Out of my comfort zone

Not one to let the grass grow among my feet, I decided to do something about my new-found interest in coffee. I enrolled in the Qualified Barista Award course at the Dublin Barista School. Last weekend in a fun and in a practical environment I learnt about coffee. From botany to brewing, espresso, milk, machine maintenance and latte art. I’ve discovered that my taste buds are now expanding, and a small americano may be my new companion. 

latte art by LoveVelo

In a previous life I worked in a coffee shop on Rose Street in Edinburgh, it was my first job in the city when I arrived in ’97. Making coffee, sandwiches, bacon butties and scones flavoured with banana, cheese or fruit is what I did from 7am – 2pm each day. I did a bit of study at night and then partied on the weekend and that is what life was all about back then. I never drank coffee, brought up in a house of tea (Lyons) drinkers it wasn’t something I ever thought about trying, l liked the smell of it, would eat a coffee slice, but drink it, god no, I was happy drinking tea. 

Fast forward to last year and it’s one of the things I notice on a leisure spin, the coffee stop. My second club spin to Russborough House, Co Wicklow, was on a dull day. That hazy rain was in the air and everywhere looked asleep and the sky was grey. Dying for a cup of tea I noticed I was the only one drinking it. Everyone else was drinking americano, cappuccino or flat white. New to the club, I cradled my warm cup of tea for comfort as I felt anxious sitting outside my comfort zone.

A year later from my first group spin and I’m in Sierra Nevada, Spain on my first group cycling holiday. One of the girls from the club Sinead Kennedy, Physical Therapy, Pilates and Yoga runs a cycling and yoga winter training camp every March with Cycle Sierra Nevada and she suggested I give it ago. A little apprehensive, I go and it becomes one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Climbing the Sierra Nevada mountains for a week you are awarded with stunning vistas. 

Cycling in Sierra Nevada, Spain

During this trip, even though it was only a week, I forgot about work and for the first time I am cycling back to back. The climbs are long and the descents are technical but super. The exhilaration I feel when on descent, it's almost addictive. The odd morning, I woke up tired but once I got going on the bike I was grand, a sense of solitude, gratefulness and reflection just hits you. After my week of cycling in the sun I took it gentle for a few days and then hit the hills of Wicklow. I was so surprised to feel and see the difference in what a week of hill climbing can do to the body and the mindset. That said, I was cycling my new Ridley, my first carbon and I had also kept the cycling up throughout the winter months. So, I guess, it all paid off and the results are evident on my Strava.
It was in the picturesque village, Vélez de Benaudalla situated at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains where I fell in love instantly with my first café con leche which was served in a small cup. Sadly, I haven’t had a café con leche since, I will have to return to this authentic Spanish village. Now, for me I feel lattes are too milky, cappuccinos are too foamy, however the flat white, a small distant cousin of the latte is currently ticking the boxes, but only when it is served in a small cup. Fussy much?!

Drinking tea in the conservatory, Laragh 
For me one of the best parts of cycling is the coffee stop. Take a typical spin to Laragh in Wicklow, there’s two choices, the coffee shop at the triangle where you are served coffee in a paper cup sitting outside or the conservatory next door; welcoming, comfortable, pretty and the smell of homemade scones lingering throughout the air. Coffee is served in a coffee pot and warm milk if requested, is never a problem. 

You could say, I’ve started to take this coffee business seriously. In fact, when planning a long spin, it’s the second thing to consider, the first being hills. Another great spot is Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, a bit of choice and the perfect setting on a bright day. A short spin, or as I like to call them my joie de vivre spins, the Glencree visitors centre is ideal and they love cyclists. Whether you’re a coffee, tea or herbal tea drinker, one thing is for sure, cycling brings people together especially over a cuppa. So, when you are out on your bike be sure to say hi!