The cycle of life makes a full circle.
For those that have been following or read the blog regularly, you know that the coffee culture of Cork is rich in coffee shops and cafes. Recently, Cork has an additional roaster/ cafe added to the scene. The road to becoming a cafe or roaster tends to be full of interesting and delightful stories. Daniel and Sunmi’s story is definitely worth a cup of coffee a sit and listen.
Daniel is originally from Cork, Ireland. He had graduated university in 2012. At the time, the economy of Cork was a bit weak due to the economic crisis. Having graduated university, Daniel had decided to head to South Korea with a program called EPIC. EPIC attempts to align a teacher’s ideal location with a questionnaire and through an interview process. Having come from a coastal city, like Cork, he wanted something similar in South Korea. As a result, EPIC placed him in Pohang.
Pohang, is an industrial coastal city. The city itself is built around a steal factory and the port. Now a days, Pohang has hotels, a number of restaurants, and a coffee culture. Many young people come to Pohang to relax and enjoy the seaside. Daniel was happy with where he was placed. He started off teaching ESL in a number of private schools around the city. Eventually, he found the cafe Naechatun Coffee.
Naechatun Coffee is self made cafe, found in Pohang, South Korea. The owner built pretty much the entire cafe himself. He built his own roaster and was fixed on things being a certain way. He believed that coffee wasn’t roasted until the second crack. Daniel learned the art of roasting on this machine.
Daniel, loves to work with the beans. He believes that you have a deeper connection with the coffee, when you are roasting. All four of your senses are involved. You touch and handle the beans. You smell the different stages of the beans being roasted. You hear how the beans are changing and evolving in the roaster. Finally, can see how the beans are being roasted.
Besides having all of your senses involved, Daniel gets a sense of the connection to the farm and the land. Each bean comes from various locations around the world. Each origin of bean is a different. Touching and handling the green bean brings you back to the land and those involved in growing, harvesting, and cleaning the bean. Which, led Daniel to looking to further develop his roasting skills, as he knew that there was more flavours in the beans, that he was roasting.
Eventually, Daniel met a gentleman named Kim, JunNo or JunNo, Kim. Mr. Kim was offering classes about roasting and how to make coffee. Both Daniel and JunNo hit it off. JunNo took Daniel on as an apprentice. JunNo taught Daniel a different style of roasting. JunNo’s style didn’t involve a second crack. A style that involves bringing out the subtle flavours of the coffee. These flavours and aromas bring out the beans’ true subtly hidden taste.
The true nature of the bean comes from the land and the people. JunNo, owns a coffee farm in Indonesia. The two of them went to Indonesia over three times. In Indonesia, Daniel met the farmers, saw the farm, and got in touch with the land and soil. He has seen and experience the entire process. He saw how the beans were harvested and chosen. As a result, Daniel’s appreciation grew substantially.
Before leaving Pohang, Daniel loved the brand: Cafe Moly. Daniel and JunNo worked out a working agreement that didn’t involve Daniel having to start a franchise. Daniel wanted to start a cafe carrying the brand’s name. Mr. Kim agreed to having his brand represented here in Cork, Ireland. So, Daniel and Sunmi moved back to Cork in 2018. Shortly after arriving, in Ireland, Daniel and Sunmi started work in Bakestone Cafe.
Bakestone Cafe was a massive step. “Bakestone is an incredibly busy cafe and at the same time insanely fun.”
Both Daniel and Sunmi were able to get positions at the cafe. Sunmi was running the espresso machine, while Daniel was a supervisor. They both worked from 8 till 6pm. This cafe/ restaurant taught them both a lot. They appreciated their manager Neil. Neil, pretty much left everyone alone unless there was good reason to intervene. Daniel gradually got to know the cafe’s coffee supplier: Badger and Dodo.
