I am no coffee snob. I don’t turn my nose up at instant coffee. Arguments over Starbucks versus Costa versus hipster little one-off shops are lost on me. Don’t get me wrong- I like a gorgeous freshly-ground coffee but more than that I love a good story.
It is the story of my friend sourcing farmers in her homeland to import coffee to London and start her own cafe in Fulham that inspires me to support her venture.
It is the story of a similar project in Ethiopia that produces 500g bags of coffee (beans/ground) for €20 here- with €16 of that €20 staying in Ethiopia- that intrigues me (my brother’s friend bought a bag for each of his family members for Christmas this year).
It is the friendships I get to build with the staff of the coffee shop around the corner from our church that sees me ordering there early on a Sunday morning.
Today, I got to be part of another story when my Mum brought me to 115 Georges Street Lower, Dun Laoghaire.
No. 115 is tiny.
It doesn’t have a website.
Its prices are scribbled outside with a whiteboard marker instead of coolly lettered in chalk.
It underprices its coffee (only McDonald’s and the newsagent with the press-the-button-yourself coffee machine sell it cheaper).
The decor is new but slightly mismatched (and not in a deliberately “kitsch” kind of way).
Individual muffins wrapped in clingfilm in the display cabinet beside the till and the handwritten sign that says “cash only”.
The workers are unsure of themselves.
Dad has very little English but he makes an amazing latte.
Mum has a little bit more English, she waves at us as she comes through the door.
The grown up son has the most English, but he trips over his words as he asks us to sit down.
None of them seem to know what to do with our smiles.
There is nothing remarkable about 115 (except its coffee, which soars beyond its humble surroundings) yet something in me rises up and aches to see this family do well in a culture full of polished franchises and self-assured niche shops.
Something in me longs to see this migrant family, completely lacking in guile, succeed in providing for themselves in a world where the corporate world succeeds in making huge profits at the expense of their shop-floor employees.
Something in me desires to see these underdogs make it without having the innocence that makes them so likeable hammered out of them.
We smile big as we pay and put our loyalty cards in our pockets. Son bows slightly.
I’m glad we chose to go there instead of somewhere else.
If you’re in Dun Laoghaire soon: forget the franchises, avoid the artisans, and help a family make a living as you sip your lovely latte.