field report: Dublin

When you think of the Irish and what they drink, I’d wager coffee won’t be the first thing that will come to mind, it probably won’t be in the top five. But the millions who visit the Irish capital every year will find a great emerging specialty coffee scene. Keep your eyes out for a free foldout map to specialty cafes (we found one in The Fumbally), which is very helpful as you wander the city. Here’s a look at the places I enjoyed on a recent visit.

3fe Coffee

Colin Harmon is the leading light of third wave coffee in Ireland, and has helped build the specialty coffee industry in the country for the past 10 years. Read his story in this slide show, it’s a fascinating look at starting with nothing more than a passion. Today, his company 3fe operates two very highly regarded cafes and a roastery, from which it supplies beans to its shops, its mail order business, and several other cafes in Ireland and internationally. And Harmon has written the bible on all the intricacies of running a coffee shop, I flipped through it and am kicking myself for not buying a copy because it was fascinating.

you might say they wrote the book on running coffee shops…. literally

I visited their main cafe on Grand Canal Street. A generous open space, lots of light coming through the big windows, designed with a palette of light colors, wood, and red accents. Decent amount of sidewalk seating.

My drink was absolutely superb, best I had on the visit. Also the best presentation I saw on the trip, the cup served on a branded wooden plank alongside a glass of soda water, and best milk art on the trip. Really balanced flavor, not in any way bitter, just right.

3fe Coffee
32 Grand Canal Street Lower, Dublin (also on Sussex Terrace)


Coffeeangel has been around longer than 3fe; in fact, it’s where Colin Harmon got his start. Highly regarded as a no-frills, honest cafe chain when coffee quality comes first. Also another interesting origin story, which you can read on their website.

I visited their shop on Leinster Street South, across from Trinity College Dublin. Completely unplanned, as I was walking back from 3fe, but our Irish friend had sung the praises of Coffeeangel and since I had a regular double shot macchiato just a few minutes prior at 3fe, I figured another one would take me only to my standard quad shot (it’s science!), so that much caffeine at once wouldn’t harm me.

Reputation met: the shop was nice enough, if a bit crowded, but the coffee was very, very good. Perhaps not quite to par with 3fe, but certainly to a very high standard. Outside the cafe is a column of plaques signifying an annual Best of Ireland award from the McKenna’s Guide, of which they are very proud.

15 Leinster Street South, Dublin (also on Trinity Street, South Anne Street, Pembroke Street and George’s Dock)

The Fumbally

This cafe was right around the corner from our Airbnb, and what a find! A huge, airy, warm if slightly industrial space. Lots of seating areas, a bit shambolic but friendly. Great food including fantastic baked treats, very friendly, the kind of place you want to laze away a weekend afternoon with friends.

There was also a cheeky attitude to the place that in other cafes might seem forced or corny, but here it worked. Handwritten signs slapped up, including the caption on this picture. In the picture in the lower right corner of the montage at the start of this post, you’ll see the tail end of a set of letters on the hood above the food prep counter, which had been rearranged from the cafe’s name to read U MY F BALL.

I saw a La Marzocco machine at Coffee Angel, but both 3fe and The Fumbally made drinks on Victoria Arduino rigs. I only saw the back of the machine at 3fe, but here I could see the operational side and it was a beauty. The barista was happy to talk about the machine, particularly happy with the volumetric scale built into the drip tray. I forgot to take a pic, but I believe it’s this model.

I came to the shop twice, once for a coffee to go and once with a large group for drinks. One of us had breakfast as well, which was excellent. Both times my drink was really damned good. To have a cafe like this available on a regular basis would be a dream.

The Fumbally
8 Fumbally Lane, Dublin

Nomad Mobile Cafe

photo credit: J. Barnes Eliot

No relation whatsoever to the famed roaster and coffee shop in Barcelona (which is spectacular), this was a very happy and very much unexpected discovery.

We were walking along the coast just south of the city in the suburb of Dún Laoghaire on the prototypical raw, windy, misty Dublin day. In our travels we spotted an unmarked panel truck by the sidewalk in a parking lot, back doors wide open, and a gentleman fussing around with something inside. As we got closer, we saw that he had an espresso machine inside and was selling coffee drinks and hot chocolate.

And thus we found Nomad Coffee. Ross was quite friendly, explained he is always parked in this spot along the sea. His rig is a Izzo Pompei MyWay, a spring lever machine fitted for mobile use running off propane gas. Ross uses beans from McCabe’s, a roaster of organic coffee in County Wicklow.

Friendly guy, good conversation, and excellent coffee. The kids loved Ross’s hot chocolate. Finding this truck made me so incredibly happy, it’s wonderful to find great coffee outside usual settings.

Nomad Coffee
along Marine Parade, by Scotsman’s Bay, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin

Thank you, Dublin, for a magnificent stay and some truly great coffee. Hope to be back to try some other cafes.

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