Friday, 23 September 2016

Ian Steel - J. Atkinson & Co

We caught up with Ian Steel (left) from Lancaster-based J Atkinson & Co who'll be speaking, and setting up a stall, at Edinburgh Coffee Festival, Summerhall on 1 October.

Image J Atkinson Coffee

>>  J Atkinson and Co. started business in 1837 and is part of Britain's rich tea and coffee history, how would you describe your coffee to today's customers?  <<

When Thomas Atkinson set up the Grasshopper Tea Warehouse in 1837 there were six other tea merchants in town, an indication of Lancaster's status as a once bustling West-facing port. As  the last survivor of that era we see our role today as a Talisman Business for the city, in these challenging times on the High St., buoyed up as we are by the seemingly insatiable public thirst for good coffee.

All our coffee is the top Speciality grade, most of it exclusive to us, through various schemes & farms that we work with, what you might call relationship coffee. Most of all we try to choose the most delicious coffees we can find that showcase the best of a particular terroir.

So rather than describe our different coffees with baffling Flavour Wheel descriptors we often try to bring them into familiar frames of reference, like the new Costa Rican Finca La Casa which my shorthand tasting notes refer to as being like Caramac & Hot Vimto!

>>  By watching your Facebook and Twitter it looks like music plays a big role in your lives - what's the connection?  <<

Like many who've come into the Coffee World as Career Epihanists, my wife and I had previous careers in the creative industries, as a TV Producer & a Textile Designer, so using our two cafés as creative hubs just seems a natural way to provide a focus for artistic endeavour. Lancaster is blessed with both a Jazz Festival & a Music Festival & we're more than happy to provide the venues, as well as a year round programme of our own events, ably aided and abetted by our wonderful crew of baristas, most of whom seem to have some kind of creative bent.

>>  You're speaking at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival - what's your topic? <<

Small is not only beautiful but can also have an impact all along what we increasingly refer to as the Value Chain. The Independent Coffee Shop is one of the greatest opportunities to see local specialisation tapping into a global product and being able to make a real difference in influencing policies on a wider stage. It will be sprinkled with lots of coffee stories that illustrate practical ways we can use narrative retailing to enhance our offering.

>>  We're passionate about supporting the smaller independent shops and roasters, what three things would you say to the good people of Edinburgh about why it's important to support the little guys?  <<

Number 1 would have to be Localism. We provide local jobs and invest back into the community, not just in keeping the money circulating locally but also as an informal meeting place for all sorts of activities. I'm always staggered looking around our cafés at the wide demographic we attract.

Number 2 is Diversity. The individual character of the Indy Café adds local colour to the High St. It reflects the character of its constituents. We only exist as long as our customers choose to spend their time and money with us! We may not be able to afford the exorbitant rents of the main shopping drag but we can breathe new life into the areas on the periphery.

Number 3 is Sustainability in all its many forms. You'll find local café owners to be much more dedicated stakeholders and stewards of their local environment than the faceless chains. We also tend to espouse greener initiatives and social issues with genuine enthusiasm, even though the Corporate Social Responsibility of the chains is to be applauded.

>>  Why do you think specialty coffee is a growing market and interest in the UK?  <<

The chains have done wonderful work for us as recruiting sergeants introducing people to coffee and it's only natural that consumers want to move up to the next level of quality and service that they can find in their local indy speciality shop.

>>  What's your favourite bean at the moment and why?  <<

Costa Rican Finca La Casa Red Honey Villa Sarchi because it represents something I've been looking for for a while and I think we've found it and I get to use the tasting notes of Caramac & Hot Vimto!

>>  Any tips for home brewing and generally being a specialty coffee enthusiast?  <<

Invest in a good grinder. Stick to manual brewing. Try to ascertain the roasted-on date of the beans and use them from 2 days to 2 weeks after roast.  Use scales. Enjoy yourselves!

Hear more from Ian at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 1 October at Summerhall, Edinburgh.

Image J Atkinson & Co.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Find the best coffee in Scotland with our App

 Download from the App Store

Download from the Playstore

Our App will help you find the best independent specialty coffee shops in Scotland - quickly and easily, whether you're online or offline.

