The second child- born January 2016, Botanic Avenue, Belfast

When I finished my first marathon in 2011, my overwhelming feeling was relief. No exuberance, just relief, thank god I do not have to run one more step.  I met one of my best friends straight after and I remember hugging her, barely hanging on and whispering never ever again, am I putting myself through that. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I'm lining up to start the Mourneway marathon to run 26.2 miles through the Mournes. You see your brain has an amazing way of making you trivialise past pain and suffering.

This is the only logical reason I can think of as to why, 18 months after opening Kaffe O on the Ormeau Road, I'm standing in Botanic Avenue opening the second shop.

You see once you decide to do a marathon; you tell anyone and everyone who will listen about the harsh winter training, the amount of carbs/fats/sugars you're eating, the lost toe nails (sorry non runners), the great runs, the awful runs and the PBs gained in shorter distances along the way. You see once it's out there, you can't go back and for me this was always part of my motivation.  I know, I know, this is purely my ego talking.

Like the second marathon, the second Kaffe O came about more by chance and opportunity than any grand plan to spread the Nordic coffee story.

Opening the first Kaffe O was the hardest thing I've ever done- during the first few months I can safely say there were numerous times daily I wished I had never even set foot in Copenhagen. The first year of Kaffe O went in three part horrendous, second part bearable and at the end of the third part a bit of boredom started to creep in.

One of the things I struggle with most in life is restlessness. Now I don't know if I was born with it, but what I do know is that after my second kidney transplant in 2007 at times it has become all consuming. I wonder will the day ever come where I feel content. I say I long for contentment, but maybe this is just another thing I want to achieve, before looking for the next.

So, much like marathon training, before you know it, you're in to something you can’t back out of and the reality of being responsible for two premises, two sets of rent, rates, bills and employees is pushed to the back of your mind while you focus on getting through the last hard miles and just getting the place up and running.

The Mourneway marathon is a lonely marathon. I will never forget about mile 15 I was met by a friend with a bag of jelly babies and some water, and I wept uncontrollably when I saw my first familiar face. 

I have an amazing husband,  family, friends, customers and employees supporting me in the Botanic venture, but it's lonely at times too, very lonely. At the minute I feel I'm about mile 22 in the race, most of the race is behind me, but the finish line seems an eternity away. There have been a few tears along the way too and the pain and suffering associated with opening the first shop is still present, I've just done more training second time round and can cope with it better. 

The one thing I have learned most from the opening the first shop is that nothing comes easy. I genuinely believe that being a runner really does help me drive Kaffe O. You see, I'm never happy, I always see room for improvement, I criticise my performance constantly, I'm always looking at new ideas and plans which may just help me improve and more than anything else, I know that if I want to succeed the only way to do so, is by pure hard work. Tell me a runner that doesn't fit that description.

I'll not lie, I'm tired, I'm really tired but then who at mile 22 of a marathon isn't. The race is really only just starting....

Ps- comes visit us at 73 Botanic Ave...

It's just a cup of coffee...

I am so grateful that some of my best friends are doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers and therefore regularly put what I now do for a living in perspective.

Maybe it's just me as I'm new to all this but I think we can get carried away and forget that all we are actually doing is adding hot water/milk to a roasted coffee bean, not saving lives. Don't get me wrong, you don't want to ask me any favours before I've been caffeinated first- as the life or death question may just come in to the equation.

Anyone who knows me will testify I'm quite opinionated and stubborn. I blame being born a Taurus for most of that and have also been accused of dictatorial habits when it comes to my views on food and coffee (yes it is true I have banned latte art on all coffees, it's for drinking not hanging on your wall), but I'm also very much of the view that espresso is king.

Though sometimes I think that leaves me in the minority of people in the coffee world.
Everywhere you look, online, on the street, there is a fascination with brew bars serving single origin (or perhaps not) coffees,  pressed, dripped or squeezed through the latest fabric of choice in receptacles that look like they came out of my cousin's chemistry set she got one year for Christmas in the 80's.

You see when I go for coffee anywhere in the world, I want that golden elixir that has been produced on a machine that is worth four times my car (granted I have a 13 year old Honda), via a high tech water filtration system and at a precise temperature for that particular roast with the perfect extraction time (24 seconds just happens to be ours). That I'm happy to pay for. That I just cannot reproduce at home, well not without re mortgaging the house and extending the kitchen.

Don't get me wrong, I love Sunday mornings where I sample different beans, usually in my stainless steel Bodum French press. Firstly having heated my stainless steel Stelton thermos (yes it was purchased in Copenhagen) and of course the cups, left it to brew for precisely four and half minutes before gently pressing down and transferring it to the thermos so it stops brewing and stays hot, yes proper hot for a good couple of hours.

 In my humble opinion, this with a few hours of Sunday paper reading is the setting for freshly pressed coffee. As getting the perfectly brewed filter coffee from whatever receptacle of choice, is not as easy as it looks or people think.

