Yuliia Komnatska and Alannah Somers at District Coffee Shop.

District - bringing speciality coffee to Athlone

District Speciality Coffee on Sean Costello Street in Athlone is one of the few coffee shops in the Midlands and the West of Ireland serving 3fe coffee on bar.

The local coffee shop opened in the town last May and since then has gone from strength to strength hosting coffee demonstration evenings and barista training courses for secondary school students.

Co-owner Alannah Somers said: “We’re still being discovered. Everyday someone new comes in. People are really getting in tune with speciality coffee. It’s been really well received so far. People don’t want the cheap brand anymore. They know what they like to drink and are going for the higher quality.”

Alannah believes that many people get excited when they see that 3fe coffee has made its way to the Midlands as they may have seen it if they work in Dublin.

Alannah held a barista training course for ten Transition Year students from Our Lady’s Bower on Monday, November 14. A whopping 40 students signed up to undertake the course but Alannah hopes to hold another training course for students in January.

The method for making coffees and espressos at District is extremely specialised with staff weighing out 18 grammes of coffee for every shot and then timing it between 25/30 seconds. “For us coffee is all about the quality. It has to be perfect.”

The coffee shops sells all the main varieties you would expect such as espresso, americano, flat white, cappuccino, latte, ices coffee, mocha and hot chocolate along with Irish oat cookies, chocolate chip cookies, Danish pastries and peanut power balls. They also sell a variety of different coffee beans in whole bean form. Which they can freshly grind for your at home brewing equipment!

According to co-owner Alannah, oat milk is one of the most popular orders along with alternative milks. “People are becoming more environmentally conscious.

District is a wholesale customer of 3fe which has six coffee shops in Dublin. 3fe which stands for 3rd Floor Espresso was founded by Irish barista champion Colin Harmon who set up a coffee shop in a nightclub in 2009 before beginning to open his own stores in 2011. 3fe also has its own training service in Dublin which provides staff with more extensive training.

Alannah has received Latte Art Training, Coffee Processing Training, General Procedural Training on three occasions since February and said that they are “constantly upskilling”.

The co-owner previously worked in District’s Roscommon store on Abbey Street before deciding to move to Athlone when District expanded to Athlone this year.

3fe has a direct link with the farmers unlike with commercial coffee. One specific person flies around the world to source the beans and sends them back in kilo bags to be roasted in Glasnevin. Speaking about the difference between commercial and speciality coffee Alannah explained: “There is more personal hand held care. They hand pick the beans at perfect ripeness.”

According to the Roscommon native, with Commercial coffee it’s mass over quality whereas quality over mass is more valued in speciality coffee!

District decided to open the store in Roscommon as a trial as there was no speciality coffee being sold in the town.

“I was manager of the shop in Roscommon and I’d seen it explode. When I found out Athlone didn’t have 3fe I was astonished. When the opportunity came up, it was the perfect chance for me as a business owner to bring 3fe coffee to Athlone. We have a certain level of exclusivity in Athlone,” said Alannah.

Alannah has been working in the coffee industry since July 2021 and said that she had a lot of experience in pubs and hospitality prior to making the transition to a barista position. “Lockdown proved to me that there was not a lot of security in the industry (pubs). In Roscommon we opened for takeaway coffee during a Level 5 lockdown.

“The pubs I worked in had coffee and once I got the training it became second nature. The biggest transition was waking up at 6am rather than going to bed at 4am working in the pubs sector.”

Staff member Yuliia Komnatska has great customer service skills, Alannah says. “Yuliia has thrown herself into the deep end here.”

Yuliia is from Kharkiv in Ukraine and was only in Ireland for six weeks before starting work in District. She previously managed a four-star hotel in Ukraine.

Speaking about the future, Alannah said they want to continue growing cup by cup. “We’ve done a couple of coffee demonstration evenings just getting people to learn how to make coffee at home.” District Speciality Coffee Athlone is open seven days a week from 8am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.

Opening Hours: Monday - Friday 8am - 4:30pm Saturday 9am - 5pm Sunday 10am - 4pm