Bean to a lean operating machine.
The path of life takes on a variety of journeys; however, reoccurring themes do show up. Bruce has been exposed to coffee pretty much his entire life.
Growing up most of us had our favourite TV shows. Bruce remembers enjoying cartoons. One particular cartoon that he liked was Dexter’s Laboratory cartoon. He remembers watching the adults in the morning looking tired and slow. Then, they would drink this dark liquid that turned them into super energetic people. He would wonder what this magical drink was that turned these people into super stars. Gradually, he learned more about this magical liquid: coffee, that brought people to life.
As a child Bruce’s family loved coffee. They enjoyed making their own quality coffee at home. His grandfather loves to cook and make coffee. There was always a bit of a ritual to making coffee. Bruce still remembers his grandpa would grind coffee in the kitchen; and, then he would use the milk frother to steam the milk back in the 1990s. Essentially, this was the beginning of what was to become a life of coffee.
He still remembers tasting his first cappuccino in Spain. He was on a family holiday. While on the beach, his mom was having one of those cappuccinos in a can. At the time, Bruce was about 6 or 7. She gave him the cream off the top of the cappuccino. There wasn’t much coffee; however, he still remembers the sweet taste with a hint of coffee.
Many of us visit beach towns and resorts when we go on vacation. Bruce got to live on the beach and serve coffee when he was around 13 or 14 till he was 16 or so. He picked up a job with one of these coffee shop beach bars. His boss, at the time, had very high standards for how coffee should taste and should be made. This foundation has been the backbone for how Bruce has served and runs SOMA Coffee Company on 23 Tuckey Street, in Cork city.
The owner of this beach bar/ cafe wanted each cup to taste a certain way. One particular time, Bruce came into work a bit early. He knew that he had to prepare the beans for the day. So, he started to grind them. He kept grinding the coffee; so, that they would be prepared for the week. When his boss came into the shop, he was quite upset. Bruce didn’t understand at the time. The owner explained that he wanted to keep the ground coffee fresh. A lesson Bruce hasn’t forgotten: quality is extremely important.
The following winter he worked at Costa. The next two summers, he came back and worked for the same coffee shop beach cafe. It was during these summer months that he started steaming and frothing milk. The standards were becoming increasingly higher. They started to make blended ice coffee, ice coffee, and Italian style espresso, essentially: Primo coffees. Each step of the way required higher standards.
Then Bruce moved to Cork Ireland. Since, he knew how to make coffee, he got a job at Gloria Jeans. The career there was short lived.
From there, Bruce started to work in the markets around Cork, county. He enjoyed meeting the various people and going to various places. However, there was still something missing.
He then headed over to Cafe Gusto. Here he was given the head Barista role and chef. There was a lot of evening trade. While at Cafe Gusto, he got to know Brock and the guys from Golden Bean. Both companies helped evolve his knowledge of coffee. Again, the time came to move on to a different place.
He moved over to Filter Coffee. He met Eoin. Eoin was one of the first speciality coffee shops/cafes in Cork city. This really had a big impact on Bruce’s relationship with coffee. Eoin liked 3FEs specialty coffee. They held cuppings and short educational classes. They were determined to bring awareness about specialty coffee to the community of Cork, city. The learning curve was incredible.
While at Filter, Bruce was also DJing in the evenings. His DJing career introduced him to a wider audience of people. He started to become more socially connected to the city and enjoyed the night life. However, this was not quite what Bruce had in mind as a career: fun yes. He was in a bit of crossroads: go to school or keep going with coffee.
The road of life brings in opportunities when you are ready. While Bruce was attempting to decide what to do, a friend of his introduced him to his future business partner, Damien. Damien liked what he saw in the market of coffee: growth and possibility. Having owned and run a few businesses prior, opening a coffee company made sense. The two of them met a number of times. Eventually, they decided to team up and open up a coffee company in Cork.
Business partners should compliment each other. Damien had the business expertise, where as Bruce had the knowledge and the know how of running a coffee shop. In many ways, Damien has been a mentor for Bruce. Bruce really appreciates the feedback and support that Damien brings to the table. Damien appreciates Bruce’s in depth knowledge, eye for quality and detail about the coffee industry.
As SOMA Coffee Company continues to grow, branding plays an important role. They make a point of producing their own products when and where they can. First, they roast their own beans in house. They have complete control of how the coffee tastes. Then, they cup the coffee. Then make changes to the roast profile or keep the same profile.
Then there is the coffee bar. They have the best equipment, starting with their grinders. Their grinders weigh and grind each shot equally. Then comes the recipe on the espresso machine. The Rancilio Espresso Machine is very easy to operate and to dial in each recipe. The extraction time, pressure, and temperature is consistently the same. As you can sense there is reoccurring theme: consistency equals quality. Quality that the people of Cork and those buying SOMA Coffee Company’s beans can depend on time and time again.
When asked, what makes Cork special, Bruce said right away that the people make Cork. You live in a city; however, you know everyone like you would in a small town. The people are friendly and will stop for a moment to have a chat. Generally, people want to help and see you succeed. The hospitality trade is very much alive and well in Cork, city, as there are many restaurants and pubs to visit, when things are normal.
Bruce loves the food and pub culture of Cork. He recommended a few places to visit: The Glass Curtain, on MacCurtain Street, and Impala. He is a big believer in supporting the local community. Where and when you can support the local community. This is for him is a way of being, as it is your community that in the end supports you.