Irish coffee lovers are likely to be thrilled skinny at the news that one of the most highly regarded baristas in Ireland has just done a deal to open a cafe at Dublin Airport with tentative plans to go global – or at least into other countries – in the years ahead.
Colin Harmon, who owns 3fe, entered a tender process to open a coffee bar in terminal 2 early last year and recently got news that his bid has been accepted.
“Since the day we opened on Middle Abbey Street, over 10 years ago, we’ve been constantly asked by customers to open a coffee offering in the airport, but until now it hasn’t been possible,” he says. “We see the opportunity to provide a speciality coffee offering [there] as some of the most important work we will ever do.”
Harmon says he was approached by SSP, the airport catering company, to partner on this project, and “we jumped at the chance and now have the task of finding the right coffees to ensure that Dublin Airport has a world-class coffee offering for the 30 million-plus passengers that travel through every year”.
As well as a large-scale roastery in Glasnevin, in Dublin, there are five 3fe coffee shops; 3fe’s wholesale business supplies coffee to gourmet shops around the country and has made inroads into global markets. Harmon currently employs about 50 people.
He said all the coffee “will be roasted at our north Dublin roastery, and we’ll be putting in place a rigorous and thorough training programme to ensure that every cup served is of the highest quality possible”.
The airport coffee bar is expected to open early in 2021, and there are plans “to roll out further offerings at Dublin Airport and other travel hubs both nationally and internationally in the coming years”.
Harmon entered the coffee game after assembling an industrial-sized espresso machine from spare parts in his third-floor apartment – 3fe stands for third-floor espresso – and set himself a target of entering the world barista championships.
Within a year he had grown so skilled in his new trade that he finished fourth in the world championships, and in 2009 he opened his first 3fe coffee shop, at the front of the Twisted Pepper nightclub, on Abbey Street in Dublin, with a budget of €5,000.
On his first day in business he served just 16 cups of coffee, but he persevered. Word spread, and it wasn’t long before he was wholesaling 500kg of coffee a week. Then he set up his own 790sq m (8,500sq ft) roastery in Glasnevin.
Harmon says that as a home-grown business “with no third-party investment streams, it’s an ideal timeline for us to prepare for that expansion in advance without having to raise funds. We see this as an opportunity to not only grow the volume of our business but, more importantly, to improve the quality of what we do with the benefit of scale and experience”.