Friday, 6 October 2017

What’s on at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival

The next annual Edinburgh Coffee Festival is at the Corn Exchange on 14 October.

This third Festival will give coffee lovers loads of opportunities to taste different coffees, learn how to brew from experts, and get to know our coffee roasters and tea merchants – plus eat great cake and street food and buy great coffee making gear.

The Edinburgh Coffee Festival website has more info on the exhibitors and speakers & demonstrators who'll share their amazing knowledge. 

Here's the rundown on what you can expect...

There are still spaces to book on to the SCA ‘Introduction to Coffee’ course that I’ve already written about. The cost of the Festival ticket is included in the £60 fee and it’s an opportunity to spend three hours learning from accredited professional coffee trainers for half the price of the usual course. And also, while we’re talking bargains, you can buy a festival-ticket-Frank-Green-cup-combo that means you’ll get a Smart Cup for 40% off and be both stylish and environmentally heroic ongoing.

The Corn Exchange will be converted into an exhibition space for over 40 stall-holders. While the majority are coffee-related (the hint is in the name of the Festival), there’s a healthy smattering of tea, cake, doughnut and food stalls to help you regulate your caffeine levels and other cool stalls such as coffee equipment suppliers who’ll help you brew with the best.

Coffee and tea stall-holders will offer tasters and talk about their sourcing, flavours and how to brew best. They’re a friendly and passionate bunch who like nothing more than sharing their knowledge and answering questions. They’ll also have bags of coffee and tea to buy and take home. Stall-holders you’ll meet include:
There’ll also be three areas dedicated to talks, demonstrations and cupping that you can opt into on the day. They’ll be low-key, small group sessions - see the full programme on the Festival website. An overview of the programme includes:
  • Speciality Coffee Association talking about how to run a coffee shop
  • Roasters MachinaCarvetii, Dear Green, Chipp Coffee Co, and leaf tea experts Eteaket sharing their knowledge about sourcing and brewing
  • Water quality is critical to how coffee tastes - Carvetii and Machina will talk through this topic, and Machina will also cover filter coffee styles, ratios and sensory (sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing)
  • Chipp Coffee Co will help you taste and learn about different stages of roast development
  • The Counter team will teach you about how to do latte art
  • Environmentally responsible packaging company Vegware will discuss sustainability
  • Lisa Cathro from Zest talking about how to support people facing barriers to employment through working at coffee shops
  • Falcon Coffees and Schulter (Green coffee companies) and Brazilian coffee co-op Minasul will be amongst those running cupping sessions so you can taste and compare coffee aromas and flavours. (Cupping is the technique that professionals all over the world use to rate coffee and that involves standardised steps, ratios of water to coffee, timings and slurping).
Environmental sustainability is a big theme of the event which, with Vegware’s help, will be a zero waste event. The vast majority of the millions of disposable coffee cups dished out every day in the UK are an environmental disaster because they’re not compostable and they can’t currently be effectively recycled.

Not using a disposable cup at all is the best option - either sitting in and enjoying the ambience or bringing your own transportable cup and snagging a discount on your coffee in many of Edinburgh’s finest coffee shops. I’ll be making this discount clearer on my blog and app soon to help you choose where to drink great coffee!

You can buy your tickets and find out more on the Edinburgh Coffee Festival website and find out more about the people behind our great coffee scene via our Coffee Stories series.

A shot from last year's Coffee Festival

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Tea Story - Erica Moore of Eteaket

In the lead up to this year's Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 14 October, we're publishing regular stories about some of the people that are involved, and that make our speciality coffee scene great. They're a passionate and varied bunch!

Erica Moore in the Eteaket
Concept store
Photo: Eteaket
But we also have a great speciality tea scene in Edinburgh so today's 'Tea Story' features Erica Moore of Eteaket who have a Tea Room in Frederick Street and a Concept Store Rose Street Edinburgh

What's Eteaket all about? We're on a mission to create an innovative and modern British tea culture with quality, ethical leaf tea and exciting experiences and products that make the everyday better for everyone. You can enjoy our tea, tea cocktails and Afternoon Tea in our Tea Room, find the perfect tea or gift in our Concept Store, buy online or enjoy a pot of eteaket in one of hundreds of amazing cafes and restaurants that we supply in most parts of the UK.

