Published on April 1st, 2015 | by Stevie Lennox0
DIY Dublin: Love Supreme
In the very first installment of DIY Dublin, a new regular feature looking at some of the city’s most intriguing small businesses, organisations and individuals, Stevie Lennox samples the wares of a Stoneybatter institution in the making.
I popped in for a chat with Ken Flood, co-runner and proprietor of the wonderfully-monikered Love Supreme, a café that’s been operating for just eight months in Dublin’s recently-thriving Stoneybatter area. Besides its simple, eye-catching – without being intimidatingly extravagant – aesthetic, what was instantly striking was the selection of freshly-made sausage rolls and pies heating behind the counter, and a generous selection of cakes and pastries.
After being handed a damn fine coffee by their Aeropress Championship-competing barista, Craig, accompanied by a spinach, ricotta, walnuts and pomegranate molasses roll – which, by any carnivorous or herbivorous standards, is fairly unstoppable – I had a chat with co-runner and proprietor Ken Flood.
Photos by Abigail Denniston.
Hi Ken. You’ve been open for eight months now – how has it been, so far?
Well great actually, feels like 8 weeks to be honest – we decided to stick to coffee and cake only for the first six months. We wanted to remain very focused on the coffee and present the shop as a flagship and intro for the brand and what we were about. After 6 months we started building our kitchen to develop our Love Supreme Bakes. Basically savoury pies and sausage rolls which we would also like to wholesale to other cafes and bars.
We’ve found with a lot of cafés who are very coffee-focused, they don’t want to get too heavily involved in the food side of things, but they find they need to have a bit of food available to their customers so they can pay the bills. The point of these products is that they can sit there, freshly baked in the pie-warmer, no extra staff needed, no massive investment in a kitchen, a chef, etc., etc. When someone orders one you can just hand it over. Everything, from the pies to the pastries, is made here in-store by my wife Katie.
It really looks like a good time to open a coffee shop in Dublin.
Big time, it is. If you’re out in Dublin on a Saturday, there’s not a sniff of a recession around – it’s mental. My wife and I were living in Australia for 12 years – we came back on holidays in 2009 and 2011 and just really saw that the coffee thing was kicking off, and thought it would be a good opportunity to come back to Dublin. It’s kind of a recession-proof product in that it’s €3. It’s a simple kind of thing, and it’s cheap. There’s the other aspect of it in Ireland too, the social aspect, which seemed to be changing. Pubs were closing down and cafes were opening in their place almost and it was a very weird scenario, but people didn’t want to spend the money on going to pubs and restaurants as much, and cafés were starting to go nuts because Irish people didn’t want to give up on their social life. They wanted to catch up with their mates, and it’s somewhere to go for a natter. You can spend €6 on a coffee and a cake and chill out for an hour, so that was the purpose of getting into it really. We just thought it was ripe.
Why did you call your café Love Supreme? Was it the Coltrane influence?
There’s the Coltrane influence in there, amongst other things, but the Coltrane one: that album was just a complex, new and difficult thing for a lot of people to understand. People thought: “This is fucking stupid, what’s the point? This guy’s just going out on a limb just to be different”, and we were sometimes having the same response with the coffee. People are going “What the fuck is all this about, and why is it €3? Why is it not €1.50?” And so they were finding it hard to get their head around why we were going to all this effort, getting coffee in, measuring coffee in and out while brewing and using flashy machinery. So yeah, that was definitely a part of it, but other than that it’s a recommendation, really. If you’re going to love coffee, why not Love Supreme Coffee.
How is the coffee community in Dublin, is there any rivalry at all?
It’s a great community here. Even tonight, there’s a launch in town and all the heads will be down for a few beers and coffees. I don’t think there’s any rivalry, not that I’m aware of – and anyway, we’d only be a small player. We don’t have any rivals – hopefully one day! Ha.
Where is your coffee purchased from?
It’s our own brand of coffee, but it’s being roasted in London at the minute by Ferg from Roasted Brown who has a long-standing café based in the Temple Bar area. We hope to be roasting here in Dublin by the end of the year.
Going forward, what are your plans for the shop?
We’re a month into the food now, so we’ll spend the next 5 months developing our food, within the framework of pies and sausage rolls, let’s say, but we’ll be adding soups and salads etc as alternatives or accompaniments. We’ll aim to have 5 or 6 sausage rolls and 5 or 6 pies on the menu. Towards the 6 month mark, we’ll look at wholesaling them. With beans, we won’t be looking at wholesaling them until we can roast them here – and that’s a fairly big deal. Something we won’t take lightly.
There’s an ever growing number of people that are roasting in Ireland now which is great – 3FE, Cloud Picker, Badger and Dodo. It’s hard to know how long it would take, and we’d have to purchase another property, depending on the roaster we’d be looking at. We’d love to do it in the city centre, where people can come in and watch, and be around the process and develop a bit more of an appreciation. They could really see the effort that’s gone into it. So that’s the plan, going forward. We’d look into opening another one or two of these shops – not many though. That’s not our final goal. The aim would definitely be to move towards the wholesale thing. It’s a great lifestyle working here though. We’re loving it. Stoneybatter has a great mix of people. Opening 9-5, there are always a few people hanging around, looking for a place to chill out, which is a nice environment to be around.
