Mission impossible: finding the best coffee in Dublin

Coffee in Dublin can be summed up by one word: mediocre. I haven’t had many awful coffees, but I’ve only had a few “great” coffees. I was spoiled when I lived in Australia — coffee culture is really taking off in Brisbane, and I was able to enjoy a high standard of specialty coffee while living there. When I returned to Canada I couldn’t go back to percolated coffee, and was constantly disappointed by any espresso based drinks I ordered. In Canada, you have to be in the right city for good coffee. Toronto has a good coffee scene, but most Canadians are happy with a quick double-double from Timmies or a latte from Starbucks. I think it’s a reflection of culture. Canadians are business oriented and coffee to us is functional — it wakes you up and helps you get through the work day. Australia is big into day time culture, so people often treat going for coffee as a big part of their social life, therefore it’s a higher standard of coffee. I think the whole world knows that Ireland a night time culture kind of city. Generally speaking, people go for pints here rather than coffee. That being said, Ireland is still a part of Europe, and Europeans are big into coffee. Cafes here are equipped with quality coffee machines and there are plenty of shops to choose from. I think the biggest problem is the lack of training here. Being a barista is almost a trade in Australia and people get paid fairly well in the service industry, whereas it’s not valued as much here in Ireland. You know coffee culture isn’t great when cafes advertise pictures of awful latte “art” on their front stoop.

Nevertheless, I have found some good coffee in Dublin. I have been gallivanting all over the city ever since I’ve arrived, and I have a few favourite spots and a couple of places to avoid.

1. 3FE

My flat white (Twisted Pepper location)

My flat white (Twisted Pepper location)

The “best” coffee that I’ve had here was from 3FE. Good barista, good blend, good presentation, organic milk, reasonable price. From Dublin’s standards, these guys are in a league of their own. There’s two locations — one in Dublin 2, one in Dublin 1 (both of which are too far to be my “local” shop). 3FE easily boasts the highest standard of coffee that I’ve had since I’ve been here. Don’t ask for soya milk because they don’t have it. They only make coffee the “right” way — no modifications.
You know a place is good when it’s known in the international coffee community. One of my friends in Brisbane owns One Drop (GREAT coffee) and he sent me 3FE’s webpage, and when I went to the “best” coffee shop in Stockholm (Drop) and told the barista I live in Dublin all he said was “3FE”. To be fair it isn’t the best coffee I’ve ever had, but it’s high quality and makes me extremely happy.

2. The Fumbally

A hipster haven, The Fumbally is a trendy shop with a cool ambiance. Wood furniture, big windows, social tables, and happy houseplants all make for a cool vibe. They make a great latte, but the one time I ordered a long black it was mediocre at best. They serve breakfast all day and try their best to use only organic ingredients.

3. Butlers Chocolate Cafe

Yes it’s a chain, but these guys make a great soya cappuccino. It’s a little bit more expensive (3.50 for a soya cap) but I find the coffee to be consistent no matter what location I’ve gone to throughout the city. The coffee they use has a  beautiful bold, chocolately taste, and goes especially well with soya milk. The best part of Butler’s though is the free chocolate with every drink order — I go for the 70% truffle or the double dark chocolate!

4. The Humble BeanIMG_1715

Great food, good cappuccino, cute cafe. I ordered a soya cap and she brought out a regular cap, which was delicious and had a pretty pattern. I was trying to avoid dairy though so I got her to bring me the soya coffee, which wasn’t nearly as good. It’s hard finding a barista that can heat soya milk properly.

5. Baxter and Green

Good takeaway coffee. Stronger taste. Delicious.

Honorable mentions:

Bewleys, Lemon Jelly, Cup, Carlisle’s, Clement & Pekoe

Overrated (from a strictly coffee standpoint)

Metro Cafe

Coco and Busyfeet

The Coffee Society

The Bald Barista (decent, but really shouldn’t be advertising themselves as “Dublin’s Best Coffee”.)

Now I’m no coffee expert, and coffee that I like might be totally different from the person. I’m just a gal who REALLY loves coffee. I have many more cafes I need to try in Dublin, and if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!

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Oh autumn, how I love thee.

au·tumn

noun /ˈôtəm/
autumns, plural

The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May

– the countryside is ablaze with color in autumn

autumn leaves

– he was in the autumn of his life

Canadian

Change. Change is good.

I’m partial to always having a little bit of change in my life, so I can appreciate seasonal change.

Of all of the seasons, autumn is by far my favourite. Yes, I would even pick it over (gasp!) summer.