 For me the coffee shop experience is the espresso experience and the skill involved in ensuring the temperature is correct, the grinder is set to grind at exactly the right level of coarseness for exactly the length of time required, with exactly the right amount of coffee, which when tamped perfectly, produces the most intoxicating liquid for which a licence is not required, is something that I feel seems to have been over looked of late.

Perhaps we should focus time on training and competitions which showcase that particular skill (and no, drawing pictures on the top of it doesn't count). Alternatively the inaugural French press championships are launching at my place some Sunday morning soon....

 Views all my own and not representative of my employer, no wait....

Oh and for the cheap sales plug- if you want to purchase some of our beans to squeeze through your receptacle of choice- here you go



As Frank said...It was a very good year...

So according to my to-do list, this blog is a week late, but there is a very very good reason. Not procrastination, nothing to say (some wish...) or being busy running a coffee shop and online retail business. Nope for the first time in 12 years I've indulged in what my husband calls the best Sunday of the year. Teachers holidays...which started last Sunday in this house.

Whilst this may be his favourite day of the year, for me and all non teaching spouses, this was my worst Sunday of the year. I admit it; I was not a nice teacher’s wife in the summer. When you can basically count your holiday entitlement on your fingers and toes, the prospect of your other half having two months off brought out my inner demon.

For the previous 12 years, this took the form of endless to do lists, making as much noise as possible as I got ready and left the house at 7am, early morning texts and then phone calls..."are you up yet?" and inwardly cursing myself for not having made the same career choice, even though I know I wouldn’t have had the patience for the profession.

So whilst himself may not be happy that I have invaded his two months of peace and quiet, I intend as much as I possibly can to indulge in some of the perks of teachers holidays this year.

I have 12 years to make up for...

Since the last instalment- we have also had a little celebration of our first birthday at the end of June. Plying people with Carlsberg and espresso martinis (what else?!)- we welcomed in the start of year two at the Kaffe and with it- a few thank yous...

1- our amazing regulars- you make Kaffe O what it is and we have genuinely made some great friends over the year.

2- the amazing Kaffe O team- you guys have literally kept me alive in the past year and the Kaffe would be nothing without you.

3- my amazing (and extremely patient) family and friends- for carrying me through the highs and lows

4- my amazing graphic designer ( part time counsellor, advisor, IT and sound system expert) Paul McNally Design- for putting up with me for the past year

5- and finally my amazing husband- I promise not to steal your summer holidays this year.

The 12 weeks of new business

So I wrote this blog three months after opening Kaffe O- and yes it has taken me another nine months to actually get it out there. I was going to amend it, update it etc but you know what, I decided to leave as is because it reminds me just how far things have moved on and how relieved I am, that it is not this time nine months ago!

August 2014

This is my first ever blog, so please bear with me, I am new to all this. Though I am loving the fact that I don’t have to proof read this numerous times in case there is a lurking grammar mistake that my former colleagues will recoil at in horror- because for the first time ever I don’t have to pretend that I care if there are any misfortunate grammar faux pas going on- and yep that’s probably one right there.

The most common thing people said to me in the first few weeks of Kaffe O- was “ you’re living the dream”- I can’t tell you how much I wanted to do an Eddie Murphy and trade places with anyone, just anyone at the other side of the counter- so as this is week 12- my twelve weeks of starting my own business kind of look like this:

  1.  It’s 3pm and you realise that you haven’t eaten anything, drank anything or even been to the bathroom that day.
  2. It’s asking everyone and anyone in the business, “ it gets easier, right?” and then secretly dying inside with the unanimous “no”.
  3. It’s going to bed at 2am and getting up at 5 because you have forgotten to place an order with suppliers and Ground hog day begins again.
  4. It’s running out of coffee on day three because you know what, being a passionate coffee drinking lawyer does not prepare you for the kilos of coffee that you go through in a day.
  5. It’s meeting your best friends for a 15 minute dinner out and being a crumbling mess because you feel so out of your depth, hoping that they will make it all go away but knowing that there is nowhere to hide.
  6. It’s being told that you have run out of blue roll and being so tired that you have no idea how you are going to solve this major catastrophe.
  7. Its threatening to arrive at the City Council with your local counsellor if your bins aren’t emptied, knowing that (1) you have no clue who your local councillor is and (2) no idea where the right office is.
  8. It’s falling while trail running, spending a few hours in A&E and then being chauffeured to the shop in a pain med induced state. It’s going back in the next day and the next one, because there is no such thing as sick leave.
  9. It’s getting a whole day off and really knowing how Charlie felt when he won the golden ticket.
  10. It’s the feeling of pure joy when the weather is perfect, the grinder is behaving itself and the extraction rate of the espresso is bang on 24 seconds.
  11. It’s hearing amazing feedback from your customers on how they love the coffee just as much as you and even better seeing them say this on facebook, twitter and instagram.
  12. It’s seeing the same people coming in everyday for their daily fix and stepping back at week 12 and realising that you made something, you really made something.