[W]ith a name befitting its menu, Clement & Pekoe on Dublin’s bustling South William Street is an elegant shop with a deliberate pursuit: serving quality loose-leaf tea and expertly roasted coffee. There is a purist’s sensibility to the shop’s menu, but you would sooner call Clement & Pekoe sophisticated than stuffy. A serious focus on brewing methods and working with craft companies (including twelve different local bakeries) makes the Clement & Pekoe experience a list-topper for many Dubliners, noteworthy since the city’s specialty coffee pool is much more substantial these days.
“As we hoped and predicted specialty tea and coffee are growing markets in Ireland,” says Clement & Pekoe co-owner Dairine Keogh. “It has really taken shape since we started in 2008. People understand what we are about now rather than that bewildered look we used to get as a start up.”
She is referring to the shop’s time as a modest market stall and wholesaler. Keogh, whose background is in retail, and co-owner Simon Cummins, who worked in hotel management, met while working in a financial institution. Both were yearning to get back to their service-industry roots and were happy to put in the time learning the crafts of coffee and tea from the ground up. They began their barista educations in 2006 and moved the business into the South William Street shop in September of 2011. Last November they opened a second, micro-shop inside Indigo & Cloth, a boutique in Dublin’s Temple Bar district.
“As we hoped and predicted specialty tea and coffee are growing markets in Ireland.”
Dublin hasn’t always been home to good coffee, Keogh points out, which makes the recent influx of specialty beans more evident. Tea is a different story. “Ireland has a close emotional tie to tea and had in the past always been a consumer of quality tea,” says Dairine. “The advent of the teabag, however, affected quality for the sake of convenience, so to correct that and get back to beautiful teas is a harder challenge.”
Clement & Pekoe is happy to take up the task, with an extensive menu that appeals to the city’s tea-loving population and to metropolitan Dubliners with an eye for high-end beverages. (You won’t find syrupy drinks but you will find hand-whisked matcha.) Baristas don’t emphasize one drink type more than the other. Shelves are lined with cast-iron and delicate glass teapots, but you’ll also find rows of AeroPresses and various Hario wares. Coffees are roasted by a changing list of local and regional companies. The house blend comes from East London’s Climpson & Sons. Irish roasters, including Fermoy’s Badger & Dodo, County Wicklow’s Coffee Mojo, and Dublin’s Imbibe Coffee, have all graced the shop’s ground-to-order filter menu. Beans are chosen on a case-by-case basis, as are teas, rotating when the season suits.
The shop’s arched, windowed face is raised slightly above street level, which may be why Clement & Pekoe is known for its people watching. (Benches on either side of the front steps provide the outdoor venue.) It may also be the neighborhood’s charm. Hip South William Street is packed with cafés, shops, and passersby navigating the cheerful, narrow lane.
Clement & Pekoe’s patrons can while away the afternoons perched at stools along the window’s bar or seated at the shop’s communal table, where books and magazines are available to read. Empire chandeliers pour warm light through the space, reflecting off an entire wall of large, black, metal tea canisters. Simple art, a mirrored menu, and a brushed metal Nuova Simonelli round out an atmosphere of refinement.
With seasonal cakes and pastries from a dozen artisan bakers, a reverse osmosis system that filters and remineralizes all the shop’s brewing water, and the owners’ close relationships with tea farmers and importers, Clement & Pekoe is more than a cross-section of a growing market for Irish coffee and tea. Keogh and Cummins set out with the goal of offering their regional best, regardless of how much effort is involved or how many orders must be placed. Attitudes like theirs push coffee and tea culture forward. If that quality-minded approach doesn’t click with everyone in Dublin yet, it soon will.
—Regan Crisp is Fresh Cup’s associate editor.