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Why Coffee Works – The Thinking Behind A Successful Coffee Shop

Coffee Works owners Graeme & Tristan Campher

For the past number of year, Dublin has been experiencing a coffee culture boom that is showing no signs of stopping, with the opening of new cafes and coffee shops, an almost weekly occurrence.

So much so that the Dublin City-County Council has begun to consider steps towards blocking requests for new cafes in the Stephens Green area, stating that there was an “over proliferation” of coffee locations in March. 

Although many would agree that Dublin could do without another Starbucks or Costa, the growth of the coffee industry in Ireland has brought with it a great opportunity for small businesses, who have begun to thrive in local communities.

For many, a good coffee shop can be a home away from home; a place to work, a place to study, a place to relax and not be disturbed. For Lucan Village, this became available when Coffee Works open two years ago.

Run by South African father-son duo Graeme & Tristan Campher, the store has become hugely popular since it opened in the heart of Lucan village in 2017. So much so that they are currently in the process of opening a second store.

Coffee Works team
(Credit: Coffee Works)

I caught up with Co-Owner & Head Barista Tristan Campher to get his own thoughts on coffee, how he got into the industry and to find out more about what it takes to run a successful coffee shop.

Why did you decide to become a barista and how did the decision to open Coffee Works come about?

Tristan: “I was looking for a job in the city and had no experience, so I did a barista course in the Dublin Barista School. I worked there for two years, managed a cafe for a little while. I taught the classes for some time as well. In the coffee industry, that’s kind of like as far as you go, almost. Besides going to a huge company and doing things like that, the next step is opening a cafe. We looked around for a long time, and then this unit came up in Lucan, so we just jumped on it. I had a coffee machine waiting at home; ready to go in, things like that. It’s almost preparing a little bit in the anticipation of when something does come available, we’ll do it.”

The shop itself has become a bit of a hub for the local community. Did you consciously choose to open in a village setting rather than a town setting?

Tristan: “Exactly. Obviously, we had the option to go into the city centre, but we chose more of a residential village type because the people are always going to be, I feel, more welcoming, and we noticed that from the first day when our first customer came in said, ‘I’ve been driving past here every day. I look in through the window, and thankfully now you’re open’. Small things like that they go along way.”

I have it on good authority that the equipment used here is quite good. How did you decide on the equipment that you are currently using?

Tristan: “Equipment is a tricky one because obviously, you want to get the best coffee out of it, but you also want to get the best value, so you don’t want to be spending too much. The equipment we’re using in no way is the most expensive, but it is giving us the best value for money. Then what we do with it is control all the parameters to make sure that every cup coming out is exactly the same.”

“Someone could have a really expensive coffee machine, but they’re not controlling those parameters, and then the coffee it’s not even nice. It’s just a good balance between kind of knowledge and then the equipment you’re using.”

Where do you get your coffee from, and why did you choose that source?

Tristan: “All the coffee we use is what we call single origin, meaning it’s not a blend. Someone talks about a blend of coffee; it’s just different origins, maybe like a Brazilian and a Colombian. They mix it together, and then you get it. We use single origin and even more than of that like single estate coffee, which means it comes from a single farm within those countries.”

“What that translates to is the farmer puts his name on it, and he really cares about what he’s doing. Then it goes to the roaster, and he cares about what he’s doing. Then we get it and the same thing. From when the coffee is grown on the farm till we get it, everyone just does everything to the best of their ability, and I think that translates into the cup.”

You’re currently in the process of opening a second store, which is very exciting. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Tristan: “Yes. It’s pretty scary. Obviously, we kind of reached the point where we have to move the business forward. We love what we do, so there’s no reason to kind of change that. That means either finding a bigger unit or finding another unit, and we chose to fund another one. Thankfully, it’s not too far away, so it keeps logistical issues. That makes it quite easy getting from here, there and things like that. It’s also in a village setting over in Blanchardstown.”

Why do you think coffee culture has become such a big thing here in Ireland?

Tristan: “Yes, it’s interesting. I’ve not really thought about it to be honest. We come from South Africa and there isn’t much of a coffee culture there. When moving over five years ago, we could see that the coffee industry in Ireland was growing. It was substantial but nothing crazy. In the last two or three years, it’s exploded.”

“I think it might come from a combination of international influence where we look on social media at other countries, at how they produce it and what they’re doing and we take influence from them. Then in a way, I think coffee is just delicious and everyone likes it. Obviously, there are people that don’t, but the majority of us do.”

It’s a good way to pass the time as well, I guess.

Tristan: “Yes. You sit down, have a chat. I think a big one might be the drink-driving law. I can’t go for a pint with a friend anymore and then drive home. You’re going to probably go for a coffee or something like that, at least I am anyway!” 

What is your favourite thing about running your own coffee shop?

Tristan: “My favourite thing about running a coffee shop is the motivation it gives me. Whenever I wake up in the morning, I’m doing it for myself. Every bit of effort that I put in I get back, whereas when you work for someone else you might not get everything back. That’s the biggest one for me.”

Being your own boss can have its perks I’m sure!

Tristan: “Being your own boss. Yes. It’s kind of a joke of ours, but at the same time, it’s extremely difficult you know? If somebody says, ‘Hey, I’m opening a coffee shop.’ I’m going, ‘Man, good luck,’ because it’s not easy. Everything is on you.”

“If someone calls in sick, I’m going in, just like that. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding. You get it right and I think more than that it’s just about doing something you enjoy. I love this. I did this before having my own shop and I fell in love with it then, and then just being able to do it for myself, just focusing on it.”

What is your favourite type of coffee?

Tristan: “My favourite type of coffee is a tricky one. There are several ways you can produce coffee. Coffee comes in a cherry from the farm. They have to remove that fruit to get the beans or the seeds of this fruit inside. There are several ways to do that, you can leave them out in the sun to dry out, you can wash them to get rid of the fruit, but there’s a new way of doing it. Only maybe discovered in the last year or so is anaerobic fermentation. Basically, it makes the coffee taste extremely fruity. Then I like it with milk as well. So, an Anaerobic natural with milk in a flat white. That’s it. It’s a bit crazy, but that’s it.”

Do you guys do that here?

Tristan: “No, because it’s so expensive. It’s probably like four times the cost of normal coffee.”

Are there any good spots in Dublin that do that?

Tristan: “No. Not even… It’s brand new; we’re only getting it now. We’ve got small, small bits.”

You guys can be the pioneers…

Tristan: “That would be nice. I don’t know if anyone is going to pay €10 or more for a cup of coffee. It’s one of those things. It’s nice, but we keep it like that, a treat every now and then.”

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