Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Thomson's Coffee Roasters - The Arches

Argyle Street Arches
253 Argyle St
Glasgow G2 8DL
Open every day
Espresso, batch brew, nitro
Coffee: Thomson's
Also: Meals, cakes, alcohol
Coolness: Roastery, café, bakery and training centre - in a great historic setting

Thomson's Coffee Roasters is proud of its heritage. So much so, that 'Est 1841' is part of their logo and their history still plays out in their 'legacy' coffee roasts, alongside their more modern range.

Critical to Thomson's survival for nearly 180 years is their focus on their customers and their willingness and capability to change as their customers' tastes and desires change. That's wholesale customers to whom they supply large quantities of beans, and retail customers of all sorts who want coffee for home, from 18 to 80+ years old.

Installing themselves in a major way within the redeveloping Argyle Street Arches (5♥) is another move by Thomson's to not just stay with modern coffee drinkers' needs and wants, but to provide more than most realise they want yet.

It's a roastery, cafe that seats around 60 people, stone-baked pizzeria and training centre for wholesale and consumer coffee lovers, and all set within one of the Argyle Street Arches right by Glasgow Central Station. An arch that is cavernous, beautiful, evocative of Glasgow's industrial leadership, stylish and welcoming.

Further proof of intentionally balancing heritage, community and innovation, The Arches also hosts Platform - a weekly street food market open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. A wide range of independent vendors set up each weekend and sell tasty portions, from Japanese octopus to vegan sausages, to shrimp burgers and creme brulee - alongside craft beers and other drinks.

A few things help us like Thomson's approach to coffee.

One is that they love dogs, which may be irrelevant to some readers, but the other is their inclusive approach. Having chatted with Managing Director Russell Jenkins at last year's Edinburgh Coffee Festival, I like that they continue to flame-roast darker coffees for some of their established customers because those customers are valued.While Thomson's is also experimenting with newer coffees (their 'lab') and providing single origin coffees with lighter roasting styles, replacing the flame thrower with a Loring Smart Roaster for their 'new standard' range, designed for specialty coffee palettes.

Roasters who were established in the 1800s face a bit of an identity challenge if they seek to reinvent themselves for today's specialty coffee lovers. Thomson's is doing a grand job of it.


Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Wildcat

21 High St
Fort William
PH33 6DH
Open every day
Espresso, V60, Aeropress
Coffee: Dear Green and guests
Also: Meals, cakes
Coolness: Best specialty coffee in the region plus an animal-friendly menu

The Wildcat brings specialty coffee to Fort William's high street - and is a rare treat in the area, not just for their coffee!

Coffee lovers can expect Glasgow's Dear Green as Wildcat's regular offering, supplemented by single origin guests, across espresso, V60 and Aeropress. So far North Berwick's Steampunk and Bristol's Clifton roasters have featured. The owners haven't stinted on their equipment, and are putting their La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and Mythos One and Mahlkonig grinders to much appreciated use.

And while specialty coffee is absolutely front and centre at The Wildcat, they also offer specialty tea from Pekoe, a range of tasty cold drinks, turmeric lattes and have a really big focus on healthy, wholesome, creative food that's ethical and animal-free.

Meals, cakes and breads are made on premises or use local community suppliers. To give you a sense of the quality, options include Moroccan chickpea and kale soup, seitan stuffing sandwiches, Pad Thai, homemade beans n vegan cheese toasties and pulled jackfruit burgers. Vegan cakes include chocolate brownies, walnut cake and lemon cake among others.

Locals and visitors are loving The Wildcat!

(We haven't rated this one yet but certainly want encourage visitors and locals to get in there and drink up some of the region's best specialty coffee!)


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Humanitarian coffee lovers – what can we do? Buy gender inclusive coffee!

Photo: Twin
I think the vast majority of people I interact with through specialty coffee are, in their hearts, humanitarians.

That is, they’re concerned about the welfare of human beings across our planet and take active steps in their own lives to make a positive difference.

These active steps are generally: who they choose to give their money to, doing or not doing things that hopefully support a positive outcome, and giving to charitable initiatives either financially or through volunteering.

We can’t change everything that’s bad, but we want to do good things that make a difference – even if they’re small, they all add up. Right?

Photo: Guardian
Now skip to some months ago when I read an article about an 18 year old female school student in El Salvador who had been raped repeatedly by a gang member, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison because she had a still birth.