Your location will show up on our map alongside the best coffee shops - all visited and rated by us. You can choose the coffee shop that suits your style and mood based on the rating, review and photo.

download our app free from the App Store or Playstore and never have a bad coffee again!

Want to be on our app?
We're always looking to add Scottish high quality, independently owned, specialty coffee shops to our app. We review them all ourselves, an no-one pays to be listed. If you fit the bill, we'd love to hear from you, just drop us an email (scotlandcoffeelovers(at) or direct message us on Twitter or Facebook.

Why an app?
We're passionate about Scotland's independent coffee shops and want to support them by driving customers through their doors. With location services, our App makes it easy for you to find your way to the best coffee shops Scotland has to offer.

We've been reviewing indy coffee shops in Edinburgh since 2008 and have recently been inspired to expand to the whole of Scotland. Over coming weeks and months we'll load up more shops and we're working to improve how the App functions.

Our App works offline so visitors who don't have a UK phone can download it while they're on WiFi and still use it when they're offline.

You'll also stay up to date with the best coffee shops as they open across Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow - as your App will be updated regularly.

We'll continue to refine our App as our coffee scene evolves.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Machina Espresso Southside

80 Nicholson St
Open every day
Espresso, batch brew
Coffee: Machina Espresso
Also: Meals, pastries
Coolness: Spaciously zen metal and timber fit out 

Machina Espresso Southside is the sister to their long-established coffee shop in Tollcross - near The Meadows.

Visitors can enjoy their seasonally changing Machina Espresso White Label blend (60% Colombia - 40% El Salvador), as well as their own single origin roasts, as espresso-based and batch brew drinks. The baristas are excellent and the quality of the coffee served is consistently amongst Edinburgh's best.

While this shop is very much focused on the cafe side of their business, Machina have a raft of experience because they also sell wholesale and retail coffee making equipment and provide advice to other coffee shops as well as consumers.

The shop is spacious with high ceilings, loads of light and clean lines of light-coloured timber, thin cubic steel and copper pendant lighting. Seating is a mix of wooden chairs, tables, stools and benches.

Food includes meals, cakes and pastries.


Baba Budan

East Market St
Open every day
Espresso, filter
Coffee: The Coffee Collective & guests
Also: Doughnuts, pastries, bagels
Coolness: Denmark's famous coffee plus a view of monumental Calton Hill

Baba Budan (5♥) is a coffee and doughnut shop (billed as a 'donuterie') that occupies one of the arches under the Old Town's Jeffrey Street near Waverley Station. It's part of The Arches development which has re-purposed the arches that date from around 1875 into a restaurant, retail and bar area.

Owner Craig has shaped this gem of a coffee shop after much research and travelling - honing his thinking.

His house espresso is a blend from Denmark's The Coffee Collective - Colombian, Ethiopian and Brazilian. And he often has equally highly pedigreed guest beans to tempt you.

Baba Budan whip up their doughnuts in the arch next door. They offer 5 or so varieties each day using locally produced flour and cold press rapeseed oil, and they're delightful - chocolate, earl grey, strawberry, blackberry & vanilla, guava, you get the drift. Other food items include pastries, scotch eggs and filled bagels. Australia's T2 teas are also on the menu.

The decor is elegant, primarily using black and white, contrasting with the sand-coloured stonework of the arches. Inside the shop are a couple of long wooden tables and there's also seating outside that means you can sip your coffee and ponder the crazily monumental Calton Hill, filled with buildings and follies that reflect architectural styles of the last 300 years or so.

(In case you didn't already know, Baba Badun was apparently a 16th-century Sufi who is famous for introducing the coffee plant to India by bringing seven raw beans from the port of Mocha, Yemen.)


Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Little Green Van

Cnr Portobello Promenade & Bellfield St EH15 2BR
Open Fri-Sun
Coffee: Artisan Roast
Also: Light meals, cakes
Coolness: Other than the very cute van, panoramic beach views

The Little Green Van (4♥) looks directly on to Portobello beach and is on the promenade, at the foot of Bellfield street.

