Coffee Guide to Belfast & Northern Ireland
The coffee scene in Northern Ireland is growing and the level at which we’re doing café’s is amazing. The attention to detail on a fit-out, the care taken to curate and execute a great menu, the pride in using the phenomenal ingredients we have on our doorstep and the level of professionalism being shown in the preparation of coffee drinks is at a world-class level.
We’ve tried to include as many places as we can and as you’ll see the geographical spread is pretty wide. We’ve also included some recommendations for food, pubs and general attractions too. We’d recommend that you ask at any of these coffee stops for more local recommendations…the service you are about to receive is second to none.
We've put all the spots on to this handy little Google Map for reference, for more information read below.
NB: This guide was created for World of Coffee // Dublin (June 2016) - Belfast is only a 2 hour drive from Dublin, 3 hours will take you to the very tip of North Coast! If you’ve planned a bit of extra time on your trip to Ireland and want to do some exploring, then we’re here for you. This awesome Dublin Coffee Map, or great lists by people like 3fe & Vice. So we thought we’d at least try and give some kind of help when it comes to travelling North from Dublin.
It's worth noting that this is not an exhaustive list, there are many other great companies and coffee shops doing a great job at what they do. These are just a few and we've tried to give as much of a spread as possible.
Okay, so you should definitely pay us a visit. Established Coffee was set up by Bridgeen Barbour & Mark Ashbridge in December 2013. It is one of the island's leading cafes, pioneering what has become a burgeoning coffee scene in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. Their home in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has great food, coffee and some of the best service-driven coffee professionals in the world!
The mainstay of the coffee is from 3fe (Dublin), but often have coffee from guest roasters from across the world, from Heart Roasters (Portland, Or) to Workshop Coffee (London, UK).
Opening Hours | Monday to Friday: 7am - 6pm / Saturday: 8am - 6pm / Sunday: 9am - 6pm
Finnegan & Sons
Halfway between Dublin and Belfast in the city of Newry you’ll find Finnegan & Sons, a coffee shop headed up by Graeme Finnegan, with this wife and supported by their son James (a pretty cool dude who features on their social media every once in a while). The focus is on letting the coffee take centre stage, with a beautifully crafted bar and an ever changing coffee line up featuring coffees from near and far. The turkey burger’s getting a name for itself too.
Coffee from Bailies Coffee (Belfast), 3fe (Dublin) and lots of other guest roasters.
Opening Hours: | Monday to Saturday: 8am – 8pm / Sunday: CLOSED
Lost and Found Cafe & Brew Bar
Opening it's doors in early 2014, Lost & Found have cemented themselves as a jewel in the crown that is the stunning North Coast of Ireland. A bastion of community and crafting their products to the highest standard...a standard which has helped shape and motivate a whole movement of cafes & food businesses on the North Coast.
Coffee from Koppi Roasters (Helsingborg, Sweden) and other guest roasters occasionally, including Colonna Coffee (Bath, UK).
Opening Hours | Tuesday - Saturday: 9:30am - 5pm / Sunday - Monday: CLOSED
There's a thread going through many of the great speciality coffee shops in Northern Ireland, of great people behind them. Behind Middletown, you'll find Johnny & Emma Hickinson. Johnny spent 18 months at Established Coffee, before opening up shop in his hometown of Ballymena...putting it firmly on the map as a must-visit location on the NI Coffee Tour.
Coffee from 3fe Coffee (Dublin) a simple & tasty food menu and in-house made baked goods.
Opening Hours | Monday - Saturday: 8:30am - 5:30pm / Sunday: CLOSED
Coffee on the beach? No seriously...the location couldn't be any more perfect, backed up by the food, service & coffee which you'll receive from George, Shonee and the Babushka Crew. For the coffee geeks, it’s home of NI’s first Linea PB with Auto-Brew-Ratio-Scales and for anyone normal, check out their homemade soda’s & lemonade.
Coffee on rotation from Koppi Roasters (Helsingborg, Sweden) & Workshop Coffee (London, UK).
Opening Hours | Monday - Sunday: 9:15am - 5pm
Ursa Minor Bakehouse & Café
When Ciara and Dara aren’t hard at work supplying their incredible bread to places like Lost & Found, Babushka and Harry’s Shack, you’ll find them at their café in the beautiful seaside town of Ballycastle. Open Thursday – Saturday, Saturday is a particular treat as they have doughnuts and they’ll make you a tasty coffee to go with it!
Coffee comes by way of Koppi Roasters, espresso drinks only.
