When my family first moved to Ireland in 1961, Mullingar (where we moved to) did not boast too many cafés or coffee shops. I was really too young at the time to take much notice of this, but as far as I can recall there was only one coffee shop, called Shaw Murrays (although the Greville Arms Hotel did also serve coffee, on special request). Shaw Murrays had coffee, but it was instant coffee made with hot milk, a particular way of preparing it I never warmed to.
Dublin had Bewleys Oriental Cafés, and you could get a good cup of coffee in the Hibernian Hotel, or the Shelbourne, or (best of all) the Hotel Russell. But in truth it was not just that there were very few places where you could get a cup of coffee, there were even fewer where that cup of coffee came in the kind of social setting that might have marked out, say, one of the Vienna coffee houses.
Even when I worked in Dublin in the 1980s, there was really still only Bewleys, and perhaps the Kylemore Cafés. And while Bewleys was a really important institution, and almost every Dubliner will remember the smell of freshly roasted coffee if you passed by it, it could not possibly satisfy the entire cultural needs of a major city.
Now Dublin is a city where you can find a coffee shop around every corner. Bewleys is still there on Grafton Street, though not quite the same as in the old days; but in addition there are several international varieties, such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee, and a whole host of local coffee shops, such as West Coast Coffee and Insomnia. Dublin has finally embraced the global coffee culture, and while there are many things I would like to see changed in Dublin, I love it that I have so many coffee choices now. It makes this city a civilised place.
For all that, I miss Bewleys as it was: a place where you could find a good cup of coffee, sticky buns and several varieties of local eccentrics. Not every café in Dublin needs to be of the Italian variety, defined by cappuccino and latte.