Full of beans
The Dunnes Stores Simply Better collection has a well-deserved reputation for award-winning food and drink. Behind the scenes it also champions small Irish producers, helping them to grow while doing what they do best.
This month, we chat to Adam McMenamin and Louis Williams of Two Fifty Square Speciality Coffee about their growing artisan coffee business and partnership with the Simply Better collection.
The idea for Two Fifty Square was born in Melbourne, Australia. Adam McMenamin was living in the city and was taken with how seriously locals took their coffee. After five years in Australia, he moved back to Ireland and set up a roastery in Rathmines, Dublin in 2014. Then business partner Louis Williams got involved. “Louis and I were in primary school together but we hadn’t talked in a long time,” Adam explains. “He came in to look at the coffee shop and we started working together from that day – we’re still working away together six years later.”
Business has been good, with the operation expanding to include three Dublin coffee shops and a 4,500sq foot roasting plant. Then early in 2020 the Dunnes Stores Simply Better team reached out. “They got in touch with us, asking for samples. We weren’t sure we’d even be able to do it but we’d just moved building and had the equipment to roast the capacity,” Andy says. They sent samples across in March, just before Covid-19 hit, so follow up meetings with the Simply Better team moved online and in January 2021 a range of four ground coffees hit Dunnes shelves.
“It’s been going great,” Adam says. “The customers’ reaction has been exactly what we wanted. There’s been a lot of emails from people saying they’re grateful that they’re able to actually taste the difference in the coffees.”
That difference, Adam explains, is down to the fact that Two Fifty Square uses single estate beans. “It’s not just all ‘super strong’ or ‘weak’, they’re all very smooth and rounded and have flavour profiles that are characteristics of the bean. The four coffees all taste slightly different. With the Ethiopia, we get slightly cherry or berry notes. It’s a little fruity and has really good acidity levels, which is a good thing in coffee. The Columbia is rich, like milk chocolate, and it has a great mouthfeel of caramelised toffee notes as well. The Brazil, which is the best-seller, is a bit more chocolatey and has brown sugary notes. It’s definitely identifiable – and then the Nicaragua is citrusy and bright.”
Undoubtedly the Irish coffee drinker has become more discerning in recent years but there’s been a huge rise in interest in coffee in this last year. “Especially with the lockdown, people went out and bought equipment because they have more time to make good coffee at home,” Louis explains.
Responding to customer demand, there will be a range of whole bean coffees joining the Simply Better collection later this year.
The existing range has only be on sale for a few months but is already a big success and it seems that the partnership with the Simply Better team is going well too. “It’s been really good,” Louis comments. “We’ve never dealt with such a large retail market before – we were supplying coffee shops and restaurants. So dealing with the Simply Better team has been amazing because they’ve taken us through this journey of learning how to supply someone like Dunnes Stores. It’s a really great partnership.”
“They’ve helped us raise the bar across the board,” Andy adds. “To see how a set up that big has to work and how quick they are to respond. It gets done – and thoroughly at that. We’ve raised our standards because we’re working with them. They’ve come along and said, ‘listen, you just do what you do’ and they’ve given us a platform to get out to more people while still keeping the same high grade beans for the Dunnes customers. We’re very happy with that.”