Autumn is especially beautiful in Canada’s maple tree regions. I spent last year in Australia and I’m pretty sure I completely missed “autumn” because it was just a slow transition to slightly “cooler” temperatures. Winter began and I frantically asked my friends, colleagues, bus drivers, “but what about autumn?!” Needless to say I was very pleased that I got to experience autumn in Canada this year.

In the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, the fall season consists of lots of balmy sunshine, cool nights, and temperature highs ranging from 15-20 degrees Celsius. In the towns you’ll find lots of beautiful yellow or red trees but the mountains remain green. I had hoped that there would be more colour changes but with such beautiful weather who could complain?

Hiking in Kalamalka Park in September.

Otter Lake by Armstrong, BC in October.

I also spent a couple of weeks in Ontario this October. Ottawa is BEAUTIFUL in autumn. It takes me about 20 minutes longer to get anywhere because I’m constantly distracted by the beautiful colours around me. Trees turn different shades of orange, yellow, and red, and it makes regular day tasks more enjoyable. Driving to do groceries is beautiful because of the long tunnels between tall golden trees. Walking to get the mail is beautiful because in the distance the Gatineau Hills look like a blurry water colours painting. Walking through a forest is beautiful and almost sensory overload – hearing the leaves crunch beneath your feet, seeing amazing hues in every direction, smelling the  earth and fallen leaves, and feeling just enough cold in the air to make you feel alive.

My brother, Isaac, and I in our family’s maple bush.

WE LOVE AUTUMN!

Top 5 reasons why I love autumn:

1. Natural beauty.

2. Thanksgiving (my FAVOURITE holiday).

3. Pumpkins. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, decorative pumpkins, pumpkin patches. All. Things. Pumpkin.

4. Fall clothes (layers, boots, knits).

5. And, thank goodness, it’s not winter.

You never know when a stranger will change your life

wait·ing/ˈwātiNG/

Noun:
  1. The action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.

“Waiting” is a word that I have become very familiar with this year. I returned to Canada in February with the intention of “waiting” for three months for my new visa to be approved for Australia. Three months passed and slowly turned into four, five, and six months, until suddenly it was September and I had been home for eight months.

Good things are worth waiting for, and trust me, my life in Australia was one of those things. It was so good that I cannot even begin to describe the beautiful times and amazing relationships I experienced. Eventually though I started to feel the constraints of waiting, and although I never let go of my desire to move back to Brisbane, I began to dream new dreams.

One day I sent an email to the Australian immigration office inquiring about the status of our application, and received an automated email that implied our application was considered invalid. It was unexpected, freak circumstances, but our application was thrown in the trash without them directly notifying us.

I had been waiting for so long, refraining from making any future plans. And then, once I received that email, I was released from the waiting game. It became possible to take action.

That night I served a lovely couple from Dublin, Ireland. It was a slow night at work so I had the opportunity to really chat with them. As it turns out they own restaurants in the Dublin, and after I shared a bit of my travel tales with them they told me that if I were to move to Dublin tomorrow they’d give me a job. The very idea gave me butterflies and I thought “well, why not?”

Two completely random people planted a seed in my mind and got me thinking about Ireland non-stop. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to Ireland and even looked into schools there at one point, but I had been so distracted with Australia that I didn’t even consider getting a working holiday visa somewhere else. I desperately want to travel Europe, and working overseas will give me a really affordable option to experience Europe.

After that day things quickly fell into place. I got into research mode and discovered how simple it would be for me to move to Dublin. There are plenty of serving jobs, housing, and cheap flights to choose from. Applying for a visa is straightforward and I met all of the qualifications. It was meant to be!

Ireland feels right and makes me excited in the pit of my stomach. It seems crazy that I was waiting for eight months for my Australian visa to work out, and then the possibility of Ireland unfolded so easily in a couple of days. Now I am about to begin a brand new journey, filled with new cultures, people, music, food, and land to explore. My future holds the promise of adventure.

I met that couple from Dublin on September 8, 2012, and my flight to Ireland is booked for October 26, 2012. You never know when, and how quickly, a stranger will change your life.

Thinking of moving to Ireland? Here’s what I did:

Visa application: SWAP working holidays (www.swap.ca). You have to apply at least four weeks before your departure date.

Flight: CanadianAffair.ca (found a flight for $303 taxes in from Toronto)

Health insurance: applied through SWAP for RBC’s Bon Voyage travel insurance. I got 12 months of coverage for $432, which is half of what I paid for my insurance when I went to Australia.

