Spring is in the air in Dingle as the town prepares for the coming tourist season. At Bean in Dingle, the town’s only speciality coffee café, Luke and Justin Burgess are gearing up for their fourth summer.
The café is popular with both locals and tourists but it might not even exist had Justin followed his original plan to set up a coffee cart in the town.
Having trained as a barista with Murphy’s Ice Cream and worked in their shops in Dublin and Dingle, Justin saw a gap in the market for speciality coffee in Dingle. He tried to set up a coffee cart but couldn’t get permission to put one anywhere.
“Then this place became available and it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up,” says Justin’s brother Luke. This place is a narrow commercial unit on Dingle’s Green Street and the entire Burgess family have played a part in making it the bustling café it is today.
“Our mother Jackie designed the interior,” says Luke. “Our dad Alan does a lot of the baking and makes the sandwiches and soups. Our sister Georgia is in college in Dublin but helps out when she can. Even our grandmother bakes cakes at the weekends.”
When Justin first opened the café in 2015, he never thought it would be such a big operation. “He originally thought he could run it by himself but within a few days he realised that wasn’t possible,” says Luke. “He rang me in Dublin and told me I’d have to quit my job to come work with him.”
Luke has remained by Justin’s side ever since, creating a business that focuses very much on coffee rather than food.
There are two reasons for this. Coffee was Justin’s speciality and because of the long, narrow nature of their business premises, there is no space for a kitchen.
The coffee served at Bean in Dingle is a unique blend from Badger and Dodo. “Justin asked them to produce it to our specifications exclusively for us,” says Luke. “We were the first to ever ask them for our own blend but they did it.”
The blend is a combination of 50% Brazilian Ipanema, 25% Guatemalan San Juan and 25% Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Since last year, they have offer a guest coffee. “We change it every couple of months,” says Luke. “Our customers like having a choice but they always seem to go back to our regular blend.”
Over time, they have also introduced food offerings, all of which are prepared off site. “Our cakes are provided by Michelle O’Sullivan who runs Blúiríní Blasta, Bácús Bakery, our granny and our dad,” says Luke. “We added sandwiches to the menu last summer and soups this winter. But we’ll never be a real lunchtime place. That’s not our aim and anyway the space makes it impossible.”
In their three years of business, the Burgesses have learned a lot. They have adjusted to the seasonal nature of business in Dingle. “That first year was hard,” says Luke. “The summer was so busy and the winter was so quiet. But since then, the winters have picked up with more happening in the town during the off-season.”
They have built their own brand. “Mum had designed a yellow and grey colour scheme before we opened and we’ve stuck with that,” says Luke. “We also asked a local artist Elouise Flannery to design our logo and we use that in our signage and on our cups.”
They are savvy users of social media. “We used to use Facebook a lot but now we find we reach more people on Instagram,” says Luke. “We’ve had people from America and Australia telling us they found us there before they came to Ireland and then planned to visit us as a result.”
Things are going so well that they are thinking of opening a second location. “We might open up in Killarney,” says Luke. “Who knows? Let’s get through the coming summer season first.”