Cork Café Series: The secret to our quality coffee is...’

In a new series, RICHARD GORDON meets the entrepreneurs fuelling Cork people’s love of caffeine. Today we feature Badger & Dodo, who are marking 14 years in the business
Cork Café Series: The secret to our quality coffee is...’

Owner and Founder of Badger and Dodo, Brock Lewin outside Badger on the Mall. Picture: Richard Gordon

BADGER & Dodo are an ever- expanding Cork-based coffee enterprise. They have been roasting and providing quality coffee to the county and beyond for 14 years.

They have primarily been wholesalers through this period, however, they have recently opened outlets in the city to further exhibit their operation and to showcase their product to the thirsty caffeine consumers of Cork City.

Their cafés are awash with Antipodean twang, as Brock Lewin, the Aussie owner, first plied his trade in Melbourne in the mid-2000s – the city being one of the world’s speciality coffee epicentres, inspiring third wave coffee all over the world.

 Badger and Dodo on the South Mall.
 Badger and Dodo on the South Mall.

I caught up with Jacob Thornhill, General Manager of Badger & Dodo, for some insight into their highly caffeinated operation.

Love the name! Can you explain its meaning?

Brock (the owner) is the ‘Badger’ in Badger & Dodo – Broc being Irish for Badger. He relocated with his wife to Fermoy and established Badger & Dodo on his in-laws’ farm in 2008.

Dodo is the father-in-law’s childhood nickname. Dodo is a bit of legend himself. We would not be where we are without him. 

He is a cross between a retired chicken farmer, a Teagasc scientist, and inventor come MacGyver!

 Brock and Manager Aaron behind the La Marzocoo espresso machine in Badger and Dodo Picture: Richard Gordon
 Brock and Manager Aaron behind the La Marzocoo espresso machine in Badger and Dodo Picture: Richard Gordon

Where did the inspiration for the design of the cafés come from?

The goal for our roastery outlets was to create a space where it’s all about our coffee. The majority of spend went into having the latest and greatest kit on bar, not only to ensure our coffee is represented well, but also to give our wholesale customers a chance to come and interact with machinery they see online for themselves.

Can you pinpoint when/where/how you fell in love with coffee?

For Brock, the owner/director, it was in 1993 whilst at uni’ in Sydney, but he really came to terms with speciality coffee whilst living in Melbourne from 2005-08.

For myself (Jacob), it was in 2000 when I first started pulling shots for a Starbucks in NYC. I then moved towards the speciality coffee scene and never looked back.

Iced Americano at Badger and Dodo on South Mall. Picture: Richard Gordon
Iced Americano at Badger and Dodo on South Mall. Picture: Richard Gordon

What are the most important factors for serving quality coffee?

Beans. Machines. Baristas.

It all starts with the quality green (unroasted) coffee. Coffee is graded on a system called Q Grading which grades them out of 100 points. Speciality coffee is anything at 80 or higher, and we only buy coffees graded at 85+.

Then they must be roasted uniquely for each coffee to highlight the expressiveness of each farm.

All this farm and production work can be on point, but if your machinery is not up to standard, the coffee quality will suffer.

And you could roast to perfection and use beautiful machinery, but if your baristas don’t know what they’re doing, you will still be left with a sub-par product.

What espresso machine do you use?

We have a La Marzocco KB90 ABR in both our locations. This is the top of the line, most cutting-edge machine on the market.

Badger and Dodo cafe. Picture: Richard Gordon
Badger and Dodo cafe. Picture: Richard Gordon

How do you choose your espresso blend and how often do you change it?

We normally serve our main-stay Brazilian from Recreio Farm. This farm is famous in the speciality coffee industry and we have developed an amazing relationship with them. We normally have a second grinder in each roastery outlet that will have more exciting and adventurous single origin options for the customer to try.

Can you explain why there are so many ways to filter coffee? And do they all taste the same?

The search for the perfect cup has led to some amazing innovations. 

Every filtering style has its pros and cons, and tends to highlight a different aspect of coffee that we enjoy.

For example, I may be craving a coffee with a lot of body so I may reach for my French press. Or in contrast I may be longing for a clean cup of washed Ethiopian coffee, I would then reach for my Chemex or V60.

What are your three bestselling drinks?

1. Latte 2. Flat White 3. Cappuccino.

What is the favoured drink amongst your team of baristas?

1. Espresso 2. Cortado 3. Flat White.

What’s an ideal barista to you?

One who shows up every day ready to work, who is passionate about coffee, obsessed with the customer experience, energised by pushing coffee to the next level, and fun!

We are lucky to have such a killer team and are always looking for the next coffee nerd to join our squad of professionals.

What’s your ideal morning café anthem to get the blood flowing and the punters happy?

Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place.

How would you describe the spirit of your café?

Fun, passionate, but professional.

One final word to your customers and the people of Cork city…

Thanks for making our brand a household name over the past 14 years, and for embracing our roastery outlets the past three years. 

It’s been a blast and we can’t wait to see what the next 14 years has in store for us.

We’re a community, and we couldn’t have gotten this far without you!

Badger & Dodo Roastery Outlets can be found on Barrack Street, and South Mall, Cork city.

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