When did you start Eteaket and what attracted you to the speciality tea business? I started Eteaket in 2008, after I had a sneaking suspicion that a life in the tea world might be slightly more fun than a life in law (turns out not all lawyers get to live like Ali McBeal). Once I tasted proper whole leaf tea I was hooked. Since then, thanks to our amazing team, our journey has taken us on our own tea pilgrimage to China, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Japan in search of the best leaves and we have been privileged enough to have met some of the best Tea Masters and teachers in the world along the way.

Photo: Eteaket
How would you describe our teas and how they differ from other speciality teas? We’re quite innovative in our approach to tea and love to collaborate with like-minded businesses. Our aim is to make people as excited about leaf tea as we are, whether that’s starting with some flavoured teas or going straight to higher end single estate teas.

What's involved in selecting and creating your speciality teas? A lot of hard work. We’re constantly tasting, sampling and experimenting and even get to visit tea gardens occasionally. Last year we created our Isle of Harris Gin Tea using the botanicals that go into the amazing Isle of Harris Gin. I even got to go out with the diver for the magic ingredient – sugar sea kelp. Our most recent blend was our Tomatin Whisky Tea - Europe’s first barrel aged tea. We created a black tea blend that we suspend inside Tomatin Whisky barrels. By letting the tea age in the barrels in naturally absorbs the scent of the whisky. We obviously had to consume a fair amount of whisky in the experimenting process…

Eteaket chai
Photo: Eteaket
What do you love most about being in the speciality tea business? I absolutely love doing something that I’m passionate about and have a real drive to play my part in making the tea scene exciting again so that the tea industry is sustainable and tea garden workers can have the best standard of living possible.

What tips would you give tea lovers? Buy yourself an infuser teapot or mug, pick three loose leaf teas you’ve never tried before, take a little time for yourself and get brewing. I promise you’ll never go back to tea bags again! Keep experimenting whether it’s making tea lattes, steeping some cold brew teas or even making some tea cocktails. We run private tea training classes, blending workshops and tea cocktail session in our Concept Store – or just pop in and have a chat.

Photo: Eteaket
What tips would you give people considering a career in tea? Do it. The tea industry needs to grow and it needs more independent companies working together to help grow the market. It’s a very varied career and the possibilities are endless. I’m off to Japan in November to chat about tea! Between trips overseas, drinking unlimited amounts of tea every day and quality checking the cakes in our Tea Room the ‘job’ certainly does have its perks.

Any other pearls of wisdom? Get a loose leaf travel flask so you’re never with good tea. As long as you’ve got tea with you anything is possible.

Eteaket  will be have a stand at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 14 October.
Photo: Eteaket

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Coffee Stories - Lisa Cathro of Zest

In the lead up to this year's Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 14 October, we're publishing regular stories about some of the people that are involved, and that make our speciality coffee scene great. They're a passionate and varied bunch!

Today's 'Coffee Story' features Lisa Cathro of  Zest Cafe - St Andrews

Lisa Cathro and Zest team mate Nicolas
Photo: Zest
Intro: Zest Cafe serves up breakfasts, cakes, snacks, lunches, salads and more but, most importantly great speciality tea and coffee. Zest is also a social enterprise that helps people with barriers to employment. So customers can grab some of the best coffee in town, have a great lunch and support people to be the best they can in an inclusive environment.

What year did you switch on to speciality coffee and what attracted you to the speciality coffee business? To be honest, I started running a coffee shop by accident in 2008. I had no plan or experience owning a business and just had to learn by my mistakes…rookie errors of cheap beans and equipment!

I had lived in Melbourne and tasted amazing coffee and knew that I wasn't serving coffee like that, but didn’t have the knowledge to know why or how to get that. I ended up in specialty coffee after finding that my usual supplier training just wasn’t to a high enough level…then I found the Speciality Coffee Association and have never looked back.

Two of us went to Holland and did our Intermediate Barista Skills, and that’s where I tasted coffee again like I'd had in Melbourne. Then I was hooked on learning, and went on to do Professional and become an Authorised SCA Trainer.

Photo: Zest
When I came back I sourced new delicious speciality grade beans, started retraining the whole team and things really developed and took off from there.  This was a revelation and my turning point.

My team are still very excited by coffee and learning. In fact, we're struggling to keep up and they are doing such a great job everyday, especially when learning may not come that easily to them.

