At 37, Stephen Kennedy dreamt of owning his own coffee shop. But 12 years into a career in higher education, managing support services for students with disabilities and other under-represented groups, that dream seemed unlikely.
“For many years, although I dreamed of having my own coffee shop and even had a clear vision of what it would be, I didn’t feel brave enough to give up a pretty good job in the public sector to pursue my dream. It seemed too big, too risky, too daunting and so I’d always push it to the back of my mind,” Stephen told me on a chilly day in April.
Then, a little over three years ago, Stephen decided to take the plunge and began the process of opening his very own coffee shop in his favourite seaside town, Bray.
“I quit my job in Maynooth University and started working in coffee shops around Dublin to learn the ropes. I went from being on a pretty good salary and managing a large team to working on minimum wage and being managed by people half my age.”
Stephen spent the guts of two and a half years learning the nuts and bolts of the industry, working in coffee shops across Dublin such as 3fe and Ninth Degree Coffee Roasters before completing several Speciality Coffee Association courses.
It’s been just five months since Copper & Straw opened its doors. Like many coffee establishments, the story behind how it got its name is particularly charming.
“There wouldn’t be a coffee shop if it hadn’t been for my partner, Marcin. Without him I don’t think I would have taken the plunge and opened my own place. There were definitely times when I doubted myself and wondered if I’d ever get the shop off the ground.
“I’m ginger (Copper), or at least I used to be when I had hair, and Marcin is blonde (Straw). Copper & Straw felt right to me as it reflects that Marcin has been with me every step of the way on this journey.”
Endearing stories aside, how does Copper & Straw stack up against its contemporaries? The short answer is; it’s up there with the best.
The house blend is Bailies Coffee Roasters. The bean used for espressos and americano’s is a medium-bodied washed Colombian, which has lingering acidity and citrusy notes. For milk-based coffees, you can enjoy a washed Guatemalan, which has a lovely nutty-chocolate flavour.
Copper & Straw uses a different guest roaster for filter coffee each month, often offering customers roasters that aren’t commonly available in Ireland.
In terms of food, the menu consists of light breakfast options, a small range of gourmet sandwiches and a selection of cakes and pastries, with about half the menu catering for vegetarians and vegans. The three-cheese toastie with thinly sliced soured cucumbers is particularly impressive, I can strongly vouch for that.
Inside, Copper & Straw is bright and airy with high ceilings and white walls. The long bar, made of reclaimed wood, runs the length of the café and there’s a strong emphasis on planting as a design feature.
Customers tend to share the tables running the length of the café. The seating is made up of old-school chairs from the 1950s salvaged from a junkyard. There’s a cosy little spot at the back of the café with an old architect’s table and stools made of scrap wood.
Incorporating environmentally friendly practices into the shop is a key priority for Copper & Straw.
“All of our packaging, even the stuff customers can’t see (bin bags, disposable gloves and straws) can be composted. We have a waste segregation plan in place to ensure that the majority of the waste we produce can be composted or recycled.”
And Stephen tells me they’ve introduced a number of smaller measures too, “We have motion sensor lights and taps in bathrooms and we don’t sell any products in plastic packaging.”
For an unpretentious, knowledgeable, high-quality and sustainable coffee experience, look no further than Copper & Straw.