost unofficial authority on the best places to check out. Delineating some of the best spots in the country, it’s been inspiring to see the increase in stature their appraisal has gained. This shows just how much shared passion there is, not just for coffee, but for the entire journey- from bean to cup. Our passion and interests have grown way beyond pouring the perfect cup but have evolved into a desire to emphasise ethical responsibility, environmental awareness and the innovative approaches which we are all continuing to peruse and discover in coffee day by day.
Bailies have not only been lucky enough to witness this growth and expansion of the speciality coffee community in Northern Ireland but also to be a part of it.
Northern Ireland may be a small country, but the coffee industry feels anything but.
Here’s to the sharing a love of coffee, community and culture as we reflect this Valentines.