COLIN HAR­MON

Colin Har­mon (33) left his job in fi­nance seven years ago to open his own cof­fee shop and roast­ery, which sup­plies the 3fe cof­fee brand across Ire­land. He lives in Stepa­side, Co Dublin, with his wife Yvonne, and their chil­dren Os­car (3) and Dallan (18 mon

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS -

Iwake up around 5.30am to the sound of my son scream­ing ‘Peppa, Peppa, Peppa’. Dallan loves Peppa Pig. He’s a ball of en­ergy. I’ll go in and grab him, and wake his older brother, Os­car. I bring them down­stairs and feed them.

Then I make cof­fee, us­ing my grinder. I’ll have some­thing that the guys roasted at the shop, I like do­ing qual­ity con­trol at home. My wife, Yvonne, will come down­stairs, and we’ll get the kids dressed, and she’ll pop them off to creche be­fore she gets to work. I get into work around 7.30am, and I’ll have break­fast in the cafe, and just kind of sit in the cor­ner and watch. You can learn an aw­ful lot from the re­ac­tion of cus­tomers and the re­ac­tions of staff, and you can tell if things aren’t in sync.

We also have lots of cus­tomers who’ve been com­ing to us for years, so it’s nice to see those peo­ple. I used to work on the cof­fee bar, but lots of peo­ple would come up and ask for ad­vice on open­ing their own cof­fee shop. Who­ever was work­ing with me would end up work­ing my shift as well, be­cause I’d be busy talk­ing; most of the staff kicked me off the bar. I have por­ridge or muesli for break­fast, and just chat to the staff. I’ ll drink one cof­fee, and then taste two or three.

Then I’ll get stuck into my email. I get thou­sands of emails each week from peo­ple who want to know more about cof­fee. When I first be­gan, I used to buy cof­fee called Has Bean Cof­fee, which was pro­duced by a guy called Steve Leighton. That’s how I met him. Now he owns half of 3fe, and does all the sourc­ing for the 3fe cof­fee brand. He’s my best friend and my busi­ness part­ner. I try to get back to the emails. Af­ter all, Steve an­swered an email for me. I don’t want to be the guy who doesn’t an­swer emails.

I feel like 3fe is rel­a­tively well-known in Dublin, but we also get peo­ple who have come from Ja­pan to 3fe. They come here be­cause we source va­ri­ety ara­bica cof­fees, and other species and hy­brids from farms and co-ops around the world. Every­thing is sea­sonal, and most of our cof­fees are ex­clu­sive, from the best pro­duc­ers we can find. Peo­ple are see­ing the shift in the cul­ture of cof­fee that is hap­pen­ing here. To­day, I’ve had emails from Aus­tria, New Zealand, Italy and Shang­hai. It takes get­ting used to.

Around mid-morn­ing, I’ll go and say hello to the guys in the kitchen. We serve two-and-a-half-thou­sand meals per week; it’s a big part of what we do. Then, I’ll jump in the car and head down to Dublin Port, and go see the guys in the roast­ery. Some­times, if the cof­fee is over­roasted, it is still bet­ter than what you can buy in a su­per­mar­ket, but we can’t sell it, be­cause it won’t be good enough.

We give that cof­fee to FoodCloud. FoodCloud con­nects busi­nesses that have too much food, to char­i­ties in the com­mu­nity that don’t have enough. They are a great in­spi­ra­tion for us.

Then I’ll prob­a­bly visit one of our whole­sale cus­tomers. We sup­ply 60 busi­nesses around the coun­try. I try to go out to th­ese cafes and or­der cof­fee to see how it tastes. Qual­ity con­trol on that end is im­por­tant. Then I’ll drive back to the shop and have a meet­ing with Craig, my whole­sale man­ager. We prob­a­bly meet four or five peo­ple per week who want to open a cof­fee shop, so it takes time to fig­ure out who the tyre-kick­ers are. We try and help the new busi­nesses we meet by rec­om­mend­ing elec­tri­cians, plum­bers, milk­men — every­thing to try to help them build their idea.

Then we might have a group tast­ing; we get a lot of com­pa­nies who come and we tell them what we do, and it gets their cre­ative juices flow­ing. There was a time when an away-day for com­pa­nies meant sit­ting in a pub, sculling pints. We of­fer peo­ple an al­ter­na­tive way to get to­gether and en­joy them­selves, with some great cof­fee tast­ing.

I usu­ally leave around 4.30pm to try and miss the traf­fic, and to have din­ner ready for when my wife gets in with the kids. I used to be in 3fe ev­ery hour of ev­ery day, but then the kids ar­rived and the busi­ness set­tled down, and I re­alised I wanted to work bet­ter, not harder. I’ll work a 40-hour week and I’ll be proud of my­self for do­ing that. Be­fore, I was try­ing to do 80 hours, and I was a worn-out busi­ness owner in the city, and it had me in a re­ally bad place. I ended up in hospi­tal once, com­pletely stressed out.

I feel like I have a five-year gap where I just didn’t lis­ten to mu­sic be­cause I was so busy. I see that I’m do­ing a bet­ter job if I do less, and I try to do it bet­ter. I think a lot of busi­ness own­ers will boast how many hours in the week they’ve worked, and it’s just point­less; it’s the wrong met­ric to mea­sure your suc­cess by. There’s a lot more im­por­tant things in life to worry about. Maybe we could be mak­ing more money, or we could have dif­fer­ent shops, but I’m not sure I’d be any hap­pier.

In the evening, I’ll play with the kids; we have a back gar­den and a slide, so it’s nice when it’s not rain­ing. I don’t re­ally watch TV and my wife likes to read, so she reads and I talk to her and she pre­tends to lis­ten.

My wife and I both put the kids to bed. We share that, and it’s some­thing that I’m re­ally con­scious that I want. My wife works re­ally hard, so we try and bal­ance it as much as pos­si­ble.

I’m in bed by 10pm most nights, but if my wife’s away with the kids, I’ll sneak off to bed at 8pm. I’m not one to burn the mid­night oil; I like to be well rested.

I think in the early days, when I was work­ing in a cof­fee cart, a lot of peo­ple thought I’d lost my mar­bles. I’d see my former work col­leagues and wave, and they’d be like, ‘Oh God, there’s that guy, the poor thing!’ But I wouldn’t change it for the world. The so­cial pay­back of work­ing in this industry is some­thing you don’t get else­where. I’m al­ways one or two cus­tomers away from solv­ing a prob­lem. If my car breaks down, one of our cus­tomers is a me­chanic; if I need match tick­ets, one of our cus­tomers knows some­body; it’s great.

I think in the early days, when I was work­ing in a cof­fee cart, peo­ple thought that I had lost my mar­bles

3fe, 32 Grand Canal St Lr, D2, see 3fe.com Twit­ter @3fe and @Dublin­barista

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