Opening Hours | Thursday - Saturday: 10am - 4pm / Sunday - Wednesday: CLOSED
A coffee bar and contemporary art space, Haptik is another little gem in the NI coffee scene. Situated in the town of Newtownards, at the tip of Strangford Lough, only a 30 minute drive from Belfast. It’s another example of someone taking something they love and are passionate about and putting it in their own community. Johnny & Rachel McBride were inspired by time spent in Melbourne and their passion for the arts, having created a beautiful space and delivered on great food & coffee.
Coffee from a multitude of roasters from La Cabra (Denmark) to The Barn (Berlin).
Opening Hours | Monday - Friday: 8.30am - 6pm / Saturday 8.30am - 5pm / Sunday: CLOSED
The Auction Room
Maghera, a town of less than 3,000 people, is home to The Auction Room which is a café/coffee house serving a solid food menu, tasty cakes and coffee. Neil, Abi & the crew work tirelessly to make this a destination spot in Mid-Uster.
Coffee comes from Bailies Coffee (Belfast).
Opening Hours | Mon – Wednesday: 10am – 5pm / Thurs – Friday 10am – 10pm / Sat – Sunday 10am – 10pm
What do you do when you’re existing successful business isn’t filling you with pride or fulfilling your passion? You move it upstairs and turn the ground floor in to a café of course! Richard had a passion for coffee, which only grew through time…he gained the blessing of his wife Bailey to turn everything upside down and chase the dream of opening his own café, which they opened in January 2016. A cosy space, with beautiful sash windows looking on to Queen’s University, Richard and the team are serving up coffee, waffles and sunshine all day long.
Coffee from 3fe (Dublin, IE), probably a natural….Richard loves naturals.
Opening Hours | Monday - Friday: 7:30am - 6pm / Saturday: 10am - 4pm / Sunday: CLOSED
Home to the 2016 Northern Ireland AeroPress Champion, Nathan Reid, Town Square is nestled on Botanic Avenue in Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter (Belfast has a lot of quarters!). As part of a larger hotel, The Cresent Townhouse, Town Square is the first phase of giving the hotel a new identity and lease of life. It’s easily one of the best places to get a coffee in the evening, if that’s your thing...if not, they have a great beer line up including locally produced Boundary Brewing Co-Op.
Coffee from Roasted Brown (Dublin, IE), Public Cupping every Tuesday night.
Opening Hours | Monday - Thursday 7am - 10pm / Friday 7am - 11pm / Saturday 8am - 11pm / Sunday 8am - 10pm
Indigo Coffee & Gelato
South Belfast is a hub of students, young professionals and hip café’s, one of the latest to weigh in on the Belfast coffee scene is Indigo & Gelato. Ryan and his team are bringing something truly unique with their tasty gelato, and its ingenious - often crazy - flavours, how does avocado, orange & kiwi sound? They pair this up alongside some great coffees.
Coffee from rotating roasters on espresso and filter like Five Elephant (Berlin), Langora Kaffe (Norway).
Opening Hours | Monday - Wednesday: 8am - 6pm / Thursday - Friday: 8am - 8pm / Saturday: 10am - 6pm / Sunday: 2pm - 8pm
What was once a café with no name, quickly became known simply as 5a, the address on Lockview Road where it is situated in a small row of shops, serving the community of South Belfast and the Stranmillis Embankment with it’s Australian-inspired food & coffee menu. A small space which uses every inch of it so well, on a good day it’s the perfect gateway to take a walk along the Lagan Towpath. 5a is sisters-in-arms to General Merchants and General Merchants 361.
Coffee from Bailies Coffee (Belfast, NI).
Opening Hours | Monday - Thursday: 8am - 9pm / Friday - Saturday: 8am - 7pm / Sunday: 9am - 7pm
General Merchants & General Merchants 361
From the team behind 5a, they teamed up with chef Tim Fetherston and really harnessed the Australian-vibe in to what is now two locations, one in East Belfast and the other in South Belfast (General Merchants 361). Expect a great food menu, good service and coffee to go with it. You’ll find subtle menu changes in each location and they are open evenings with great dinner menu too.
Coffee from Bailies (Belfast) and guest filter from Roasted Brown (Dublin).