And how did you add social enterprise to Zest? It was never a plan. It happened organically. We started doing work placements for HMP Castle Huntly which happened due to a chance conversation with a friend. (Castle Huntly is an open prison for low supervision adult male offenders). This was 7 years ago now, and it has been extremely successful both for us and the offenders who have joined our team over the years.

I feel that work placements are so hugely valuable in preparing the guys for release. They help them to improve social skills, cope under pressure, meet a mix of people from diverse backgrounds who are doing something constructive with their lives and be part of a team with no pressure to put on an act. And having the chance to find out who they are outside of the prison system or who they want to be is hugely valuable. These skills are not limited to the needs of offenders though…they're applicable to everyone who needs a hand up.

After the success of the prison placements we were asked to help people by the DWP (Job Centre), Enable Scotland, and Fife Council Supported Employment Service. It just grew from there. We discovered as we went which skills we needed or lacked and then sought out people to teach us or where to learn more. We now do annual workshops with the team on subjects like: Coaching skills, corrective coaching, autism awareness, Mental Health First Aid, disabilities awareness, dealing with challenging behaviour etc…We are always learning, but doing it together.

Photo: Zest
And what do your staff and customers think? Our social and community-minded approach is great for business. Our customers choose us not just for our coffee but because we are like a family. We get to know our regulars and they get to see how the team develops over the years. We don’t receive any funding, so every time someone buys a coffee they are contributing to helping someone.

Customers can meet those people. See them develop over a few weeks/months/years and see the massively positive impact purposeful employment has on someone's life. It's gratifying and immediate in comparison to donating money to larger causes - even through they're also very important! This is more personal, and I love that. Our customers also actively get involved by welcoming new trainees, making them feel comfortable when they are anxious and just by making an effort to help. I think we're lucky to have the customers that we do.

Our team is very close, it’s more like a family. Yes we have our squabbles, but it’s over by the next day. We currently employ a young man who is on the autistic spectrum. He has been with us for three years and has just passed his Foundation SCA Barista course. We also have two young women who have learning difficulties. We couldn’t do without them on the hugely busy days. They always give 100% and it would never cross their minds to skive! This is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.

What sort of coffee training do you offer? I run SCA Barista courses at all levels, do tailored workshops for other cafes/hotel/bar teams, and we've also recently introduced evening classes for the home brewers! We're really excited to be doing new brewing, and sensory evening classes in our café.  There's so much to learn about coffee, and people are passionate about learning it. Personally I love the chemistry side, but I think I’m a bit of a geek.

Photo: Zest
What do you love most about being in the speciality coffee business? Experiencing new coffees, flavours, experimenting and learning.

What tips would you give coffee lovers? Have fun, ask questions, don’t get stuck with one coffee, get out and try different beans and roasters. We have some amazing roasters in Scotland use them!

What tips would you give people considering a career in coffee? Don’t stop learning, do qualifications, meet people and don’t think that you just have to be stuck in one place. Coffee brings so many opportunities to travel as well.

Any other pearls of wisdom? Haha…learn from your mistakes?

You can meet Lisa at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 14 October where she'll be talking about how to 'get social'. 

Through Lisa's leadership, Zest is the proud recipient of a number of employer of the year awards as well as awards for innovative training. To top it off, Zest holds the Investors in Young People Good Practice Award - impressive huh!
Lisa and some of her Zest team with SCA trainer Owen Thom (front)
At HMP Castle Huntly during a 6 week employability project
Lisa  set up and designed with Springboard UK (Hospitality Charity)
and the Scottish Prison Service - Photo from Lisa

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Coffee Stories - Matt Carroll and Helen Coburn of Fortitude Coffee

In the lead up to this year's Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 14 October, we're publishing regular stories about some of the people that are involved, and that make our speciality coffee scene great. They're a passionate and varied bunch!

Today's 'Coffee Story' features Matt Carroll and Helen Coburn of  Fortitude Coffee.

Helen Coburn &
Matt Carroll - Photo by
Jess Shurte as part of our
Coffee Hot Shots series
Intro: Fortitude Coffee is a speciality coffee bar and micro roastery based in Edinburgh. In our coffee shop we make espresso-based coffees on our la Marzocco Linea PB and offer filter coffees using Kalita Wave, batch brew and also offer cold brew - all using filtered water and single origin Fortitude Coffee Roasters beans. Our coffee is seasonal and we feature a different guest roaster each month.