Stay with me here…

…Abortion is illegal in all circumstances in El Salvador – if the mother’s life is at risk, if the woman has been raped, if the baby is not viable when born – and conclusive evidence is not required to sentence women, and female children, to 30-year gaol terms if they can be accused of abortion. Rapists are not generally pursued in these cases. And El Salvador is second behind Syria in the list of most deadly countries to be a woman.

Now what?

Boycott drinking coffee from El Salvador? Is that something I can do? A pretty pathetic effort on my part to say the least. And it’s certainly not going to help vulnerable women in El Salvador!

This prompted me to research what’s going on from a human rights point of view in other coffee producing countries. Countries I don’t know much about except that they’re printed on my designer bags of expensive coffee beans, lovingly referenced with tasting notes, back stories and brewing advice by new wave roasters from Berlin, to Copenhagen, Bath to London to many of our specialty roasters in Scotland.

I also talked to Lisa Lawson at Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee (for another story you’ll see soon) and heard about her visits to coffee growing countries. The poverty of some. The authoritarian regimes of some. The desperation to get a job in many. The startlingly small amount of money that many coffee producers make – especially compared to the pounds we pay for our chemexes, flat whites and cappuccinos in the UK. The powerlessness of so many women and children over their own bodies and lives. The reason the Glasgow Coffee Festival gives part of its profit to Girls Gotta Run – a charity that invests in girls in rural communities through running and education to empower themselves by being part of a positive female social network. This gives them a platform to meet outside their domestic environment and boosts self-esteem through personal sporting achievements. I’m ready to sign up to donating already!

Glasgow Coffee Festival donates part of its profit to
charity Girls Gotta Run - Photo: GIrls Gotta Run
So here we are, nearing International Women’s Day in 2018. While we’re working out our Kalita brew ratios and whether anyone can really justify the air miles on avocados - the rights, roles and health care of women in most coffee growing nations is devastatingly poor compared to their country-men. (I found Human Rights Watch while researching and can recommend it for a very sobering reality check about what's happening right now around the world - scroll to the bottom to choose a country).

Add to that the articles I’ve read over preceding decades about how setting women up with better conditions leads to a better world for their children, men folk, families and sustainable communities, such as this example.

The key to turning our emotional response to all this into something that can make a positive difference is knowledge. Here are some key points that help to outline why things are the way they are, and builds the case for why we should go out of our way to consider the role of women in specialty coffee.

In coffee growing countries, women generally make a greater contribution than men to the actual quality of our cups of specialty coffee due to the role they play (men are more involved in other ways). Some points from this Specialty Coffee Association paper paint the picture:
  • Women often work a 15 hour work day to men’s 8 hours including total hours spent on coffee production. This is because women’s typical household responsibilities also include child rearing, caring for the elderly, hauling water, collecting firewood, cooking meals, washing clothes, and cleaning
  • But female coffee farmers are typically limited to labouring in the field, harvesting, processing and picking out defects, whereas men typically transport, market and sell the product
  • A survey of 15 coffee-producing countries found women made up 70 percent of the workforce in the fieldwork and harvesting roles, but only participated in 10 percent of the in-country trading and export roles
  • As this sales process is generally controlled by men, it’s very hard for women to access that money. In Uganda for example, the prevailing attitude is that women should contribute to coffee farming out of duty, but should not share in the proceeds from the crop
  • The majority of land is owned by men. In some countries it’s virtually impossible to own land if you’re a woman, and in others the land sold to females is often less fertile, resulting in smaller harvests
  • The gap in coffee income across seven East African producer organisations was measured at 39% (less favourable for women). Lack of access to credit, lack of access to land, and the lack of ability to generate meaningful income create a vicious cycle for smallholders, especially for women, where the economic obstacles compound each other
  • Women are often barred from leadership, membership and training because they’re not land owners and/or don’t have a say. So they can’t develop to a point where they can make and take a greater contribution
  • If granted the same access to land, financing, and technology as men, women could increase their agricultural output by 20-30%. Again, everyone wins.
So here’s what we need to do to take our humanitarianism and turn it into positive outcomes for women in coffee growing regions, and therefore their children, families, communities and the future quality of coffee:
  • Buy coffee that promotes women’s inclusion. If you’re a roaster in Scotland, buy green coffee that promotes women’s inclusion. If you’re a café or home brewer, ask your roaster for it
  • Buy coffee that supports work on gender balance in rural households. Inherited gender biases and norms can move forward at the household level via tenacious and skilled local intermediaries who help men and women communicate and work together
  • Buy coffee from organisations that encourage female membership, female land ownership, and promotes equal access to credit
  • Support projects in coffee supply chains that promote gender equality by donating and participating – Cafes and roasters can find creative ways of sharing the stories of coffee women and involving their customers in awareness raising and donating.
  • Spend time understanding more about the gender equality behind coffee. Google it, talk about it, ask about it and create more demand. As we ask more specifically for gender equality bona fides on our specialty coffee, co-ops and importers will need to ask more questions, gathering more data, which in turn helps agencies and buyers understand the true picture and where they can best support women in coffee.
Well I feel a whole lot better now that I have something constructive to do to make specialty coffee more humane. I hope you’ll get on board too.

