It’s hard to imagine a world in which Colin Harmon—world-renown barista and owner/founder of 3FE (Third Floor Espresso) in Dublin, Ireland—and Drew Moody—guy who is famous among three or four people for drinking coffee and writing about it—would be featured in a magazine for baristas called Barista Magazine together. But, guess what—that happened.
It’s even harder to imagine a world in which both Colin Harmon and Drew Moody would be in the same city, in the same cafe, on the same day, at the same time, reading that very publication…
Well, that didn’t happen. However, I did visit 3FE last year, and I did have a sort-of existential crisis or out of body experience when that particular issue of Barista Magazine was open on a table to the page that had my ugly mug on it. It was as if all of the stars in all of the universe aligned that day and a miracle happened.
That’s what I like to think happened anyway.
In a country that is world-renowned for its amazing beers and fine whiskeys, coffee takes the back seat (which is dangerous, really—if anything, coffee should be the designated driver). However, in Dublin’s fair city, there is a small handful of coffee shops that are trying to change all that—and Colin Harmon’s 3FE is leading the way.
Harmon is a former investment banker turned barista who traded a career in high finance in exchange for a life in high quality specialty coffee. While picking up some experience at another Dublin shop, Coffee Angel, Harmon won the Irish Barista Championships; while training for the subsequent World Barista Championship, Harmon set up a training area in the spare bedroom of his third floor flat. After a few years of consulting and training and moving his tiny operation from his apartment to the building’s lobby, Harmon was finally able to open 3FE as a stand-alone cafe on Lower Grand Canal Street in September 2011.
Two years later, Colin Harmon was on the cover of Barista Magazine and Drew Moody was sitting at a table in the corner of 3FE—he has certainly come a long way.
I was surprised, though, that 3FE—a shop that’s gained so much acclaim worldwide—is incredibly unassuming. The only signage on the building is their small logo anchored to a pillar; the interior is whitewashed, blank, industrial, minimalist—this just wasn’t the shop I was expecting to find. Though it does speak to that Irish ethic—no frills, no thrills, no muss, no fuss; just feckin’ good coffee.
The coffee, though, really lived up to my high expectations. I’m sure the fact that I was served HasBean—one of the world’s finest roasters—had something to do with it, but it was expertly crafted too.
One of Harmon’s remaining goals is to start roasting his own coffee for the shop, which would be incredible—not just for him and his staff, but also for Dublin. Who knows—maybe, someday, when tourists flock to Dublin from all over the world to visit the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate and the Jameson distillery, they’ll also have 3FE on their itinerary.