Brok, the owner of Badger and Dodo, and Elia had two different roles. Elia taught Daniel and Sunmi a lot about the coffee. Elia is Ireland’s third Q grader, which at that particular time was a big deal; and, becoming and being a QGrader is a significant accomplishment. Badger and Dodo wanted to educate and further evolve people’s taste and understanding of coffee. In the evenings, at Bakestone Cafe, Daniel, in collaboration with Elia, started to host coffee cuppings.
Cuppings are a way to introduce the flavours and subtleties of coffee. The locals of the area and the regulars were open and eager to learn more about their favourite drink. Prior to 2012, a lot of people were either drinking tea or were familiar with the big brand names of coffee. There were pockets of people who were making filtered coffee at home using specialty coffee. So, those coming to these events were genuinely surprised and impressed with the flavours and subtle notes hidden in coffee.
People were also taken back by how the different origins of the coffee impacted the tasting notes of the coffee, as most people are familiar with your traditional Brazilian coffee: dark chocolatey roasted notes. Gradually, people started to appreciate filtered coffee.
Daniel, missed roasting. In 2020, Daniel and Sunmi started working on their cafe, on Douglas street. Having little experience in DIY, the two of them depended on Youtube videos. They had to first completely gut and clean the place. With a blueprint in hand, they started the reconstruction. As you look around the shop, you can see the little quirks that make their endeavor special. Never the less, everything meets the required standards.
Cafe Moly roasts when there are no customers in the shop. They have done what they could to insure that the smoke from the roast is filtered properly. Their roaster is by far the cutest roaster you will see. Now, saying that, it is the little engine that could. The Cork Coffee Community has been incredibly inviting and welcoming.
Many of the local coffee shop owners have dropped in and paid him regular visits. Of course, the guys from Badger and Dodo drop in and have a friendly chat. Rob, from Velo, has reached out to Daniel. Rob’s wife loves the lemon ginger tea that Sunmi makes. Eoin from Filter Cafe, and Mattio, a well known barista, in the city, drops in with his family. Daniel and Sunmi love to provide top notch customer care.
When asked what makes a cafe important, Daniel had two key points. The first is quality control. Daniel has learned a lot from his second boss Kim JunNo. They both emphasize the importance of controlling how the bean tastes. As a result, Daniel has learned the art of roasting. The sequence of events is a circular cycle: Control the taste of the bean and bring out the subtle notes of your coffee.
Then, comes the greeting and the appearance of the cafe that you walk into from the street. Is it bright and warm space? Or is it a low light chilled atmosphere? Or is it small and cozy where you sit for a quick coffee or lunch? Is it a place where you can get some work done or is it a grab and go place? Essentially, what subtle message are you giving your customers?
Then comes the coffee itself. How well is the coffee made? There are so many different factors that go into making coffee. How well does the barista know the coffee? How well can the barista read the customer? How well does the barista know how to adjust the temperature, grind, and extraction time for each bean? As some customers like different flavours. So, can the barista adjust and bring out those flavours? Does s/he recommend a filter, aero press, or espresso or different milk coffees?
Getting to the bottom of the cup is just as important as the start. Daniel looks to make sure that the coffee is consistent. Now, when you order a batch coffee. The taste in the beginning is different than in the end. This is largely due to the coffee cooling down and certain tasting notes start to come out as you drink the coffee. In this case, as with all coffees, you want the coffee to taste consistently good. You want your mocha to have a well balanced taste through out the cup instead of a bunch of chocolate at the bottom of the cup.
These are things that Daniel really takes the time to consider. As you may gather, Daniel really cares about each individual person coming through the door. He invests a lot of time and energy in customer service. Both him and Sunmi take an interest in each person. They want you to feel like your part of their cafe family and friends.
When asked what he recommends seeing or doing in Cork, he leaned back and smiled: walk around the city. Take the city in by exploring the city by foot. There are a number of walking tours to join.You can get close to the historic landmarks. When you get to the top of the hills, the view is outstanding from either side: North or South.