To get you started, here are some places you can buy specialty coffee that contributes to making lives better for women in coffee growing regions:
  • Papercup in Glasgow Uganda St Goret – Washed. With around 33 micro washing stations around the mountains servicing 5000 small holders, of which 85% are female farmers, the BJCU have been recognised by the worlds speciality coffee associations for their gender equality programs and continue to educate and support new and existing farmers within the cooperative
  • Ovenbird in Glasgow - Around 2,400 farmers, mainly women produce this Rwandan washed coffee from Sake Farm which is part of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance
  • The Steamie in Glasgow has natural Brazilian Fazenda Sitio Paraguai coffee and producer Sandra Maria Mamoed is a member of AMECAFE Women’s producer group who share knowledge and educate each other about coffee production
  • A roaster of special mention outside Scotland is Girls who Grind just South of Bath. They’re absolutely smashing it with all their coffees either produced by women or organisations that actively support women in coffee growing regions.
Some links to more information about women, coffee and inclusivity:

Monday, 5 March 2018

Scotland Coffee Lovers 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.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Cafe Wynd

10 Cross Wynd
KY12 7AP
Coffee: Unorthodox Roasters
Also: Meals, cakes
Coolness: Dunfermline's first specialty coffee (we think) - hurrah!

Cafe Wynd, just off the High Street in Dunfermline, is offering  specialty coffee from Kinross-based Unorthodox Roasters.Their house roast is the Wee Stoater - a naturally processed Brazilian.

Food is also big focus. Wholesome, diverse and prepared on site, the menu includes cake galore as well as pastries (savoury and sweet), brisket burgers, salads such as bulgar wheat with shredded carrot and cucumber in a ginger soy with poached chicken and pearl barley with roast carrot and rocket pesto, red cabbage coleslaw and courgette, lamb shawarma with homemade flatbread and the list goes on.

We'll provide more info when we've had a chance to properly sample the menu, but wanted to pop Cafe Wynd on our blog and app to help specialty coffee lovers in the Dunfermline area find coffee happiness!


Sunday, 11 February 2018


291 Byres Rd
G12 8TL
Open every day
Espresso, Chemex, Aeropress, V60, cold brew
Coffee: Guests
Also: Meals, beans, cakes
Coolness: Choices of brew method and some of Scotland's finest specialty coffees

Turadh (5♥) - pronounced 'to-rigg' - is located in Glasgow's busy West End and showcases Scottish produce across their menu, including their big focus on specialty coffee.

Owner LeeAnne Robson, previously General Manager at Avenue Coffee, opened Turadh in late 2017 and they're serving up some cracking coffee.

Turadh will feature only Scottish roasters, changing the coffees seasonally and roasters regularly. Coffee lovers can expect a menu of three different filter coffees and can choose from Chemex, Aeropress or V60 brew methods. There'll also be an additional espresso guest, plus cold brew. When we visited, Turadh featured coffees from Steampunk (North Berwick), Machina (Edinburgh) and Thomson's (Glasgow). And you can buy retail bags of any of these beauties to take home.

The food menu - using Scottish produce - is big! Breakfast takes many shapes from granola and porridge to a full Scottish or variants with salmon, avocado and more. Lunch includes soups, salads, stovies and sandwiches and there are plenty of cakes, smoothies and other treats.

Vegans and vegetarians will find happiness, with almond and soy milks as well as food choices, as will those who go gluten free. Turmeric, matcha and chai lattes are also available, should they take your fancy.

There's plenty of seating on ground level as well as in an upstairs mezzanine area. The simple black and white decor is smart and the service friendly and attentive.