Accommodation upon arrival: Hostel World

Housing research: daft.ie

Job research: http://www.jobs.ie/

The differences between Australia and Canada, part two: climate.

Canada’s token animal, the terrifying beaver. I reckon that tail could do some damage to a shark…

The most obvious difference between Australia and Canada is the climate. Australia is hot, shark infested, and full of palm trees and deserts. Canada is cold, beaver infested, and full of maples and snow.

Being on opposite ends of the Earth, seasons are at opposite times. It’s summer in Canada right now while it’s “winter” in Australia. However, on any given day you could look at the forecast in certain areas of both countries and the temperature could be the same.

In Canada there are four definite seasons with all sorts of cues to signal change:

Summer is during June, July and August. It’s hot no matter where you are, but weather is different depending on which province you’re in. For example, it’s very humid in Ontario and so dry in the Okanagan that forest fires are rampant. Wardrobe includes breezy summer dresses, sunscreen, shorts and tanks, strappy sandals, and flip flops (also know as “thongs” in Australia). In Ontario, it’s also key to always have an umbrella at your disposal because a thunderstorm could surprise you at any time.

Up next is autumn, which is my favourite season. It lasts from September to about mid-November. It’s the slow transition from summer to winter, with visual cues such as pumpkins for sale on the side of the road, leaves changing from green to orange, yellow, and red, and cute boots, scarves, and layers. It’s the perfect time to wear suede! The air feels clean and crisp and it’s not too hot or cold. It’s also the season that holds Thanksgiving, which means turkey and pumpkin pie for everyone!

Winter is on deck after autumn, lasting from mid-November to March, which to me feels like a lifetime. On the plus side I can’t get enough of hockey season, and I’ll admit that the first snowfall is exciting. After the clouds open up and snow is sprinkled over dead grass and bare

Snowmageddon hits London, Ontario! December 2010.

branches, the landscape around you completely changes. When the sun is shining everything sparkles and radiates cleanliness. I tend to enjoy this view from the comfort of my home in front of my fireplace with a hot tea and heavy sweater. Unfortunately, the beauty doesn’t last in the city: snow gets covered in gravel, salt, and mud. It piles up on the side of roads and driveways, and starts to melt and turn to slush. However, a fresh snowfall always cleans up the ugliness. In terms of dress, it’s time to bust out the heavy winter coat, wool socks and scarf, mitts, toque, and water resistant thermal boots. A word for the wise: beware of the slush! There’s nothing worse than wearing boots that are fashionable but impractical: slush will attack your feet, numb your toes, and it always leave a salt stain (a helpful reminder that the cute boots always lose — that is, lose warmth and cuteness.)

Thankfully, just as you think you can’t handle another day of winter (although this moment normally happens to me on January 2), spring swoops in to save the day! Rain starts to fall in April and melts the snow away. Tree leaves start budding and grass begins to grow. The temperature only creeps up to around +10 at first, but everyone ditches their clothes anyways. Hey, after -25, +15 feels balmy. People wear bright colors, matching the new growth surrounding them. The sun isn’t hot enough to get a tan, but it’s enough to keep you warm (and still try to tan…)

Delicious pumpkin pie.

There are definite changes in each season, with all sorts of cues to signal you: visual, temperature, and scent. Each season smells different, and I associate these smells with particular months of the year — fall smells like pumpkin, apple, and mud. Winter literally smells cold — everything is frozen. On the flip side, spring smells like the ground is defrosting. Summer smells like grass and sunscreen. I associate tastes with months as well — winter tastes like gingerbread lattes, spring tastes like strawberry shortcake and ice tea, summer tastes like crisp salads with fresh tomatoes, and autumn tastes like pie (ALL PIE. Pumpkin, apple, raisin, rhubarb…etc.)

I often forget what month I’m in because I’m used to all of the cues I mentioned before to signal me of the time of year, and it’s all opposite here. According to the fashion industry, Australia has four seasons as well. However, without the cues from the magazine aisle, I would forget that we’re entering into spring. To me, it’s just winter and summer. Officially though, summer is from December to February, autumn is March to May, winter is June to August, and spring is September to November. Temperatures range from 50 degrees Celsius to below zero, but it never gets as cold as Canada’s extreme weather, partially because Australia lacks very high mountains and is lucky enough to have warming oceans around its coastal regions. I’m living in Queensland (lovingly referred to as the “Sunshine State”). In Brisbane the average low is around +15, and the average high is around +26. I haven’t experienced an entire summer here yet, but apparently it gets very hot and humid.