The friendly owners of the easily recognisable Citroen HY van offer well made Artisan Roast coffee right on the beach front.

Also on offer are tasty hot sandwiches, soups, pastries, icecreams and tea or hot chocolate - all made to an equally high quality.

Portobello beach is lovely spot to visit for a walk along the promenade and is frequented by many a parent and dog owner.

The Little Green Van is part of the experience and offers some of the best coffee in the area.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Edinburgh Coffee Festival - Counting down

We caught up with Martin Dare and Jennifer Coyle to talk about this year's Edinburgh Coffee Festival, taking place at Summerhall on 1 October.

How's this year's festival shaping up?
Things are looking great for our second Edinburgh Coffee Festival. We learned a lot from last year and have built on the things that people liked most. We've got a range of coffee, tea, chocolate and food stall holders involved, bringing different ideas and tastes to the event. We're also holding it at a larger venue, Summerhall, which will give everyone more room and means we can have different activities running in different spaces, including the outdoor courtyard.

You had big attendance numbers last year, what can people expect to see this time?
Peoples' interest and passion about coffee is growing more and more, so we're definitely hoping to attract lots of interest on 1 October. Edinburgh's coffee, chocolate and tea scene is pretty amazing - we're up there with some of the best in the UK - so people can expect high standards. Around 30 coffee stall holders including roasters will line the walls of Summerhall along with tea, chocolate and some artisan food stalls as well.

So can you name some names?
  • We're not ready to name everyone just yet but... from Edinburgh and nearby you'll see coffee roasters Mr Eion, Williams & Johnson, Steampunk Coffee and Luckie Beans as well as Shibui Tea, Pekoe Tea and the Chocolate Tree. 
  • From a little further afield you'll meet UK-based Carvetii Coffee, Atkinson's Coffee and Union Hand-Roasted Coffee. And we're also pleased to welcome Obadiah who roast coffee out of Bulgaria and Johan & Nystrom from Sweden. 
  • But you definitely need to intersperse your coffee sampling with something to eat, so we're really pleased to have Tasty Buns, Pinnies & Poppies, The Ceic Company and The Marshmallow Lady.
  • And of course there are others but we'll reveal more soon.
 What's the number one reason for going to the Edinburgh Coffee Festival?
Apart from a friendly and generally welcoming environment that supports local small businesses, I'd say the biggest draw card is the diversity of flavours all in one place. It doesn't matter how much you know about coffee, you'll be able to talk to passionate producers and try different coffees side-by-side, which makes understanding your own personal preferences easier.

We'll be checking in with Martin and Jennifer again soon to share more news about the next Edinburgh Coffee Festival.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Spitfire Espresso

127 Candleriggs
G1 1NP
Open every day
Coffee: Avenue bespoke blend
Also: Meals, cakes, beans
Coolness: 1950s retro decor and brand

Spitfire Espresso (5♥) is located in Glasgow's busy Merchant City area and sits on the corner of Candleriggs and Ingram Street, with big windows facing both.

Owner Danny is originally from New Zealand but has very much set himself up in Glasgow as 'home', opening up Spitfire in 2015. On offer is local roaster Avenue's coffee - a bespoke blend of Colombian and Brazilian - made with great relish and focus.

The food is of equally high quality and includes wholesome big breakfasts, soups, sandwiches and a wide array of mouth-watering cakes.

Spitfire has a great atmosphere, created in no small part by the super-friendly and high energy host and team. They're very keen for you to have a good time and will check in regularly to make sure you're happy. The other part of what makes Spitfire a great place to visit is the decor. The 1950s war-time nostalgia theme is unique and chirpy. Combine that with a bit of sunshine through those big windows and you won't want to leave.

There's plenty of seating with tables and chairs inside and out, and bench seating along both big windows that face the street.

You can also pick up a Spitfire cap (we do love a bit of coffee merch) and Frank Lloyd cups.

Spitfire Espresso definitely offers some of the best coffee Glasgow has to offer.

More: Spitfire facebook