West Cork is no different from the rest of Ireland with a new-found love of trendy coffees over the traditional tea. But we haven’t totally abandoned the leaves, either, as MARY McCARTHY discovers
DURING the war years, those who lived in ‘The West ‘ were lucky to have tea to drink, while across the Atlantic, the Yanks brewed coffee to greet the morning sun.
Today, on the shores of West Cork, we have a new story to tell regarding our beverages.
‘Ireland has become more cosmopolitan due to travel,’ according to Ruth Field, owner of Field’s Coffee shop in Skibbereen. ‘Irish people have moved all over the world, and become exposed to other cultures, other ways, and coffee. People coming back certainly introduced it to the country. There is a huge rise in coffee drinkers. It seems to be popular on the go.’
‘There are lots of new types. Iced coffee is a huge seller among the younger generation. They seem to love it,’ she added.
‘Americano is still the most popular, but cappuccino and lattes are massively important, too. Chai lattes are nearly as popular. Caramel, chocolate, and different syrups add to the range. There is something for everyone.’
‘But we are still tea lovers as a nation. Coffee will not replace the ritual of having a cup of tea and a chat. I see tea playing a huge part in people’s lives. There is an old-fashioned, emotional connection to having a chat over a cup of tea in good times or bad times,’ she said.
‘Fields was one of the first coffee shops in West Cork,’ Ruth mentioned. ‘It has always been a place where people gather and chat and connect. Across the whole day, the same number of coffees as teas are sold here every day.’
‘Around 90% of younger people, from teenagers to those in their fifties, drink coffee,’ according to Charlotte Slocum, manager of The Flying Poet aviation café in Kinsale.
‘However, those from 50 years and older tend to drink tea, because they have done so for years,’
‘Many like different types of coffee, because of taste, energy and it blends better with alternative milk,’ she said. ‘It is social with friends and having cake. Matché lattes, a green tea latte with natural caffeine, is also popular.’
‘Coffee orders are generally in the morning, when people are getting ready for their day, with less sold in the afternoon,’ Charlotte said. ‘However, older individuals still drink tea with breakfast.’
The Covid pandemic saw a rise in takeaway coffees and most cafés do that now.
There has been a higher turnover in sales, with takeaways amounting to roughly 30% of the trade in coffee shops.
‘At Christmas, it is a great time to sit down in a café. Some add cinnamon powder to coffee and chai lattes, because it is festive,’ Charlotte added.
‘Others enjoy another favourite, turmeric latte that’s bright orange and comforting. However, more tea is drunk here during the holiday season, because families gather and a pot of tea is easier to order.’
‘We are living in exciting times,’ said Courtmacsherry-based distributor of Blue Butterfly Coffee and trained barista, Paul Hayes. ‘There has never been more choice now. Gone are the days when only black tea, sugar and milk would be served. And a limited choice in a jar of coffee.’
‘Nowadays, people are generally more affluent,’ he said, ‘and cheap air fares to Europe and the States have seen customers gain a more discerning palate for a good quality coffee. And they also expect it. It is regarded as an affordable treat. There is a willingness to try something different and be more adventurous, even with decaf options.’
‘The best brew with a creamy head is made by a trained barista,’ Paul said. ‘However, since the Covid pandemic, there has been an explosion of domestic coffee consumption, using a variety bean to cup appliances.
‘For a more, simple filter coffee option, use a plunger cafetiere or an Aeropress for a really good cup of coffee. Over the last 10 years, there have been more varieties of these beverages,’ he said.
‘People have moved from dark roast coffee and its burnt, bitter flavour and have gone towards a medium and lighter roast, as they are more flavoursome.
‘Good quality loose tea is back in fashion and made in better tea pots than in olden times. Change is good and it is great to try new things.’