Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Belfast's best coffee shop - Gareth breaks new ground with city guide


By Rachel Martin

It doesn't matter how you take your caffeine fix - whether it's hot and dark, steamy and frothy - it's likely you'll have a favourite spot for where to get it.

Now a new guide mapping the best of Belfast's independent coffee shops hopes to encourage us to try more of the city's top spots for a cuppa. The pocket-sized Belfast Coffee Map showcases the wealth of speciality coffee establishments scattered among the entries and side streets.

Among those featuring in the guide's first edition are The National, Quartisan, General Merchants and Kaffe O.

Belfast GP Gareth Patterson said he got the idea when he discovered a similar guide in Continental Europe.

He said: "I was on holiday in Barcelona last summer and I saw the map for sale in a cafe around the corner from our Airbnb, and pretty quickly the rest of the holiday became shaped around that.

"Like any coffee enthusiast, one of the first things I do when visiting any city is to seek out the best spots for a high-quality coffee.

"So many cities around the world celebrate their thriving coffee culture through a bespoke coffee map, directing both tourists and locals to the best coffee establishments on offer.

"Despite coffee culture having really taken off in Belfast in recent years and the city now having so many fantastic coffee establishments, there was no official pocket map highlighting the best in Belfast.

"I came home and I thought about how Belfast has a fantastic coffee culture starting to build itself, but there's nothing to tell tourists or anyone about it. Belfast is such a small city, but there are so many great independent coffee shops and its reputation is spreading very quickly."

Gareth approached several of his favourite coffee establishments with what was just a concept, but said he was soon overwhelmed by their support.

The guide is self-funded and marks the first time the city's independent coffee shops have come together behind one publication.

The shops involved paid £135 to be listed, which went towards the cost of printing the first run of 5,000 copies.

The guide has been six months in the making and has seen Belfast-based graphic design and printers work to make Gareth's idea a reality.

Plans are in place for it to be revised annually.

Belfast Telegraph food writer Joris Minne said Belfast's coffee scene was continuing to grow.

"There are a lot of really good ones, that's for sure," he said.

"One of my favourites at the moment is Common Grounds on University Avenue.

"And I really love what Orla Smyth has done with Kaffe O - she has really transformed the coffee scene, bringing that Danish model, which she knows so well, pretty much authentically to Belfast."

However, he warned: "A guide in which people pay to be mentioned really can't be trusted for quality - that's not to say those who are listed aren't quality - rather it cannot be trusted as an independent arbitrator.

"Where the value in this is, is that it may encourage people to try somewhere they maybe wouldn't have known about beforehand. There are some on the list which are new to me."

The city has recently seen an explosion in its coffee offering, with several new shops opening up over the last few years. Local success stories include Ground Espresso Bar, which has plans to open up to 50 stores across the UK and Ireland, including several in partnership with clothing retailer Next.

Also expanding are Synge and Byrne, the smaller, edgier little sister of well-known cafe brand O'Brien's, and north coast-based chain Bob and Berts, which plans to open up eight new stores this year, including one in the Republic.

Belfast Telegraph


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