Opening Hours (General Merchants) | Monday - Saturday: 8am - 10pm / Sunday 8am - 5pm
Opening Hours (General Merchants 361) | Monday - Tuesday: 8am - 6pm / Wednesday - Saturday: 8am - 11pm / Sunday 9am - 6pm
A café situated behind Queen’s University, which makes tasty food and is home to the inaugural NI Barista Champion – a non-SCAE competition which was ran at the NI Coffee Festival in 2015. Awarded runners up in the Observer Food Monthly Awards for Best Ethical Restaurant, Common Grounds gives all of their profits to projects in the developing world.
Coffee from Bailies Coffee (Belfast).
Opening Hours | Monday - Friday 8:30am - 5pm / Saturday 10am - 5pm / Sunday: CLOSED
Root & Branch Café & Roasters
New kids on the block and Belfast’s newest Coffee Bar & Roastery. Ben & Simon have opened the cutest little roastery & brew bar on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, you really need to go down to understand just how much they’ve made happen in such a small space. Coffee roasted on their own Geisen W6 (roast day is a Friday if you want to see them at work) and served directly out of the space, you can take a bag home with you too.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 08:00 to 17:00 Saturday: 08:30 to 17:00 Sunday: 10:00 to 16:00
With now two locations (Ormeau Road and Botanic Avenue), Kaffe O are bringing their own style of Scandinavian-inspired Nordic-Coffee to the people of Belfast. Expect Smørrebrød on the lunch menu and a coffee made with their house blend of Guatemala, Ethiopia and Costa Rica – a dark roast profile which is sourced from Ricco Sørensen in Denmark. If you’ve been watching The Bridge and you want to try out some of your Danish, this is the place to do it.
Coffee from Riccos (Copenhagen), espresso-based only.
Opening Hours (Ormeau Road) | Monday - Thursday: 7.30am - 9pm / Friday: 7.30am - 6pm / Saturday: 8.30am - 6pm / Sunday: 9am - 6pm
Opening Hours (Botanic) | Monday - Friday: 7am-10pm / Saturday: 8.30am-10pm / Sunday: 9am-10pm
Ground Espresso Bars
Started in 2001, by Karen & Darren Gardiner, as just one shop in Coleraine. In the last 15 years they’ve grown the business with huge success and leading the way for independent coffee shops across the country.
Coffee from Matthew Algie, but also guest roasters (Square Mile, The Barn, Has Bean) in place in most stores which can be brewed on Chemex/Kalita and often using SP9’s!
They have 18 stores, so we only put one of them on the map (their new flagship stand-alone shop in Belfast), head over to their website to find other stores.
Opening Hours (Belfast, Queen Street) | Monday – Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm / Sunday12:30pm – 5pm
Sé Gorman started Krem in 2001, he still has the shop in Newry but also a few locations on the Queen’s University Campus and in North Belfast at Duncairn Arts & Community Centre. Sé won the Northern Ireland heat of the UKBC on a number of occasions and in 2007 finished second in the UKBC behind James Hoffmann (who would later go on to win the World Barista Championship that year).
Coffee comes from James Gourmet via Specialist Beverages.
Opening Hours (Newry): Mon-Sun: 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
There are only a small number of coffee roasters in the North, whilst others do exist, two of the more prominent roasters would be:
Bailies Coffee - https://www.bailiescoffee.com/
Ristretto - http://ristrettocoffee.com/
Muddlers Club (Belfast)
Harry’s Shack (Portstewart)
The Bushmills Inn (Bushmills)
Duke of York
St George’s Market
Dark Hedges (One of the scenes from Game of Thrones)
Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
Thanks for taking the time to read this. We also just wanted to make you aware of a couple of practical points. For being such a small island, we're pretty complex. You may have noticed, that we have 1 rugby team (Ireland), but two football teams (Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland)...with both teams being in Euro 2016 this video helps illustrate the difference. Whilst in the Dublin & the South of Ireland, you will pay in Euro's (€), once you cross the border in to Northern Ireland you will pay in British Pounds (£). There is no border control, but technically you are entering the United Kingdom. You'll notice a change in the accent, but most other things will remain the same.
An easy journey, even if you're just going for a day trip.
By Car, Belfast is less than 2 hours drive and literally one Road (M1).
By Bus, there are a few services which operate Bus Route's to Belfast . The Aircoach (from €23 Return) is a great service and probably the quickest as the only stop it makes is at Dublin Airport, you can also book ahead online - Aircoach Timetable. It leaves from O'Connell Street every hour on the half hour. Bus Éireann (from €27 Return) also run a regular service leaving from Dublin Busaras, timetable is here.
By Rail, there is a train service which runs between Dublin & Belfast. Fares are from €19.99 single, timetable and information available online at IrishRail.