Something’s happening in Belfast. Wave after wave of new investments are seeing Northern Ireland’s capital start to shine – and that’s led to a huge rise in specialty coffee in the city.
So if you’re visiting Belfast, or are lucky enough to live here, I’m going to give you the itinerary for one coffee house tour. You’ll find yourself walking a straight line across the city, drinking delicious brews all the way, as you stop at five different third wave cafés.
Settle down and relax in the small but cosy 5A.
Why These Five?
With an entire city’s worth of great coffee shops, it would be impossible to pick the five “best”. This is a list of my personal favourites, all chosen for their great coffee, friendly baristas, and charming atmosphere. The fact that they make for an easy coffee shop tour of Belfast is merely the crema on top of the espresso.
That being said, if you’ve already tried these five and want to explore somewhere else, why not have a look at this useful map of coffee shops in Belfast? It’s provided and updated by Established Coffee, the first stop on this tour.
Get ready to have a good time drinking coffee in Town Square, Belfast.
1. Established Coffee
When Established opened in 2013, Belfast’s specialty coffee market was non-existent. It took hard work and dedication on the part of owners Bridgeen Barbour and Mark Ashbridge to create not only a coffee shop but also, and more importantly, a coffee culture.
Located in the trendy Cathedral Quarter – named for the 112-year-old St. Anne’s Cathedral – it’s a great place to start your coffee shop tour of the city. They’re known for having a great collection of coffee, as well as a team of highly approachable and knowledgeable staff.
They serve four different coffees, including one decaf, usually from Dublin’s 3fe or an occasional guest roaster – they’ve previously featured Heart, Cat & Cloud, and Tim Wendleboe. They also offer a huge range of locally sourced teas and hot chocolates, in addition to a large retail section.
Established Coffee has a modern and welcoming vibe.
|Where||54 Hill Street (Cathedral Quarter)|
|Atmosphere||Modern, industrial, and communal|
|Methods||Espresso and a wide range of filter brews|
|Coffee Offerings||3FE and an occasional guest roaster|
|Food & Other Drinks||Teas, hot chocolates, daily savoury and sweet specials, and mini-cakes and loaves from local bakers|
|Must-Try Food/Drinks||Pie and Drip: every Sunday, they offer homemade pie and a mug of drip filter coffee for £6|
|Retail Offerings||AeroPress, V60, Chemex, Clever, beans, ACME cups, grinders, and kettles|
2. Town Square
Town Square isn’t just a coffee shop. It’s also a restaurant. And a bar. A place for creators to recharge. Most importantly, it’s the only place in Belfast to have its toilet walls decorated in several hundred pennies.
Since opening in late November 2015, it’s become a powerhouse of coffee and creativity. They seek out the top local produce for all their food, and have coffee offerings from Dublin’s Roasted Brown.
They’re also keen to live up to their community-focused name, with weekly events that include cuppings (on Tuesday nights at 7) and a cinema club – which has taken off so well that they’ve had to turn people away! What’s more, they have a public piano for anyone to play.
If you’re coming here, be sure to bring a pen: the menus are inside sketchbooks, with most intentionally blank. Leave your own personal touch on the place or simply have a look at what others have drawn before you.
Get creative at Town Square.
|Where||45 Botanic Avenue (University Quarter)|
|Atmosphere||Modern and artsy|
|Methods||Espresso and filter|
|Coffee Offerings||Roasted Brown (but it varies at cuppings)|
|Food & Other Drinks||Huge menu of dishes, with lots of sweet bakes available as well|
|Must-Try Food/Drinks||Changing coffee specials – ask for your barista’s recommendation!|
3. The Pocket Coffee Shop
The newest café on this list, The Pocket bounced onto the coffee scene on the 15th of February this year. It’s already made its merry way into the hearts of students and local professionals alike.
As you might imagine from the name, this isn’t a big café. However, they’ve made brilliant use of what they’ve got. They’re situated overlooking the beautiful main building of Queen’s University, but there’s plenty for you to look at inside the café as well. Step in through the distinctive yellow door, and take in the view: a row of pages taken from Alice in Wonderland decorate the white walls of one side of the shop; on the other side, a red-brick wall adds warmth. Benches decorated with bright yellow flowers give a touch of colour to the place.
The Pocket sources all of its coffee from 3fe, and serves up both batch-brewed filter and espresso-based drinks. They also serve hot chocolate from Belfast’s award-winning chocolatier, Co Couture. On top of that, they also offer a range of teas.
The Pocket Coffee Shop is small but delightful.
|Where||69 University Road (University Quarter)|
|Atmosphere||Cosy and welcoming|
|Methods||Batch brew and espresso-based drinks|
|Food & Other Drinks||Hot chocolate, tea, and a range of daily specials and sweet bakes|
|Must-Try Food/Drink||Their offerings vary; ask the barista what’s new|
The sassy rebel of the Belfast coffee scene, Indigo was founded by two good friends in September 2015. What started as a few pieces of chipboard and a couple of food/drink options is now a two-room café with a devoted customer base that just keeps coming back for more – although their decor still features exposed tiles, chipboard, and copper piping.
They’re known for their often-changing menu of coffees, their delicious range of gelatos, and most importantly their vibe. In the last few months, they’ve offered coffees from roasters including Five Elephant, Workshop, and Alchemy. Their gelato, on the other hand, has included Coconut & Chilli, Honeycomb & Rosemary & Orange, and Guinness. Sound tasty? You bet it is.
Get your coffee with a side of gelato at the trendy Indigo.
|Where||86 Stranmillis Road (University Quarter)|
|Methods||Espresso-based drinks and filter|
|Coffee Offerings||Regularly changing guest roasters|
|Food & Other Drinks||Gelato, savoury offerings, and sweet bakes|
|Must-Try Food/Drinks||Try one of their zaniest gelato flavours|
5A Lockview Road – or, as it is more commonly known, 5A – is by far the smallest café on this list, but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up in heart. It started off as a cyclist-focused café yet quickly became popular with people from all walks of life.
It has a cosy atmosphere, great coffee, and an incredible collection of sweet bakes – seriously, if you’ve never tried peanut butter dipped in dark chocolate, you’ve never lived. And that’s not to mention their delicious daily meal special.
5A is also the only coffee shop on this list to have their own little library of books in the corner, ranging from James Hoffman’s World Atlas of Coffee to a collection of cult New York brunch recipes. Don’t visit this place if you plan to get things done later. But if you do find yourself here, perch yourself up in the corner with a good book and a great coffee. Or if it’s dry, sit outside and make yourself snug with one of their complementary blankets.
5A manages to be chic, cosy, and full of character.
|Where||5a Lockview Road|
|Coffee Offerings||Bailies, a local roaster|
|Food & Other Drinks||Daily specials and sweet bakes from local bakers|
|Must-Try Food/Drink||Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls|
Belfast’s specialty coffee culture is growing rapidly. Drop into any of these five, and you won’t be disappointed.
And if you’ve got the time, and feel like wandering around the city, why not try popping into some of the other great coffee shops around?
Written by J. Lyttle.
All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance.