Thursday, 30 November 2017

Coffee gifts - ideas and advice

A loved one is into specialty coffee and you'd like to get them a gift, but not sure what to get? Or where to start?

I've put together some ideas and tips that will hopefully steer you in the right direction, recommending Scotland's fine local roasters and coffee shops wherever possible, covering the following gift ideas:
  • Bags of coffee - subscriptions, Scottish roasters, pods & capsules, European roasters
  • Coffee gear - brewers, grinders, scales
  • Coffee books and magazines
  • Cups, mugs, jugs and more
  • Training courses
There are two basic things you need to know about your coffee lover before you go gift hunting:
  • how they like to brew their coffee - filter methods such as aeropress, cafetiere, pour over, V60, kalita wave, or espresso or stove top (there are other methods but these are some of the main ones)
  • whether they have a grinder. If they don't, you'll need to buy pre-ground coffee. If they do, they'll definitely want whole beans because they retain the flavour better
So here we go, some ideas to consider...




A bag or two of coffee

This is a present that will be very well received by specialty coffee lovers. It may seem odd to the non-coffee-obsessed, but this is a high end, gourmet gift, so it will be much appreciated!

Whether you shop in a store or online, you'll be able to ask for whole beans or ground coffee for your chosen brewing method.

The majority of the shops on this blog sell 250g bags of high quality beans - many of which are under £10 and are from Scottish roasters. And the Scottish roasters below sell online also.

Just like with wine, beer or whisky, your coffee lover may have flavour profiles they like. If you know what they like, you should find it amongst the variety linked below if it's in season (yes coffee is a fruit that grows on a tree).

If you're not sure, the flavour descriptions on these websites are very helpful - but don't forget to look out for the recommended brew method as some beans are more suited to one brewing style.  Some are better suited to espresso machines rather than filters and vice versa.

If you're new to specialty coffee and are looking for a traditional 'hearty coffee' flavour, then descriptions such as 'cocoa, hazelnuts, caramel, nougat, chocolate' will be safe bets. If you're looking for lighter and sometimes more floral flavours, then there are lots of coffees with fruit descriptions to choose from such as red apple, melon, lime, peach, orange etc. You may like to get one of each :)

Coffee subscriptions - If you're looking for a bigger gift than one or two bags of coffee, a subscription is a great idea. The gift that keeps on giving!

Because coffee tastes best when it's been roasted within the last week or so, it's not ideal to buy half a dozen bags of coffee all at once. You risk the last bags not being at their best by the time they're brewed. Instead, you can pay to have a fresh bag of coffee beans delivered to your loved one each month over 6 or 12 months. Some of the websites below offer subscriptions and your coffee lover would be well-chuffed to get one.

Scottish specialty coffee roasters - for individual bags or coffee subscriptions (and some have brewing kit)

Artisan RoastOvenbird
Dear GreenPapercup Coffee
Fortitude Coffee RoastersSacred Grounds
Glen LyonSteampunk Coffee
Luckie BeansThomsons Coffee (new standard)
MachinaUnorthodox Coffee
Mr EionWilliams & Johnson
Obadiah Collective

European specialty coffee
If you're up for spending a bit more, your coffee lover will appreciate a bag of European specialty coffee. Lowdown (Gardelli), Laboratorio (The Barn), Baba Budan (The Barn), Fortitude Coffee Roasters (Drop) and Cult Espresso (The Coffee Collectif and Five Elephant) regularly change the coffee they serve, often featuring European roasters - the European roasters at the time of writing are shown in brackets.

Coffee pods or capsules that are better
Plenty of coffee lovers are very attached to their automatic espresso machines that use pre-packed coffee pods or capsules - for their model of machine.

You can buy Nespresso-compatible specialty coffee pods that taste infinitely better!

Kaf Coffee generally have a stock of one of the most revered pod coffees currently available - Colonna & Smalls - or you can buy them online direct. I'm quite a fan of London's Department of Coffee (when I need to go to London for work) and Pact also also do pods as well as beans.

There's quite rightly been a lot of publicity about the environmental disaster of pods because they've been un-recyclable. But the ones referenced above are compostable or recyclable (although filter coffee is even better from a packaging point of view - just saying)



Coffee gear
You may want to buy your loved one some coffee kit. Quite often you'll see bundles - from 'starter packs' for filter brewing at home, through to fancy, high-end home espresso machines.

