Un cafe s'il vous plait

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It is a gusty, damp evening in Dublin and I drop into one of the cafes belonging to a gargantuan chain owning thousands of cafes all over the world. They seem to be springing up in Dublin at the speed of light. Although everything mainstream and branded seems to be unwelcome nowadays, the place is packed and I find my spot besides an grey-haired man browsing through a holiday catalogue.

I'm sipping one of their special coffees, but it is neither special, nor great. Rather an adapted coffee flavored drink, mixed with vanilla syrup and topped with over steamed milk. I improve the cocktail with a pinch of nutmeg and a smidgen of chocolate. It is not cheap - I gave the girl a fiver without her even bothering to tell how much it was and got some change. I could get a meal for the price of this coffee in Lithuania. Yet probably not for long - prices have been soaring lately. As I was strolling the cobbled streets of Vilnius last September I remember dropping into a flawlessly spotless cafe owned by a Latvian coffee chain. I had an equivalent of over a euro in my purse, thinking I should be able to afford a coffee for that price in Lithuania. How innocently naive I was! The cheapest one was a Turkish coffee for about 2 Euro. In fact, I couldn't find a simple un cafe on the menu at all. Until then I had never paid for a coffee by credit card. Not to mention, I was waiting for the coffee and the bill for over ten minutes each.

But let's go back to Dublin. The service here is much quicker, yet just like in that cafe I find it hard to get my hands on a cup of good coffee. Not an Americano, not a double espresso and not a crème brûlée flavored pseudo coffee topped with whipped cream. If you ever had coffee in France or Italy you should understand me.

Why did I head to a cafe instead of a pub on this miserable evening? And who drinks coffee at this time of the day anyway, when the vast majority are sipping at their pints? True. Have you ever tried to find a cafe that is open till late in Dublin? No wonder the consumption of alcohol in this country is disturbingly high. It looks like socializing without booze has become mission impossible, apart from few exceptions. There is a tea house in Temple Bar, which to my knowledge was founded by a Croatian guy, and is the only spot in the city offering more than a teapot with a selection of tea bags - an extensive range of mixed herbal teas is available instead. And there is one cozy cafe that stays open till late, but the waitresses seem to be constantly struggling with their English.

Oh... and there is this mainstream chain I'm hiding in, buzzing with heart-to-heart talks, good music and the quality of coffee fading out into the background.

Opening a cafe might not sound like the most lucrative business, but I've never seen this place empty. Even though they charge nearly a fiver for a mug of coffee. On the other hand... it is quite a generous mug. Yet whenever I pass this place I tend to remember Krakow with numerous bohemian cafes, not acquired by global mega brands and with decent coffee. I admit having a few pints of Żywiec also. But sometimes one just needs a cup of good coffee.

Written for "Metro Eireann"

This Post has 3 Comments Add your own!
John - February 2, 2008 at 7:14 PM

You know there is a coffie shop that fits that discription at the taxi rank in Foster place. I never see any of the taxi drivers buying drinks there.

kerry dexter - February 7, 2008 at 10:53 PM

perhaps it is as much the memory of conversations and fellowship in those places with better coffee that draws people in to the newer cafes as it is the quality of what's on offer to drink.

Pageturners - February 25, 2008 at 6:06 AM

Try Butler's in Exchequer Street. Reasonably good coffee there.

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