Work­ing hard to raise the bar

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS -

Ariosa Cof­fee 1 Saint Lau­rence Street Drogheda, Co Louth 041-9802505, ar­iosacof­ 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.

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