Hidden away in the oft-neglected area of Dolphins Barn, Imbibe Coffee Roasters is the latest addition to the city’s booming coffee scene. In a somewhat saturated market, Imbibe Coffee Roasters is the new kid on the block, with both the coffee and conscience worth taking note of. Having garnered significant media coverage for its ethical ethos, the roastery has certainly carved out a name for itself as the “nice guy” of specialty coffee. But owner Gary Grant’s commitment to top class coffee is just as commendable.
Having cut his teeth in coffee wholesale before setting up Imbibe, Grant is a seasoned figure on the specialty scene. His established network of clients provided a soft cushion for setting up a business in such a competitive industry. Frank in his outlook towards his business, Grant affirmed that “it was a very easy transition”.
“I didn’t just open a roastery and have to find customers. I don’t know how people do it. That strikes me as kind of terrifying.”
In a city filled with roasters jostling against each other, Grant has clocked up stockists through the personal touch that permeates throughout his business. Armed with a distinct vision of what his business would look like, Grant set out to make industry busting changes from the get go. Purchasing an entire crop from the Cafe Femenino project in Peru was one bold move that has paid off from both a product and promotion perspective. Cafe Femenino is a plantation in Peru run entirely by women, striking against the predominant culture of male ownership in the country. Another move was to donate one per cent of his annual turnover – 10 per cent of his take-home pay – to Women’s Aid.
For Grant, these somewhat stark decisions were simple to make: “I really do think other companies could do this. Ten per cent is nothing to them. If you had a euro and someone asked you for one cent the only reason you wouldn’t give it to them is because you wouldn’t want all that change in your pocket. You wouldn’t miss the one cent. It’s really as easy as that.”
With sustainability at the fore of its agenda, the company is the only roaster to offer zero-waste wholesale coffee. Committed to preserving the freshness of the coffee, Grant and his team did three-week trials of the steel containers to ensure that their coffee delivered on all levels. Grant was aware that the “coffee, first and foremost, needs to be perfect. You can’t say to somebody take this it’s environmentally beneficial but the coffee is gonna be 10 per cent worse. People won’t go for that”.
Having converted 45 per cent of their existing customer base, Imbibe has found its way onto the bars of Tiller and Grain and Clement & Pekoe. With designs to sell the first Panamanian coffee in Ireland and hold community events, Imbibe itself is imbued with innovation. Its Kaleidoscope blend is one of the finest organic blends on offer in the city right now with its fruity caramel undertones. Grant is confident about the new directions Imbibe is taking, while maintaining quality on a more fundamental level: “We have got a little bit of press and people are looking at us and saying they are the ethical people. Which you know that is very nice and good to have. We are not just that. We are doing an amazing job with our coffee. I know our coffee is as good as any. It’s just spreading that so people become more aware of that.”