In September 2015, Indigo Coffee and Gelato, complete with a slick, clean interior and a mélange of weird and wonderful Gelato varieties, popped up in the Belfast’s university area to become the latest addition to the city’s fast-evolving coffee scene. We caught up with owner Ryan Richards to get a better understanding of how Indigo came to be.
Where did your journey into coffee begin?
Like a lot of people in Belfast, a trip to Established a couple of months after they opened was my first specialty coffee experience. Before that I have to admit that I was quite partial to an Iced Caramel Macchiato.
Whilst at university, I started working in a small ice cream café where they had an old Conti espresso machine which barely got used. I'd seen some latte art videos on YouTube and I caught the coffee bug.
I owe that shop a lot of milk.
Tell us about how Indigo came to be.
I had initially opened Indigo with my friend Michael. I'd just finished University in 2015, and we started talking about opening a coffee shop. We planned everything out on paper in a month, but there is only so much planning you can do.
It got to the point where we just had to take the risk and go for it. We found a quirky little shop space in the student area of Belfast. We did all the construction and plumbing between family and friends in the space of couple of months and opened on 22nd September 2015.
Why ice cream?
We knew we needed something different that was going to make us stand out. Gelato was also something we could really experiment with, just as much as coffee. The day we opened we didn't have a gelato recipe, and now – one year on – we've made some pretty weird and wonderful flavours: sweet potato & marshmallow, spinach choc-chip and smokey bacon, to name a few.
How do you feel the Northern Irish coffee scene is changing and where do you sit in that?
Northern Ireland has really caught on to speciality coffee very quickly. The growth in interest and demand even in the year we've been open has been amazing. There’s been spurt of new shops, all of them bringing a unique coffee experience. It's been fun chatting with customers and visiting the other coffee shops in the area on days off. There is quite a community of coffee lovers being cultivated in this little corner of Ireland.
The best part is people here aren’t afraid to be bold and try new things. From the introduction of specialty coffee to Northern Ireland, to local roasters advancing, to coffee paired with gelato, we are very much spoilt for choice here. In turn, people respect that boldness which breeds a loyal base of customers, especially at Indigo.
How has Indigo's approach to coffee adapted over time?
The move from renting our coffee equipment and purchasing our own has given us freedom to experiment with different roasters. We have always found great consistency and interesting, well-rounded flavour profiles coming from Workshop. The day we started using Hunkute Espresso, we saw our customers get very excited about the change in flavour. That’s what we want to be able to offer our customers – an opportunity to move past their typical commuter coffee and to try something unique and exciting with every visit. Workshop’s always been able to provide that for us, whilst at the same time being accessible to those just beginning to fall in love with coffee.
What's next for Indigo?
This year we want to embrace and enjoy what we have managed to create in the past year and a bit, keep building on the Indigo vision, allowing that to grow with us. A strategy day away to London and a visit to a few Workshop locations are also no doubt on the cards.
Weekdays: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Weekend: 10:00am – 6:00pm