What year did you switch on to speciality coffee and what attracted you to the speciality coffee business? We've been involved in speciality coffee since opening our coffee shop in 2014. We believe that good coffee is a simple pleasure to be enjoyed everyday and we wanted to provide this for our customers. More recently we started roasting as well.

What made you make the move from coffee shop to roasting as well? Roasting allows us to learn more about each coffee we serve and we enjoy passing this knowledge onto our customers. We were also excited that roasting provides us with the opportunity to tailor our coffee and serve more of the coffees we love. Through the experience of roasting our own coffee and then using it in our shop, we've been able to see how our coffee performs over time and how customers respond to it. We've tweaked and evolved our approach to roasting in a way we could never have done if we didn't use our coffee day in day out, always looking to make the best drink we can for our customers.

Photo: Fortitude Coffee
How would you describe Fortitude Coffee (your beans)? We always try to offer sweet, developed roasts and make our coffee approachable and ultimately enjoyable. The beans we use are lightly roasted to bring out the delicate and complex flavours of the coffee. We generally offer three different single origin roasts at any time and change them seasonally. Our coffees work well with all brew methods but we always have one that lends itself best to espresso and two to filter.

What do you love most about being in the speciality coffee business? Creativity, passion and attention to detail.

What tips would you give coffee lovers? Buy a set of coffee scales. Taking an extra few seconds to weigh out your coffee and water will make all the difference to your brews - both flavour and consistency.

What tips would you give people considering a career in coffee? Always be willing to learn and be open to new ideas. The speciality coffee industry is changing all the time and there's a real opportunity to increase your knowledge and skills, but also try new things that you can come up with yourself.

Any other pearls of wisdom? Your customers are the most important part of your day so don't forget them!

Fortitude Coffee will be taking a stand at the Edinburgh Coffee Festival on 14 October.

Matt at his coffee roaster - Fortitude Coffee

Friday, 22 September 2017

Scottish Aeropress Championships - 2017

The annual Scottish Aeropress Championship is back.

On 27 September, 36 home and professional brewers will battle it out, armed with hot water, a bespoke coffee blend, a piece of plastic that looks like a plumber's offcut, and a bit of carefully timed elbow grease.

While this is a competition that doesn't take itself too seriously, winning is a huge endorsement of brewing prowess. Our Champion will jet off to Seoul for the World Aeropress Championships later this year.

While the aeropress makes a
smooth cup of coffee,
it's not going to win awards
for being aesthetically pleasing.
For those unfamiliar with the aeropress - it's a method of brewing coffee manually (i.e. without electricity) that involves pushing hot water through ground coffee, via a filter and into your cup. It was invented by Alan Adler who also created the Aerobie flying ring (that’s faster than a Frisbee) this post gives you a intro.

Scottish Championship organiser Dave Law from Brew Lab gave us the run down on what promises to be a great night - made even better by loads of friendly folk pitching up to cheer on our competitors! (book your ticket here)

Coffee & competition
Some action from the 2016 heats
  • Competition heats will take place during the day, opening up to the public at 6.30pm for two semi finals and the final
  • Eleven home brewers will compete this year which is quite a bit more than last year. The remaining competitors are professionals working for cafes and roasteries.
  • Competitors come from Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Fraserburgh, Falkirk and more. Cairngorm Coffee have a strong showing with 5 competitors, Artisan Roast and Machina Espresso both with 3 competitors. Last year's winner James Aitken is back to defend his crown!
  • Judges this year are from the three roasteries that have provided the competition coffee. Emiliya Yordanova from Machina Espresso, Matt Carroll from Fortitude Coffee Roasters and Zach Williams from Williams & Johnson
  • Judges will be judging based on the simple criteria that is consistent across all Aeropress Championships globally: 'which cup would I prefer to drink all of'. Dave and the judges are also planning to involve random audience members if tie breaking is required.
  • Each heat is pretty quick - 8 minutes to be precise. After all it doesn't take a long time to brew a cup of coffee - but it's intense!
  • Competition coffee - photo kindly and unknowingly
    provided by Brew Lab's instagram feed, thanks!
  • All competitors use the same coffee and they're sent it in advance so they can practice prior to the big event. This year, organisers have taken the opportunity to showcase three great new Edinburgh roasters: Machina, Fortitude and Williams & Johnson who've produced a three-way blend. According to Dave from Brew Lab, "blends have pretty much disappeared from speciality coffee, but when you have really high quality single origins as the components, you can get some pretty special coffee too. Its going to be really complex and interesting."
More fun stuff that happens on the night
Brass Gumbo friendly faces - photo
snitched from their facebook page
but I'm hoping that's OK
  • Brass Gumbo will perform on the night - self described as "a musical melting pot of brass and percussion playing funk, jazz and more, all with a distinctly New Orleans flavour... this is feel-good music for the feet and the soul"
  • Baba Budan are doing their signature filled doughnuts, Jones and Son bringing their BBQ, Brew Lab will be making coffee cocktails and Barneys Beer and Pilot Beer will both be providing special coffee beers. 
  • Company Bakery will supply their super baking as well as providing ingredients for the avocado making competition which is back again! 
  • Local high end coffee accessory makers Made by Knock will have a merch stand and their new Aergrind grinder may make an appearance
  • Example Brew Lab coffee-inspired
    cocktail - doctored from their
    Ista feed
  • The event's main sponsor is Intelligent POS by iZettle, who will also be there doing demos. Without this amazing sponsorship and that of the other supporting sponsors, our Scottish Champion wouldn't be able to get to Seoul for the World Championships, so bravo to iZettle and other sponsor pals!
More about Aeropress Championships more generally

