Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Coffee fans rejoice: Newly opened Belfast speciality coffee business has bold plans

Mark Ashbridge tells Amanda Ferguson about his newly opened speciality coffee business -- Established -- and the bold plans to roast his own coffee

Mark Ashbridge opened his new coffee business in Belfast at the end of last year
Mark Ashbridge opened his new coffee business in Belfast at the end of last year

Purveyors of fine coffee have opened in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. When Business Month caught up with barista extraordinaire, Mark Ashbridge, he was enjoying his first afternoon off since opening the confidently named Established at 54 Hill Street on December 10.

A small explosion outside St Anne's Square, just yards from its front door on their fourth day of operation came as a shock, but Mark, his partner, Bridget Barbour, and their four employees have carried on regardless to make a go of the venture.

Mark said: "Friends and family have been great, and a lot of local people, on the back of the whole bomb thing were kind of going, 'we just want to show you support' in defiance against anything like that.

"Most of the businesses in the Cathedral Quarter experienced the same thing. That's just the Northern Irish way isn't it?

"People say January is a quiet month for most businesses but if this is a quiet month then I don't know what busy is going to look like! We have definitely been busy."

With its glass walls, polished concrete floor, communal seating space, an abundance of power points and wi-fi, Established has quickly, er...established itself as one of the most stylish coffee shops in the city.

It also offers tea, luxury hot chocolate and food, such as French onion soup, freshly made sandwiches and chorizo stew.

Mark worked with design conference specialist Andy McMillan to helped give the business on the corner of Hill Street and Talbot Street "an identity". Its logo and branding was produced by New York-based Dan Cassaro, who has done work for the New York Times, Nike and Carhartt, among others.

Mark said: "We want to stand up and be Established from the start. We felt it was strong name. It's confident, but not in a cocky way. We want to approach things with quality, care and attention."

Mark won the Irish Aeropress Championships in 2013, came fourth in the world championships in London in May 2013 and this Sunday will take part in the Irish Barista Championship finals in Dublin.

The 29-year-old left the security of a job as a civil servant with the Department for Social Development to pursue his speciality coffee business dreams, with help of loans from family, and plans to one day move into roasting his own coffee.

"The most daunting thing for me is being someone else's boss," he said. "When you're responsible for yourself you know what you need to do but then when you start becoming responsible for other people it's huge.

"One of the long-term goals for ourselves, in the next five years, in terms of growing the business, is moving toward roasting coffee. That's part of the plan.

"Really for me it's about quality. Coffee isn't just coffee. If you kind of scratch the surface of it you find it's complex. We want to be able to, not educate, but to make people think about that a bit, that coffee comes from a farm, someone had to work to cultivate and produce it."

Established gets its coffee via 3FE in Dublin, from places such as Indonesia, Colombia, Costa Rica,El Salvador, and Ethiopia, which are under the label of "direct trade".

Mark is also working with local companies and individuals such as Suki tea, baker Mark Evison for bread and Dan Larkin, from Man Made, for cakes and other baked goods.

Established also sells bags of coffee, grinders, brewers and filters, and this month is introducing workshops where people can learn about coffee and how best to brew it at home.

Mark said: "Our passion and commitment is to honour the work of the growers who produce this amazing coffee by brewing the coffee as best we can, using the best equipment we can get our hands on, while maintaining our Belfast roots and providing a great place within the community for people to meet, work and relax."

Established is open Monday to Friday, 7am-6pm, Saturday, 8am-6pm and Sunday, 9am-6pm.

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