Starting with the latter.  If you're buying for an espresso-based coffee lover and are looking to spend serious money on an espresso machine and associated grinder and other kit, it's definitely worth speaking to a professional before shelling out the pounds.

Many of Scotland's bigger roasters sell and install professional coffee machinery into shops - so you could talk to your local shop or roaster for ideas.

Edinburgh's Machina are also a great place to start. They have a range of domestic espresso machines and grinders which they - as coffee professionals - have given the thumbs up.

The tricky thing with espresso machines is that they not only need to be high quality (i.e. expensive and highly engineered) to get a high quality coffee, you need to experiment and practice a lot to get the best out of them.

So if you pop on down to John Lewis for an espresso machine, you may spend hundreds of pounds and the coffee still won't taste as good as your local specialty coffee shop can give you for £2.50 a pop. But, to your coffee lover, it may still bring hours of joy and produce enjoyable coffee. It's personal.

If your coffee lover is not up for the trials and tribulations of espresso coffee practice, you're better off brewing filter coffee at home - and it's much cheaper!

Filter coffee brewing requires the basics of: a brewer (e.g. aeropress, kalita wave, chemex, cafetiere, v60), grinder, kettle, scales and filters.

There's a good chance your coffee lover already has some brewing kit. So if you're going to buy more, you need to know what they already have  (If you don't know, you're probably better off buying coffee beans or books rather than kit).

If you're looking to buy kit for a new coffee lover who doesn't already have anything, many of the roasters linked above - and shops on this blog - sell filter coffee kit.  They can help you work out what you need. A V60 plastic dripper can be less than £10, an aeropress goes for £25-£35 and an elegant glass Chemex a bit more. And they all make great coffee. The Hario website is worth looking through for ideas.

The most costly items are the grinder and scales.

Grinders - Scotland's Made by Knock make some of the best hand grinders around. They're so popular and well-made that supply is barely keeping up with demand. But right now you can buy their latest Aergrind (it fits neatly inside an aeropress) from Machina, Dear Green and Brew Lab. Get one while you can!

Machina also endorse Wilfa electric grinders and both Made by Knock and Wilfa's grinders are under £100.

Scales are very important!. Just like with cooking, you can't make a recipe (at least for the first time) without measuring out your ingredients. Specialty coffee lovers tend to measure their coffee, water and timing for every brew. Coffee scales that indicate not only grams but seconds and minutes are ideal.  Personally, I'm a fan of the Hario scales with timer because of the functionality. If you use the Hario as a starting point and shop around online (including Scotland roasters and coffee shops) you'll find a pretty wide range.


Coffee books and (the) magazine

There are a lot of books about coffee, but I've listed a few that are at the top of the list:
  • The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing by James Hoffman
  • How to Make Coffee by Lani Kingston
  • The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood
  • Craft Coffee: A Manual by  Jessica Easto
  • Scotland Independent Coffee Guide - this is available at many of the shops on this blog. While it largely overlaps with the Scotland Coffee Lovers free app, in book form, it's also an attractive gift for coffee lovers
On the magazine front, Caffeine Magazine and Standart are both crackers and available as subscriptions - great gifts!


Cups, mugs, jugs and more

There is a world of options here for gift giving!
  • Many of the shops on this blog sell coffee travel cups such as Keep Cups and Frank Green Smart Cups in a wide range of colours, formats and sizes.
  • The enamel mug is also alive and revived hipster style. Steampunk has some nice ones, as does Mr Eion, Luckie Beans, Glen Lyon, Century General Store and Thomsons
  • Kettles are a great present as they allow much better precision pouring than attempting to do the same with a conventional electric kettle. Coffee Hit and Hario are both great online stores and also sell cold brewers, glass jugs and carafes of  varying shapes and sizes and much more.
  • And then there's the Scandi-styling ceramic cups, mugs, milk jugs and carafes. Life Story does some very nice lines, as does Century General Store

Training courses

Brewer and barista training is a great gift!

Some key folks who do training sessions are: Artisan Roast, Brew Lab, Papercup and Zest. If you jump on to their website you may be able to book ahead for your gift recipient.

Tuesday, 28 November 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)yahoo.co.uk) 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.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Unorthodox Roasters

129 High St
Kinross KY13 8AQ
»Map«
Open Wed-Sun
Pour over, espresso
Coffee: Unorthodox Roasters
Also: Beans, light meals, brew kit
Coolness: Big open windows on to historic Kinross town

Unorthodox Roasters in the town of Kinross - about a 50 minute drive North of Edinburgh - is a roastery and cafe.

Owners Neil Buchan and Chris Bode have their 6kg Giesen roaster proudly sitting up front alongside the customers’ chairs and tables.

They offer V60 pour over and, more recently, have added espresso based drinks to their menu. Their overarching ethos is to ensure customers are getting what they want.

They're aiming to demystify specialty coffee for their customers by fully explaining the taste profiles of their range and encouraging customers to try new things, as well as catering to those who tend toward a traditional taste profile.

It's worth visiting their website to get the gist of their unorthodox ethos, and you can order beans - and now specialty teas - to be delivered by mail if Kinross is not in your neighbourhood. Their range changes but this gives you an indicator:
  • Wee Stoater - Chocolate, Hazelnut, Caramel - Brazil/Nicaragua
  • Fire Bird - Chestnut, Apricot, Chocolate - Rwanda/Brazil
  • Politik - Make. Coffee. Great. Again. - Rwanda
  • Clockword Ninja - Brazil nut, Apple, Cocao - Colombia
  • Jackpot - Blood orange zest - D.R. Congo
The food menu is evolving and includes avocado on sourdough, smoked salmon bagels, banana loaf, brownies and other cakes. And the cafe is quite roomy with lots of light, a rustic-meets-make-do-hipster decor and plenty of room to sit down and chill out.

Neil and Chris were inspired by a major trip they took through Central and South America - much of which was spent building their appreciation and knowledge of specialty coffee. Prior to this epiphany, neither had a background in coffee but have since been engrossed and have now realised their dream to both roast coffee, and open their coffee shop.

And to finish - this is one of the few places in Kinross and surrounds that's open on a Sunday - for all the walkers, runners and cyclists out there!

More: facebook.com/unorthodoxroasters/

Scotland's specialty coffee shops join forces for Small Business Saturday

Click to see the full list
of coffee offers
Scotland’s thriving independent coffee shops offer free coffees on 2 December 2017

Small Business Saturday (more here) takes place on 2 December and shines a light on small businesses across the UK, encouraging customers to shop local.

Scotland Coffee Lovers has coordinated with around 40 of Scotland’s leading specialty coffee shops (and one specialty tea shop :) to seize the day and offer free coffees (and tea) – inviting new and old customers alike to drop in for a chat and enjoy a brew.

As readers of this blog know, I’ve long been an active advocate of our small and perfectly formed independent specialty coffee shops that are unique and full of personality.

On Small Business Saturday I’m hoping coffee lovers will try somewhere new for coffee, shopping local instead of opting for one of the big coffee chains.

Participating shops will be giving away great coffee and cakes and there are some signature quirks such as matcha, beetroot and turmeric lattes in Edinburgh and Kinross, a film screening and marketplace in North Berwick, a chance to try an e-bike ride in Auchterarder, Police Box and Canal Boat coffee shops in Edinburgh, free batch brew all day in Aberdeen, and cupcake & coffee flavour matching in St Andrews – plus plenty more.

Coffee lovers are becoming more and more discerning about their coffee and increasingly choosing indy coffee shops over chain coffee shops. Leading research company Allegra has revealed that independent coffee shops achieve the highest total excellence scores from coffee shop visitors and deliver most on customer-centricity. (Allegra World Coffee Portal CoffeeTrack – March 2016)

Our specialty baristas are some of the best in the UK so you’re getting high quality, ethically sourced coffee. But they also add to the diversity of our community and are the first friendly face of the day for thousands of people all over Scotland as they grab their morning caffeine hit.

North Berwick's Steampunk Coffee crew
Cath Franks is second from the left
I caught up with Cath Franks owner of North Berwick’s Steampunk Coffee who is very passionate and explained her motivation “I’ve thought hard about what it means for me to be a small business and really what it boils down to is that we are part of the community. We work alongside people we know to offer something unique, something that cannot be found anywhere else...If someone wants to find integrity, care and passion for what is produced, they will find it in a small independent business, not in a multi-national corporation or chain store. We know the people who walk through our door every day and they know us. So on Small Business Saturday we want to highlight what’s special about us (apart from our coffee): it is relationships.”

Check out our timetable of specialty coffee freebies to celebrate Small Business Saturday on 2 December across Scotland, but I'd also encourage coffee lovers to support all the indy shops on this blog and our free app (and ones that aren't yet listed too!) to find plenty more great indy coffee and shop local!


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Lovecrumbs Stockbridge

22 St Stephen's St
EH3 5AL
»Map«
Wed-Sun
Espresso
Coffee: Steampunk
Also: Cake, homewares
Coolness: Holding their own with their funky designer neighbours

Lovecrumbs (4♥) has been providing Edinburgh with top notch cakes, coffee and other goodies for some years from their shop in Westport. And now to the delight of Stockbridge locals, they've opened up in St Stephen's Street.

Located down a few steps and nestled amongst the signature elegant and often quirky home wares, fashion, restaurants and hair dressers, Lovecrumbs is holding its own.

The front and rear parts of the shop are primarily dedicated to coffee and cakes with seating, tables and stools. The middle features a range of stylish and useful kitchenalia, textiles, magazines, greeting cards, stationery and other must-haves from long time collaborators Century General Store.

With it's inviting friendliness and scrumptious cakes and coffee, we love this Lovecrumbs!

More: facebook.com/bakery.lovecrumbs/

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Zest & Co

22 Canning St
EH3 8EG
»Map«
Mon-Fri - 7.30am-3pm
Espresso
Coffee: Artisan Roast
Also: Meals, cakes, snacks
Coolness: A tucked away, friendly food gem 

Zest & Co (3♥) is a busy coffee shop, filled with appreciative locals and workers from the surrounding offices in Edinburgh's West End.

Sandwiched (pun intended) in the narrow streets between Shandwick Place and the Western Approach Road, Zest & Co offers well made Artisan Roast espresso-based coffees and cold brew in Summer for iced coffees. On the tea front, you can enjoy local speciality merchants Shibui and Coco hot chocolate.

Their menu is creative, wholesome and ever-changing, with the majority of their tasty options made on site. Breakfast includes toast, morning rolls, porridge, yoghurt & granola and french toast with maple syrup.

Their lunch menu changes every day across two soups (home-made and generally gluten-free and vegan), two salads, two sandwiches, a wrap, three panini, a filo pie and a hot dish.

A flavour-packed menu keeps people coming back. To give you a idea of the food... salads of broccoli, chilli & peanut, paprika & honey roast chickpea and cajun halloumi & avocado - and sandwiches and panini such as walnut chicken salad & rocket and chorizo, monterey jack & caramelised onion. And their filo pie is jam-packed with goodies such as spinach, chicken & sun-blushed tomato. Cakes and traybakes are also mainly home-made.

These folk are serious about their food, and you'll not be short of choices.

While loads of customers drop in for take away, Zest & Co has tables and chairs for around 20 people - some on street level and the rest upstairs - and has wifi if you've got time to stop and have more than one coffee!

This is friendly spot and definitely worth dropping into when you're in Edinburgh's West End on week days.

More: facebook.com/zestandco/

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Cairngorm Coffee New Town

41A Frederick St
EH2 1EP
»Map«
Open every day
Espresso, filter
Coffee: Guests
Also: Beans and some non-espresso kit
Dog-friendly
Coolness: Retro industrial décor meets rustic coziness

Cairngorm Coffee (5♥) is in the heart of the Georgian New Town, just below street level.

A short set of stone stairs take you down from street level past a table & chairs and into the open fronted shop. We very much liked the decor of simple chunky wood with equally chunky old metal machinery holding up various chairs, tables and benches. To the right side of the entry is a deceptively large seating area that is very cosy.

Cairngorm stock lots of yummy food and drink options such as cold drinks, chocolates and other snacks from a range of gourmet suppliers. They also do light lunches with toasted cheese sandwiches being a particular specialty, soups and pastries.

Owner Robi and his friendly team use guest beans from a range of European specialty coffee roaster which we very much enjoy in our flat whites. Fiercely passionate about great coffee, Cairngorm is well worth dropping into.