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Kerry Patten at the coffee roaster. F. Macerlean
From Ireland to Spain - via the rest of the world
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From Ireland to Spain - via the rest of the world

Kerry and Wesley Patten now run a coffee roasting business on the eastern strip of the Costa del Sol, where they moved after lockdown with their two children

Fergal Macerlean

Nerja

Sunday, 21 April 2024, 07:30

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‘There and then I knew I was in love with Nerja,” says coffee aficionado Kerry Patten, 39, who settled in the eastern Costa del Sol town with her husband, Wesley, and their two young children after years roving the world and a final spell in Spain.

Wesley, 43, and Kerry both hail from County Mayo in western Ireland and went to secondary school in the hamlet of Achill Sound. At the time the friendly vegan pair were not an item but they got together a couple of years later on New Year’s Eve 2002. By 2003, Wesley, having graduated in Financial Maths, and Economics, was working in Dublin on construction projects which later included a stint at the prestigious Powerscourt Hotel in County Wicklow, a favourite of Chris de Burgh and popular for its acclaimed golf course designed by David McLay Kidd.

Before their first child Caleb, 12, was born, the Pattens travelled extensively from their Dublin home. Mount Cook in New Zealand was where they got engaged, and they also spent time in Australia, Southeast Asia, and Fiji, as well as Cancún, Mexico, and many other countries. For a year and a half the couple, who married on the summer solstice in 2008, lived apart while Kerry went to live in Akron, Ohio, where her American mother was at the time; Wesley stayed, working, in Dublin. Achill, where Wesley is from, is twinned with Cleveland, Ohio, as many Irish expats have put down roots there.

Kerry, from Teirnaur, says: “We did long distance for a year and a half. We were still together. And it was hard at that time. It was, like, phonecards.”

“And internet cafes,” Wesley interjects from their rented villa overlooking Nerja and the sea. The couple say they feel a great affinity with the locals and find them just the same as the Irish.

Kerry says: “We’ve been out of Ireland this September nine years. In 2015, because we’d had the kids [their daughter, Ariya is nine] we went to San Francisco because there were more opportunities and my mum was living there. I got a job hairdressing and Wesley was a maths teacher.

“At the time we didn’t have a lot of money so, I started my own business, doing hair, and as money began to come in, Wesley would buy me speciality coffees, as a treat.”

Wesley says: “It was more for her. I didn’t like coffee at the time.”

But Kerry has liked coffee her whole life, mainly due to her mother’s nationality. “Growing up in the west of Ireland we were always considered to have the best coffee in the village. It was instant. But it was always considered that we had the ‘fancy instant’,” Kerry says, laughing.

“I wouldn’t consider it good anymore,” she adds.

“And when I lived in Australia I learnt how to make barista coffee. Coffee’s always been in my life and when we lived at home I was considered to have the best coffee in the village,” Kerry says.

Kerry believes we are now in the third “wave” of coffee, with the first being instant during wartime, the second Starbucks, and now: speciality coffee.

“Even in the last year and a half since we’ve had our business here the speciality scene is exploding,” Kerry says.

Wesley says after the Covid lockdown the couple reassessed what they wanted from life and how they wanted to spend more time with their children and because “we had learnt some Spanish, we wanted to move here”.

People warned the couple about the lack of jobs but coming from the west of Ireland, they were no stranger to this. First came three months backpacking in Spain with their children. The Pattens spent a week on the Camino de Santiago, partly to be inspired for a big business idea. But this didn’t happen as expected.

Feeling a little underwhelmed in Salamanca, a month after arriving in Spain, Wesley went out and got coffee for the pair.

Wesley Patten grinding home-roasted coffee.
Wesley Patten grinding home-roasted coffee. F. Macerlean

“And I drank the coffee and thought ‘I have not had a decent cup of coffee since we’ve been here’.

“That’s what I want to do!” Kerry says, recalling the Eureka moment that sparked Nerja Coffee Roasters - a small batch artisanal coffee roasting business.

Now you can find Nerja Coffee Roasters at farmers’ markets along the Costa. Kerry and Wesley attend the Nerja market which takes place on the first two Saturdays of the month. And they belong to the Sabor a Málaga brand.

Nerja Coffee Roasters are working to become an accredited organic speciality provider. Currently they have a wide range of organic and fairtrade coffees at the markets, for home delivery, and they can be purchased online at www.nerjacoffeeroasters.com

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