Showcasing a range of Scotland's best roasters at the same time is a great idea and then expertly making them across multiple brew methods clinches it. Turadh means "the break in the clouds between showers" in Gaelic and this coffee shop is certainly a ray of coffee sunshine!

More: Facebook Turadh

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Bean to Door - Coffee subscription service

Bean to Door is a new Edinburgh-based coffee subscription service designed for coffee lovers who are relatively new to specialty coffee and/or those who prefer a fairly traditional flavour profile.

There's been a lot of media coverage lately about coffee drinking in the UK. On a positive note, the publicity about the environmental disaster of non-recyclable cups and pods will hopefully drive sustainable change.

On the negative side, much of the hype has been about old styles vs new, big chains vs independents, reaching saturation of coffee shops generally, and quite a bit of complaining about hipsters and "why we can't just get a plain cup of coffee anymore".

There's so much division in the world about so many things: 'us and them' all the time (and lots of it about more important issues sniping about coffee trends).

Wouldn't it be better if we all just enjoyed the fact that we share an enjoyment of coffee? Instead of dwelling on how some people like a fruity, natural, Ethiopian pourovers while others look forward to their un-named Americano with hot milk to wake them up in the morning, wouldn't we be better off talking about whether the coffee farmers are paid fairly for their work, or how those farmers are sustaining their families and environment?

Let's focus on what's most important and on the joy coffee brings us all!

Cat O'Shea - Coffee Roaster,
Q Grader and
Head of Coffee at Beantodoor
On that note and getting back to Bean to Door, I caught up with Cat O'Shea to get the run down.

I'm always interested in sharing Scottish coffee developments, but hearing Cat was involved piqued my interest.  Prior to moving to Bristol to work with Clifton Coffee, Cat roasted for Edinburgh's Artisan Roast. She's a Certified Q Grader, has rated highly as a competitor in both roasting and barista championships over recent years as well as coaching and judging. Needless to say, Cat's a bobby dazzler when it comes to specialty coffee.

Cat is currently applying her considerable skills and knowledge to setting up the coffee side of Bean to Door - targeting coffee lovers who are relatively new to specialty coffee.

They've done a lot of market research and know there's a huge number of people who love coffee, appreciate flavour but want familiarity and affordable prices. Bean to Door are starting at £3.95 for 250g of their House Blend and aiming to lure supermarket coffee buyers toward tastier, fresher options.

Cat's sourced the beans, worked with a roaster in Edinburgh to hone the roasting profiles and written an Intro to coffee booklet to help coffee lovers perfect their home brew. They come in letterbox-friendly packaging, a choice of whole bean or pre-ground, have tasting notes, and the Intro to coffee arrives free with everyone's first order.

Cat's using small UK-based trusted green coffee importers who have long term relationships with the farms they represent. In time, Bean to Door want to work directly with their key farmers, putting in place projects that give back and support those communities.

While the range will rotate seasonally, Bean to Door is kicking off with six coffees and the options to choose whole bean or ground, suitable for aeropress, cafetiere, drip, espresso or stovetop. In tune with a mainstream coffee loving audience, they've got some darker roasts as well as medium and light roasts in the range:
  • House blend - Brazil, Guatemala and Honduras - Medium/Dark
  • Guatemala - Dark
  • Honduras - Medium
  • Brazil - Medium
  • Ethiopia - Light
  • Decaf - Medium/Dark Swiss Water Process
I've been on a bit of a journey of discovery here - and Cat has been a helpful teacher!

In the world of roasting coffee, labelling something 'dark', 'medium' or 'light' is too vague. Roasters use, among other things, the Agtron Scale to score the colour of beans. A light roast that some of us may enjoy from high-end specialty roasters may score in the high 80s, whereas supermarket and chain store coffees are closer to 35 (darkly roasted indeed!). (Check out this graphic and you'll get the idea)

Bean to Door are creating their 'medium' roast at about 70 and their Decaf is around 55 on this scale - which balances familiar favours with discernible depth and complexity (and is a darn sight tastier than the coffee that chain coffee shops serve).

Overall, Bean to Door is looking to make good quality, fresh coffee more accessible to the majority of UK coffee drinkers in a sustainable and supportive way. Can't argue with that!

Right now they're running a 50% discount off your first order - use the code INSTA50 and their website is >> here <<

You can also expect their offering to get more sophisticated as add to their range and choices of subscriptions.