Environment is a big thing – it definitely looks like thought has been put into Love Supreme. How did you go about it?
It’s important alright – coming from a nightclub background, you need to focus on the experience end of things. The experience people have while they are there. Lots of things contribute to that. We bought some good speakers, we make sure we’re playing good up beat music, and just loud enough for some privacy without drowning anyone out. We found some lovely wooden beams for €11 each from a salvage or tables for a bit o soul, and sanded them up nicely ourselves. We wanted a bright n’ light and unusual place for Stoneybatter, so when people walk past, they ask “What the heck is that?”
It’s a really nice space. Would you consider opening up the shop to artists for exhibitions or beyond?
The conversation has come up a few times, potentially having an exhibition – we’ve considered getting prints for sale, even getting some up on the roof, for a unusual experience. Lighting might be a tiny issue, and space. We’re certainly open to the idea of it.
How long have you been around coffee?
I’ve been a barista for a relatively short time, 2 years. When in Australia, I owned a nightclub and as a result, I’d be around coffee early on in the night, but it’s really just in the last few years here, I’ve gotten really into it. We had a coffee cart before this, and did a few events and festivals before opening the shop. As soon as we opened up, we hired Craig, our barista king, who’s had a huge amount of experience.
Do you reckon you could do a blind taste test for coffee, regionwise?
I’d say so, yeah. I’d like to think so. Ha. In a broad sense, South American beans would have a fairly distinctive profile, very caramelly kind of vibe. Whereas Africans – just to pick two extremes – would be more fruity and berryish, and complex and interesting, particularly on filter. They have a lot more acidity in them. Ha, I’m looking forward to the African coffees coming back soon. I’m still learning, and I’m sure I will be for a long time, which is cool. One of the best things about it is its vastness.
Today, you’re drinking Agustino Forest. It’s a Columbian coffee from the high-altitude Huila region, which is notorious for its excellent coffee. We get a lot of our coffee from Nordic Approach in Norway, and they’re developing a lot of farms over there at the moment. They’re heavily involved in adjusting methods, how they’re farming, and they’re getting some amazing results. And the growers are really able to make some nice money now too, which is nice.
Do you have a go-to method of coffee consumption?
I love espresso. I find it so exciting. It’s like a zap. I really love it. Other than that, Aeropress. I love that it still has body, just that bit more balls to it than other pourover methods if you get it right. V60 and Chemex are also great for a lot of coffees – more delicate ones maybe, very clean. In the shop we would be fairly espresso focused. We’re trying to encourage people to drink shorter and shorter drinks for no other reason than because we want them to taste the coffee. Less diluted drinks basically. We’re putting an immense amount of effort into it. The guy who roasted it put an immense amount of effort into it. The guy who sourced it… there’ a huge amount of effort, and so many hands have touched it, so it seems a shame to put 30 mils of coffee into a 300ml cup and not taste anything. On the other hand, some people just want fuel and aren’t bothered and that’s understandable too.
Would it be right to say Stoneybatter is a bit of an up-and-coming hub for creatives and young professionals these days?
Yeah, I think so. Definitely. And everybody else, ha. The Dublin Institute of Technology has been amalgamated here too, with 20,000 students and staff now to be based here, which will push the area forward. There’s a huge amount of small houses and cottages that young people can afford to rent and buy here. The rent levels have gone a bit nuts lately, which is a bit of a worry. Hopefully this doesn’t tip the balance.
It’s getting to the stage where some people are getting priced out of the area. I suppose it’s a common problem: arty, creative heads and musos, etc. move into a affordable area of the city, bring the culture n’ stuff, leading to an increase in demand in the area because there’s been this cultural and lifestyle increase, let’s say. The money moves in, and the people who have created the desire and desirability for the place have to move on. It happens in every city, I suppose. Hopefully it won’t happen so badly here though. The mix of people is definitely part of the environment in this café and we’d miss it.
On bean grinders and having the best home coffee setup.
We always say that the biggest improvement you can make to your home coffee experience is grinding just before you make it, the better the grinder the better your coffee will be. It’s actually amazing, like the difference between fresh basil and dried basil. You can get the Japanese-made hand grinder, Porlex, with ceramic burrs, which is very good for the money, about €50-ish, and that’ll be you sorted. You can get an affordable, great electric grinder like a Baratza Encore – a really surprisingly good grinder – for about €130, which will give you a more regimented grind, and will allow you to play around with your coffee extraction until you perfect it and become a real proper coffee snob.
I always liken it to music: you’re going to have a significantly better experience if you’re sending that stuff through a valve pre-amp.
That’s it. It’s more full-bodied, it’s more resonant; it has more impact.