Brian Birdy owns his space. Most people travel through timidly but he commands his spot in life. It may of taken him a few years to get to this stage of ease but he has arrived brimming with infectious zest.
He is like a hippie that listens to Southern rock cross-bred with a Zen master from Tibet. When he speaks it’s with a happy lilt peppered full of literary quotes, not in a pretentious way, he just loves to read.
He has an unusual last name that he explained is not made up. “Birdy is my name, actually I tracked down another Brian Birdy on Facebook and now we’re buddies. He’s American and a few years ahead of me. I use him as a milestone of my future self,” he laughs.
Taking a chance on the absurd seems to repeat itself in Birdy’s life. After a year of college in D.K.I.T he dropped out in the late 90’s. His goal at the time was to work in a bar and travel the world so he took a pub job in Waterloo, Belgium. A place made famous by a Swedish pop group and a small French man. “I was working for a really progressive Irish man who owned eight great quality bars in Belgium. Day-time trade was lagging but night-time trade was booming so I suggested to the guys we could do something with coffee.”
“I got into coffee by chance. When I was living in Belgium, I started going to Caffénation in Antwerpen. I would spend hours there reading and writing. I got to know the baristas well.” Coffee is the second highest import in Belgium. The country also has the ninth highest consumption of coffee in the world, that’s 4.9kg per capital to put that in context the UK comes in at forty in consumption stakes. The population of Belgium is roughly 11 million versus roughly 64 million in the UK. The Belgians also invented the first coffee filter. One must also assume that they also have a disproportionately high usage of toilet paper.
He used his serendipitous meet with Caffénation to benefit the bar in Waterloo. “Once a week I would go to Antwerp for about a year and a half and during that time I fell in love with coffee. I was eager to learn more so I got in touch with Colin Harmon of 3FE and offered to wash dishes etc, anything to learn more. I started coming back to Ireland once a month until I got offered a job here and moved over full-time.”
Once a week I would go to Antwerp for about a year and a half and during that time I fell in love with coffee. I was eager to learn more so I got in touch with Colin Harmon of 3FE and offered to wash dishes etc, anything to learn more. I started coming back to Ireland once a month until I got offered a job here and moved over full-time.
Coffee can be elitist
Starbucks versus some of the painfully self-consciously cool cafés in Dublin – discuss. “I have no qualms agreeing that were Starbucks had been lacking with the product they have delivered a service that is consistent. They have started buying really high quality coffee. I don’t know how they are going to roast it or where they will sell it.” He goes on to say that the specialty sector of coffee still continues to grow, “through the recession when the commodity prices dropped nearly pushing Columbia into a famine the specialty sector kept rising.”
Roasting coffee in Monaghan
“There are more entrepreneurs in Monaghan per captia of Ireland. A Monaghan man told me that so I could be wrong!” He used to work in his parents shops in Carrickmacross, doling out sweets and ice-cream from the age of twelve. Whilst we are on the topic of Carickmacross Ardal O’Hanlon and Gerry Murphy, the weatherman, hail from there.
“I do remember during my time working in the shop that I wanted to own my own business but I was waiting for a right time, there never is a right time.” Indeed there never is but hindsight highlights that Birdy was right on time for every positive juncture of his life. For example after spending several months backpacking in South America he met his future wife and decided to, ‘make an impulsive decision to get married in Peru which turned out to one of the better decisions I ever made.”
The name of his coffee is Full Circle, it sums up his life to date, “Or as TS Elliot put it, ‘We shall not cease exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Birdy has poured all his resources into roasting his own coffee, he’s down to his last bean as he puts it with an upbeat smile. To cut back on costs he roasts it in his parent’s shed in Monaghan. He continues to ply his trade as a barista in Grove Road Café in Rathmines but after his fifty hour work week he turns his time towards Full Circle. He’s at the very beginning stage, “I’m operational. I’ve put all my money into a roaster, a Probat with a good industrial engine. A friend in Belgium helped me get it. He owns a café called Normoand continues to mentor me with roasting, thank God because it’s so humbling – roasting.”
He sees himself as a caretaker of the coffee as by the time he get’s his Columbia coffee from Augustino Forest it has passed through one thousand small holder farms. “Call me naïve but I don’t believe in competition, it’s good to have standards but I don’t believe in comparing yourself to other people. I believe in creating and doing the best you can. I spent the last few years stressing about how I was going to make this dream happen but when I stopped stressing balls it happened.”
Spoken like a true Zen master-hippie.