The closure of the iconic Accents Coffee and Tea Lounge is one of the post-lockdown casualties that will hit students hardest. As one of the only places to get coffee in Dublin after 7pm, it played host to many pre-exam study breaks, tense group project meetings and awkward dates. Its absence will be strongly felt, even in a city so utterly changed by the pandemic.
Its business model was ingenious and managed to fill a gaping hole in Dublin’s evening scene: an alcohol-free environment that stayed open after 7pm.
It was the perfect spot for a date – within walking distance of college, yet still far enough that you could escape an uncomfortable encounter for a lecture still an hour away. From personal experience, I can say confidently that its famous DIY hot chocolate demanded enough attention to distract from the monotony of uncomfortable first date chat.
There’s no doubt that the four walls of Accents bore witness to the rise and demise of many a Trinity relationship. Walking in, you never knew whether you were going to stumble upon one of your classmates meeting a new love interest, or the unfortunate breakup of two strangers.
Walking in, you never knew whether you were going to stumble upon one of your classmates meeting a new love interest, or the unfortunate breakup of two strangers.
When it came to making the most of floorspace, Accents was something of a master of ergonomics. Walking down the steps, a Pandora’s box of slightly worn leather couches, bean bags and precariously balanced novels on jam-packed bookshelves greeted you.
Invariably, it seemed that there was no space. But it was always at that moment when you resigned yourself to your seat-less fate, that a wooden stool would appear out of nowhere. You would then find yourself seated beside a motley group of tourists, academics or students – whether conversation would ensue depended on how skilfully you could avoid eye contact. That was just the atmosphere that the homeliness of its basement created. A friend of mine once described its layout as “the architectural rendering of a lo-fi playlist”.
Accents may have lacked the ostentation of serving multiple geographically-diverse espresso blends – but that was why we loved it. Students didn’t go there for the quality of its roast, but for its warm and welcoming ambience. In a world of Red Velvet Cake Frappuccinos and Mint Chocolate Iced Lattes, the absence of tongue twisting, sickly sweet coffee derivations was reassuring. It knew what it did best, and never hid behind trendy seasonal iced coffee flavours for trade.
I can’t help but wonder if the powers that be are conspiring against Trinity students to deprive us of sugary caffeinated drinks and welcoming spaces in which to share them.
A special mention must be given to its staff who, over the years, have become well-accustomed to witnessing – suffering – the emotional turmoil that came with serving Dublin’s students. I cannot count the number of times my tear-stained face appeared at its counter, seeking a hot chocolate, a vegan cookie and a quiet corner in which to hide and distract myself from a risky message left on read. Despite my wavering emotional state, I was always welcomed with the same warm smile and engaging conversation. I’m not the only person for whom it became a comforting retreat and it’s hard to believe it won’t be there when we get back.
It’s difficult not to judge the closure of Accents in the context of those that came before it. I started college in 2017 and for my first year we could choose between it, Lemon and Mooch when deciding where to spend an evening coffee break. Now, all three are gone and I can’t help but wonder if the powers that be are conspiring against Trinity students to deprive us of sugary caffeinated drinks and welcoming spaces in which to share them.
This news comes as another reminder of how Dublin will have changed by the time we get back, and it seems that lockdown has only accelerated the ongoing erosion of student-friendly spaces around campus. As an independent business, Accents provided a small window into the character, individuality and charm that Dublin’s streets once had. Its closure reflects not only the impending economic downturn, but also the threat that multinational chains pose to Dublin’s smaller businesses.