Brewing up a storm from Kenya to Celbridge

Meal Ticket: Baobab Café and Coffee Roasters

 

A baobab tree is known in some places as the “Tree of Life”. It’s native to Australia and to countries in both western and eastern Africa, including Kenya. It’s also the symbol of a micro-roastery based in Celbridge, Co Kildare, called Baobab Coffee Roasters. If you’re a coffee nerd, you may have noticed these beans in coffee shops such as Legit Coffee and East Village Coffee in Dublin, or in Maynooth’s L’Art du Chocolat.

The micro-roastery is run by Alex Thorpe and Luigi Fanzini. The pair are childhood friends and their friendship was cemented while growing up in an expat community in Kenya. They both ended up settling in Ireland as adults. It turned out they shared a love of speciality coffee and eventually went into business together.

Proximity to Dublin

When a premises came up in Celbridge, they decided to go for it. “It was a good space to start our business from,” Fanzini tells me at their Celbridge roastery. “The overheads were low yet it was still really close to Dublin’s city centre.”

They opened the roastery and café three years ago on the main street of this pretty and historic town, just a 30-minute drive from Dublin’s M50. Last year, they moved the roastery out of the café and into a bigger premises right across the road in a small industrial park to keep up with their expanding business. “Three years ago, we started with 350kg of coffee beans and it took us nearly three months to get through that first batch,” Fanzini says. “Today, we are selling 250kg of our roasted coffee beans a week.”

Brazilian Guarani blend: tasting notes on a bag of these beans (€8 per bag) list flavours of chocolate praline, molasses and red currants
Brazilian Guarani blend: tasting notes on a bag of these beans (€8 per bag) list flavours of chocolate praline, molasses and red currants

Traditional art from East Africa hangs on the walls of their café, where their friendly barista, Tom O’Neill, whips up a flat white (€3) using a natural processed Brazilian Guarani blend. The tasting notes on a bag of these beans (€8 per bag) list flavours of chocolate praline, molasses and red currants. We get those flavours but also a hint of saltiness as well, just a touch of salted caramel. It’s really lovely. An Ethiopian single origin bean (€14 per bag) is put to great use by O’Neill in a V60 pour over filter (€2.80 per cup).

Limited food menu

Like many speciality coffee shops, the main focus here is on the brews. The food menu is limited to a couple of sandwiches (€6 each) and a few sweet treats, all baked in-house. Our choice of sandwiches when we visit is between a ham and cheese, and a chicken with mozzarella and pesto.

The quality of the ham and chicken aren’t the most inspiring but the toasted sourdough bread makes these sandwiches above average, and a good crowd-pleasing accompaniment to a very good cup of coffee. I notice there isn’t a vegetarian choice on offer on the menu, though I didn’t ask specifically if a veggie option was possible. The baked goods are promising, particularly a gluten-free almond and clementine cake (€3.50). Also on offer are a brownie, a flapjack and a few scones.

I’m told there are plans to add more lunch offerings to the menu, presumably because there’s now space in the café for a kitchen since the roasting operations have moved across the road. They’ll be keeping things simple food-wise and maintaining their focus on the quality brews.

Before we leave Celbridge, Fanzini recommends we check out Castletown House. We’d had enough of stately homes having spent the previous few days at the Electric Picnic but it’s a great idea. Taking a trip out to Baobab Roasters for a coffee and then on to Castletown House for a walk would make for quite a lovely afternoon. Dublin day-trippers, take note.

Baobab Café and Coffee Roasters

92 English Row, Celbridge,

Kildare, www.baobab.ie 01-6274440

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