Full article published in Northern Woman Magazine, September 2019.
The specialty coffee sector is one that has taken the world by storm, and the story is no different in Northern Ireland. The number of Belfast coffee shops has increased by a third in two years, supporting the demand for an independent coffee culture. You only have to check Instagram to see the aesthetics of a growing coffee culture; a rapid increase in coffee related posts, featuring intricate latte art and quirky interiors of hipster coffee houses. It is time to avoid corporate coffee shops and opt for independents, because let’s face it: convention is boring.
I talked to Gareth Patterson, founder of NI Coffee Maps, to discuss our shared love of travel, Northern Ireland and of course, coffee.
Gareth brought his passions to life by launching NI Coffee Maps. The paper publications are pocket-sized guides to Northern Ireland’s best specialty coffee spots. Chatting briefly about my favourite city, Barcelona, I was happy to hear this is where Gareth’s idea for NI Coffee Maps was conceptualised. Having stumbled upon a guide to Barcelona’s specialty coffee, Gareth set about creating a similar guide for Belfast.
“The coffee culture in Belfast is as good, if not better, than our European counterparts. I wanted to create a platform to showcase this talent.”
Belfast Coffee Map was launched in May 2017, featuring a wide variety of specialty coffee and brunch spots across the city.
It wasn’t long after the success of the Belfast map that the Causeway Coast Map was launched, with a similar concept to display what the North Coast coffee scene has to offer. Coffee tourism is a growing industry and NI Coffee Maps tap into this niche market, undoubtedly enriching tourist visits in a quest to promote speciality coffee. The comprehensive and aesthetic guides are likewise beneficial for locals to explore new spots and support local enterprise. Coupled with a desire to promote independent business, Gareth explained the drive behind the maps is to boast Northern Ireland’s natural beauty and sense of community through a world class coffee culture.
When asked about plans to further expand the brand, Gareth quickly responded with “Watch this space.” As the speciality coffee culture grows exponentially in rural areas outside of Belfast, a look to the future could hint at creating coffee guides for Down and Fermanagh.
The maps represent love and pride for “our wee country”. Gareth finished our conversation poignantly, “this has always been a passion project, one born from my love for Northern Ireland.”
NI Coffee Maps has surely succeeded in putting Northern Ireland on the worldwide coffee map.