Fashionable enclave wakes up to smell the coffee at Kaph

Chris Keegan’s artisan cafe serving eight kinds of coffee is a big hit on Drury Street

Kaph founder Christopher Keegan, outside his cafe on Drury Street, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Kaph founder Christopher Keegan, outside his cafe on Drury Street, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


Kaph, on Drury Street, is hard to miss if you’ve got coffee on your mind. Even if you haven’t. On a recent wintry afternoon it had an especially cheerful come-on-in look to it, a siren call that seduced many. Inside was packed, humming with good humour, chat and, the main attraction, deeply seductive coffee aromas.

Owner Chris Keegan loves the street, his coffee shop and what he does. His view is partly philosophical, partly pragmatic and wholly pleasurable.

“Customers come from all over town and there are all sorts of things going on around here. Kaph is flying, but ours is the story of the street too, the story of retailing as recreation instead of necessity. I used to think Grafton Street was the centre of the city but I really think this is where it is now, this small and lovely area. I hope it keeps its authenticity.”

He opened Kaph in the summer of 2013. Before that he worked in the family commercial property business, and before that had a juice bar in Ranelagh. “This was a kind of going back,” he says, “I’d much rather work with people than bricks.”

He grew up in Dublin, “spent a fair amount of time in France because my ma is French, but went to college here [Business and Economics in TCD], met my wife here. We have two children, Jamie and Luke.”

He wouldn’t, he says, be able to run a business like this in France. “The taxes are prohibitive. Up to a few years ago it was hard to get good coffee in Dublin. But Irish people have travelled, moved on from the crassly commercial to craft coffees and beers. I’ve always liked the idea of cafe/coffee society. Pubs offered the same neighbourhood community thing but cafe society is more a daytime activity.”

It took two years to find the “right spot” for Kaph. He and his wife had enjoyed artisan coffee shops abroad and knew what they wanted. Finding 31 Drury Street was “lucky” he says, “a clothing shop had just closed and their cool stuff was still here.”

Cool stuff that includes a metal wall going up two floors and a mannequin display platform that is now a sitting area. He installed a curving counter in aged copper, seating and tables in two floors and Kaph was ready to go.

“We buy our coffee beans from Colin Harmon’s 3FE [Third Floor Espresso]. Colin Harmon pioneered coffee roasting in Ireland; we tried different companies but 3FE’s the best. I also trained with 3FE.”

Staff are vital, he says. “We hire people who knew their coffee.” People like Marie (French), Mona (half-German, half-Mayo) and Niko (Polish barista supreme). “We’ve slowly built up, and built up. We’re as busy as we can be now, Saturday afternoons are like a tsunami. We’re open seven days a week, 8am to 7pm, closed Christmas and Stephens Day. I take Sundays off, half days during the week. We’re not too serious about it. This is supposed to be fun.”

Kaph serves eight kinds of coffee, using 18/19gms to a shot. “You’re getting a lot of coffee. Our coffee is roasted lightly, which means it has more caffeine and you can taste the fruit.”

Some 50 per cent of orders are for “flat whites” with, hot on its heels and proving diversity is all, Matcha , a ceremonial green tea enjoyed in China and Japan.

Kaph’s future? “Who knows? I love this area. The exciting part of Dublin is between Dawson Street and South Great George’s street. When the Luas is up and running this is going to be the centre for recreation. I might even open a second Kaph in or around Dawson Street.”