Belfast businessman AP Beattie loves a good cup of quality coffee. It’s a passion he shares with many thousands here. But AP’s choice of coffee is deliciously different and is akin to a glass of traditional Irish stout! His passion is nitro coffee, a relatively new variety that features a pitch black body with a rich creamy head.
And this passion has led AP (Aaron Philip) to set up Nitro Coffee in Comber and to share it with lovers of the beverage. It’s the latest addition to the bewildering menu of coffees now available here. Once coffee was simple choice between black and white. Now there’s Americano, latte, cappuccino, flat white, flat black, and a host of different flavoured drinks.
AP chooses nitro coffee because “it’s much more refreshing and has a richer flavour”. It’s served cold straight from the tap, just like a cold beer, and it offers that frothy and bubbly, adult-beverage feeling with the bubbly carbonation and beer-like head from the nitrogen.
What is nitro coffee? “It’s cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen and kegged for sale on draught in coffee shops,” he explains. This process gives it a thicker, creamier texture and chocolatey taste. The drink also has a cascading effect which is all down to the fact that nitrogen doesn’t dissolve well in water. It’s like pouring stout,” he adds.
An accountant by profession, AP first tasted nitro coffee on holiday to Vancouver, the Canadian west coast city that’s close to Seattle, the recognised world capital of coffee roasting and coffee retailing.
AP continues: “The first time I tasted nitro coffee was in 2017 during a trip to Canada with Lucia, my wife. We found the drink tremendously refreshing and loved Vancouver’s famed coffee houses established by European immigrants who settled there after the Second World War. The city boasts a host of premium coffee roasters. While cold brew coffee has been around a while, the nitrogen infusion gives it a thicker and smoother taste which sets it apart from regular coffee,” he adds.
Nitro Coffee, the small business AP established earlier in the year, is the result of his failure to find coffee shops here offering the taste and quality of nitro they loved in Canada. Cold brews are now appearing in international chains.
“I decided to look for the best quality of coffee available in Northern Ireland and approached a number of coffee roasters such as Pure Roast Coffee in Lisburn, which has won a host of UK Great Taste Awards, and Belfast Coffee Roasters specialising in small batch production. I knew from Vancouver that the very based coffee is essential for great tasting nitro and I think that this is what sets my coffee apart in what is becoming a fiercely competitive marketplace,” he continues. He is confident the outstanding taste of his coffee enables him to compete against the chains.
He admits that cold brewing his own coffee was “a steep learning curve for a novice”. “It involved experimentation and sampling by friends and my colleagues in the accountancy practice. I also carried out market research in local coffee houses around Belfast,” adds AP.
A number of coffee houses have already signed for his nitro coffee from the kegs he supplies from his Comber home.
Nitro coffee, he continues, also offers a number of positive advantages. “Ingredients used to enhance the texture or taste of regular coffee – such as milk or cream – are not necessary in nitro coffee. It may help, therefore, to reduce sugar consumption, because nitrogen adds a hint of sweetness, rendering additional sugar unnecessary. Adding sugar, as many people are now aware, increases the calorie count of coffee and possibly leads to weight gain. Nitro coffee is also less acidic than regular coffee.”
Studies show that diets high in sugar have been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, he adds.
A developing market trend towards non-alcoholic beverages that look like conventional beers and spirits could assist the growth of AP’s novel product. “We’ve seen non-alcoholic gins that can be served in garnished cocktails for people who feel uncomfortable at social events drinking sparkling water or sugary juices.
“Nitro coffee looks like a glass of stout but is still cold coffee and, of course, non alcoholic,” he adds.
AP’s coffee has already been listed by a number of coffee houses in Belfast and beyond. While he has a strong business background in accountancy he having to develop marketing expertise to drive brand awareness and, of course, sales.
He’s joined leading promotion body Food NI for “the advice and support it provides and access to the biggest food and drink network here”. He also plans to create awareness by taking his nitro coffee to the public by means of a specially kitted out trailer for markets and other shows across Northern Ireland.