It’s fascinating because when winter began here, Canadian’s were experiencing spring and temperatures were about the same in both countries. However, as I wrapped a wool scarf around me and put my sandals in storage, my friends back home were running around in shorts and summer dresses.

Feeling cold is relative: when you’re used to it being really hot, as soon as the temperature drops your body starts freaking out. Symptoms include goosebumps, chattering teeth, and freezing hands that make other people jump when you touch them. However, when you’re used to it being freezing cold, once it warms up a little bit your body is ready to party!

Great Ocean Road, VIC, July 2011. In Australia, this is appropriate winter wear. Coat, scarf, boots. My mom saw pictures and said “nice sweater”.

Even though it was only around +18 at the beginning of winter, I felt really cold. Some Canadians may look at me and say, “Grace, you’ve gone soft.” That’s where they’re wrong. To them I say, “I was born soft!” I’ve always hated the cold. People often make the mistake of assuming that since I’m from Canada I shouldn’t mind when it’s cold here. However, I came to Australia because I really dislike being cold. Also, once you’re cold, you’re cold. Because of many factors, I would argue that it’s possible for your body to feel the same as it does in +10 here and below zero in Canada. In Canada we are prepared for the cold: we put on more quality layers and our buildings have heaters and good insulation. Australia is not as prepared so even though it’s not nearly as cold, it still feels cold. Even though I have felt cold in Australia, there is still nothing like the cold in Ottawa that penetrates straight through your skin and chills your bones, shaking you to the core.

With all of that said, I have come to this conclusion: I, Grace Davis, love Australian winter. I never would’ve thought I would put “love” and “winter” in the same sentence, but to me Brisbane winter is like permanent autumn. It’s the most perfect, pleasant weather!

Hello, Gold Coast.

So I live in Australia. Crazy.

Right now I’m living in Surfers Paradise, which is in the Gold Coast, Queensland. It’s like Australia’s version of Miami. The beach goes on for miles! The contrast between the natural environment and human development is wild. There is nothing more natural than the ocean, but at the same time you’re surrounded by skyscrapers.

First day on the beach!

It took a week to find a place to live. I looked at some awful places. The first one was right on the beach and had a great view, but was really dirty and small. And the middle aged man that was showing me the room failed to mention in the ad that he lives there as well. It was one of those sketchy places where this guy lived with all these young international girls that couldn’t speak English very well. So needless to say, we booked it out of there. When I got here I was staying with my friends Luba and Mo, who are both from Ontario. They are so great to me and have helped me out so much! It’s nice having some Canadian friends because it feels like family.

The places I looked at got better after that first one. My flat is pretty much right on the beach. I can actually hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach from my apartment. I live on the 21st floor and the view is amazing! You can see the ocean, the river, and the city. My flat mates are all great. I live with two Brazilian guys that are studying English here, and my roommate is a Korean girl who’s lived in Vancouver, the States, and Korea. It’s fascinating learning about their cultures and listening to their language.

The view from my balcony. I’m actually sitting here right now while writing this.

I’m also working at this place called Nicolini’s, which is a popular Italian restaurant in town. It’s run very differently than restaurants in Canada (there isn’t even a point of sale computer system!) It’s just a lot more laid back in general. The expectations from staff and customers are much lower, so when Canadians serve like we do in Canada, people are normally pretty impressed. There are a couple of Canadians, Italians, and Brazilians that work there. There are actually only a few Aussies on staff.

It’s not customary to tip in Australia, so servers actually get paid more. The average is around $16/hour on weekdays, $19 or $20 on Saturdays, and then $25 on Sundays. It’s nice because you’re guaranteed the money, whereas in Canada you never know how much you’ll make in tips because it depends on if it’s busy. However, in Canada you have the potential to make a hundred or couple hundred a night in tips. I still get some tips too. Not as much as back home, but it’s still some extra cash. I’m SO lucky I got this job cause no one is hiring right now. My friend Luba already worked at Nicolini’s and they had three people leaving, so she managed to get me a trial shift. I printed off 17 resumes and was all ready to paper the town with them, and I didn’t end up having to drop off one. I’m so grateful.

I’ve been spending as much time as I can on the beach, which still isn’t as much time as I’d like. The amount of times people have asked me why I’m so white is ridiculous. Uh, hello, it’s cause I just came from Canada! Last time I checked, winter jackets don’t help in the tanning department.

Stay tuned for a posting on the differences I’ve noticed between Australia and Canada (the accent isn’t the only difference!) , and a posting on my trip to Byron Bay (which was AMAZING!)