Working hard to raise the bar
Ariosa Coffee 1 Saint Laurence Street Drogheda, Co Louth 041-9802505, ariosacoffee.com After a stint living in Australia, Michael and Lindsay Kelly returned to Ireland in 2003. Michael had inherited an entrepreneurial spirit from his family; his father and uncle run a butcher shop in Meath. But it wasn’t until he experienced coffee culture down under that he found a passion to channel his energy into. “When I found myself in a library looking for books that could teach me about coffee,” he says, “I knew I had found something I cared about.”
Inspired by Australian companies such as Toby’s Estate, he set up Ariosa with a stall in the Galway Food Market. Following that, Michael convinced his parents to let him convert his family home’s garage in Meath into a microroastery, becoming one of the first specialty micro-roasting companies in Ireland. Soon, wholesale demand led him to move into a roastery in Ashbourne. He enlisted the skills of his neighbour, Christy Rooney, who is still Ariosa’s head roaster nearly eight years later.
After 15 years of coffee stalls and selling wholesale, the Ariosa brand has made its first foray into retail with a new café in Drogheda, and it’s all hands on deck when I pay them a visit in their first week. Lindsay is taking orders behind the counter during a busy lunchtime while general manager Shane fires up the toastie machine. The cafe is simply but beautifully fitted out with furniture from Jenko Designs, a small design company based in Dublin.
Michael is busy talking me through the series of sketches of local Drogheda landmarks that adorn the wall in the cafe. A couple of women, in for a coffee, give him a friendly dig out when he can’t quite remember the name of one of the landmarks. Ariosa are blow-ins but the locals seem to have embraced them already. The space was formerly home to a popular café called Traders Coffee House, which closed late last year. They were one of Ariosa’s wholesale customers. “A lot of the Traders regulars have said they’re really happy we’ve kept it going,” says Michael. “They’d already gotten the taste for our specialty coffee.”
You might recognise one of the baristas, Paulina, from the Ariosa stall in the Temple Bar Food Market in Dublin’s city centre on a Saturday. In Drogheda, Paulina prepares a perfect flat white (¤3) made from the Ariosa house blend, which combines two pulped natural Brazilian coffee and a bean from Guatemala. They also have a single origin from Peru on offer when I visit, with two grinders allowing space for new beans and different flavour profiles. But Ariosa aren’t pushy about telling customers what they should like. Their coffee is consistently reliable and accessible, avoiding the pitfalls of pretension that can be found in some of the more po-faced corners of coffee culture.
Currently, the food offering is limited to toasted sandwiches, a daily soup, sweet treats from the Hansel & Gretel Bakery in Navan,and a few homemade cakes such as a lovely spongy toffee apple cake (¤3.50). Once they find their feet in their new life as retailers, they hope to expand the food menu.
Similarly to Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz’s Brown Hound Bakery and Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill nearby, Ariosa provides another Drogheda destination for those looking to support independent businesses that are working hard to raise the bar.