This year's poster is by Struan Bruce Sloan
This really is a cracking wee movement. Here's what appeals to me:
  • It's inclusive. Anyone can participate. Home brewers through to full time baristas
  • The World Aeropress Championships guidance is as follows: "At all times, your event should strive to be fun, inclusive and welcoming for competitors and guests alike. The World AeroPress Championship is about building community, making friends, and celebrating coffee. Use that ethos as your guiding light"
  • The rules are straight forward and, as I mentioned above, don't take itself too seriously, I draw your attention to two specific rules that underline this ethos: "On the count of three, all judges will point simultaneously, confidently, and definitively at the cup of their choosing." This means literally point their fingers at the cup they like best, no complex score sheets involved. and "Any competitor protests or appeals should be addressed to ‘just_try_to_have_fun_ok [at]'. Please do not expect a response." So you see what I mean. This is not about overly precious barista-ing.
  • And lastly, and one of my favourite things, is the emphasis on poster design. Any country that wants to host their country's Championship, has to design a poster. So every year, a fantastic new array of posters are created that are very cool. This year's Scottish Championship poster was created by illustrator Struan Bruce Sloan and it's well worth scrolling through posters from around the world.
So get yourself along on Wednesday night. You can book tickets here.

It'll also get you nicely in the mood for the upcoming Edinburgh Coffee Festival!

Monday, 18 September 2017

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.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Quay Commons

92 Commercial St
Open every day
Coffee: Williams & Johnson
Also: Meals, cake, wine

Quay Commons (4♥) is a friendly combination of bakery, cafe, restaurant, bar and wine shop located in a historic industrial warehouse a stone's throw from Leith's Custom House and The Shore. You can walk in off Commercial Street through the stone-arch and past bulk bags of fresh veggies or via the rear of the row of warehouses and their large outdoor area - amongst the rail track and water ways of times gone by.

Owned by the same folk as restaurant Gardener's Cottage, Quay Commons have chosen hyper local coffee roasters Williams & Johnson - who are a few doors away in Customs Lane.

Quay Commons do a fine job serving espresso-based coffees using W&J's seasonal espresso blend of single origin beans. We're big fans of W&J coffees because they're juicy, interesting and change regularly so drinkers get to explore origins as the seasons change. (We also thought Quay Commons' cups were rather nice).

That said, the food and wine are the main act here with breakfast, lunch, dinner and cakes aplenty. They're passionate foodies with proven form - pun intended - as their sop notch bakery is a big part of their offering. Their breads are cracking in their own right, but also perfect for showcasing some of Scotland's finest produce including cheeses, charcuterie, eggs, smoked fish, roasted veggies, salads and olives. And their cakes, biscuits and puddings are delightful and varied.

These are early days and Quay Commons are working through their dinner menu ideas. You can enjoy sharing platters and hearty meals - including vegetarian-friendly options - at communal tables, accompanied by quality wines. Quay Commons also operates as a wine shop so you can buy a bottle at off-licence prices, pay a corkage fee, and take home any you don't manage to finish.

We definitely need to return to try more of their fantastic menu and see how things continue to evolve. We envy the people who live nearby Quay Commons and can drop in any time!