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Imbibe Coffee Roasters Instagram
Culture Magazine

"I know we're actually doing all the things we talk about”: Gary Grant of Imbibe Coffee interviewed

Coffee with a conscience: The Dublin-based coffee roastery with a community focus

DEEP IN THE neighbourhood of Dublin 8, Imbibe Coffee Roasters has become an integral part of Ireland’s thriving coffee culture.

Not only does the roastery, founded by Gary Grant in 2018, produce a range of delicious beans but Imbibe has been a leading example in the business model of, as described on their website, “conscious capitalism” in which they’re motivated to give back to surrounding communities and independent organisations.

In the short space of time since opening, Ireland’s coffee industry has grown significantly. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to speciality coffee shops around the country that not only provide delicious coffee to enjoy on our morning commute or lunchtime pick-me-up, they offer an overall experience when we step into their respective spaces. As well as there being one of these spots on what feels like every street corner, the number of independent Irish roasteries located across the country is also on the rise.  

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Gary Grant, owner of Imbibe Coffee Roasters tells The Journal about the early risks Imbibe took and how Ireland’s coffee landscape has evolved since they began operating the roastery in 2018.

“When we started, we wanted to introduce coffees at a level that hadn’t been available in Ireland before. At that time, this was a risk and many told us these coffees simply wouldn’t sell. We’re both pleased and relieved to see they did so it’s something we’ve continued to do consistently.”

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Grant continues, “There’s also an ever-growing number of consumers of “speciality coffee”, and there are a lot more people brewing good coffee at home. I suppose it’s become a little like wine, really. It feels like there’s been a huge demographic shift that shows many shunning commodity coffees that was all we had prior to speciality arriving in Ireland as people are definitely seeking out more interesting options. The consumer has definitely become more educated.”  

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As well as the customer taking more of an interest in coffee, and learning about the different types available and methods to brew at home, it would also appear that consumers are becoming more conscious of the businesses they choose to support. In this regard, Imbibe has built a strong customer base – both with their wholesale and individual clientele – not only because they offer an extremely high-quality product, but they have upheld strong values in their business model. 

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Amongst some of Imbibe’s inspiring initiatives that have improved the quality of living for communities at home and abroad include the funding required for the construction of a footbridge in Colombia in 2019. Using money raised through the sales of their El Puente blend, the installation of this bridge has helped countless children safely cross a river to get to school.  These children are part of the wider Planadas community, which is where one of the co-ops that Imbibe source their coffee from is located.

In Ireland, Imbibe gives 1% of coffee sales to Women’s Aid and created a special roast to raise funds for their local League of Ireland team, St Patrick’s Atheltic’s Saints In the Community programme. Elsewhere, Imbibe began donating bags of coffee to James’s Hospital on a weekly basis throughout the pandemic. This remarkable gesture of goodwill towards the staff of these hospitals was extended to Crumlin Children’s Hospital and The Coombe Hospital, a short walk from Imbibe’s roastery in Dublin 8. 

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Explaining the importance of contributing to and supporting these communities, Grant says, “I wanted to run a business that was very different from the norm. I went through a pretty bad time during the last recession prior to the existence of Imbibe and it changed my outlook on life. When we started roasting we decided to give 1% of our sales (not just profits), to Women’s Aid. In year two we expanded this to give 1% to projects at coffee origins and 1% to staff. The business would be nothing without the staff or the people who grow our coffee so it seemed fair to “spread the wealth”, so to speak. The people I work with are the experts. They have amazing knowledge that far exceeds mine and Imbibe would be nothing without them. As we’ve grown they’ve consistently received pay rises and will continue to do so. If they wish to enhance their skills by going on a course, they can.” 

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This humane approach to business is one that Grant hopes will inspire other entrepreneurs of all levels. “I’d love to see larger businesses adopt a similar model to ours. It works. I like to think our staff are happy in their jobs. Building a good team who feel valued helps build a better business,” he notes. 

It’s encouraging to see how a small, independent business such as Imbibe has helped improve so many lives through the work they do. In the space of 5 years, this small operation with a modest team of staff working in the inner-city suburb of Dolphin’s Barn has made a significant impact through the initiatives implemented from its inception. Seeing the fruits of this hard work continues to motivate Grant and his team. 

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“In a world that often feels like it’s based on optics, I know we’re actually doing all the things we talk about,” he says. “I know we’re authentic. We are buying some of the best coffee in the world and we are doing small things that benefit people at home and abroad. This year, we’re going to fund a third bridge at the Co-op we buy from in Colombia and we’ll continue to donate over €30,000 worth of coffee between three local hospitals. We’re doing this as a small business with a staff of 5 full-timers and I’m genuinely proud of that.”

Outside of forging important connections with the wider communities in the various countries where Imbibe source their coffee and those closer to home with whom they’ve built meaningful relationships with, Grant has also cultivated space on social media to connect with like-minded individuals and potential customers.

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Every weekend, Grant brings together coffee lovers and music fans by sharing his chosen Imbibe roast for that day and the musical artist that will soundtrack his brew. Amongst his latest musical discoveries, Grant has been enjoying the abundance of excellent Irish artists and bands to have emerged in recent years. “I’ve 10-year-old twins and when they were born I stopped listening to new music as I didn’t have time. In the last two years, I’ve gotten back into it and have found the Irish music scene to be healthier than ever so I’ll just list some of those. I frequently find myself playing records from the likes of Pretty Happy, Junk Drawer, Pillow Queens, Silverbacks, Clara Tracey, Aoife Nessa Frances, Majia Sofia, Gilla Band, Elaine Howley and too many more to mention!”

Again, these little actions like spreading the word of independent Irish artists online can make a difference to those trying to make a career in an industry as challenging as music. And it all starts with a simple cup of coffee.

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