In early July I ventured into Scotland for the first time in my life. A short week that was spent in the two cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh was quick, and full of caffeinated surprises. In this post I want to share something about every coffee shop we visited, why I liked them, and what I thought they could have done better. Although I kind of loved all of it, but still.
What surprised me in the little of Scotland I was able to see in the short span of a week was the amount of cultural and academic investment as well as the great people, nice transportation options (from Glasgow to Loch Lomond on a train in less than an hour and £5) and a variety of high quality independent coffee shops. Wow, that’s a long sentence. Anyway!
I have to start with a big thank you to Ovenbird’s Dave, who was super kind and shared some of his coffees as I was in Scotland unannounced with little time to spare. I also received an Ovenbird enamel mug and a copy of the Scottish Independent Coffee Guide, which is amazing. I love it so much, so thanks Dave! I’ll write a post about your whisky coffee later. You can read my original Ovenbird review here. Now, onto our first coffee city – Edinburgh.
Now the first thing that happened was that I was directed to a mobile coffee application listing Scottish coffee shops, and that helped me so much. So a big thanks to Scottish Coffee Lovers and the Scottish Independent Coffee Guide for being my, well, guide!
The first coffee shop we popped into in Edinburgh became our favourite out of all three that we could visit in the short period of time we were there, as their service, food and coffee were all very good. They were welcoming to us, a dairy intolerant and gluten intolerant pair of Finns, and we decided to stay for lunch.
We were waited at our table, like most coffee shops in Scotland, and could choose between a small but delicious selection of soup, salads, sourdough bread and drinks. Their shop is minimalist, you have to take the stairs down from street level to get to the underground cafe (which does have a small outside patio). The menu is vegan friendly and gluten friendly, so we were able to pick out a lunch that fit both of our dietary requirements.
Their double espresso (natural Costa Rican beans) was well made, presented with a lovely cup and even a proper espresso spoon, as judged by our pedantic spoon police. They did everything they could to accommodate us, and helped us substitute some bread with corn chips to make sure all the sides were gluten free. Soup and grilled sourdough cost us £6.95, and the coffees came from £2 and up. A great bargain for quality food and coffee, and the lovely service. Cash, card, contactless, Disloyal 7 member. The experience was unrivaled compared to the rest of the coffee shops we visited, even when their coffees were very, very good.
So visit Lowdown Coffee! They are worth it. Just like many of the other Disloyal 7 coffee shops.
Located in the Arches near Edinburgh Waverley station, Baba Budan is a nice and neat little coffee shop with a few chairs and tables outside. You get a view to the opposite side of Edinburgh, the hilly city scenery complementing your caffeinated experience well next to a busy road running by the station. The Arches area holds indepentent restaurants and craft stores, and Baba Budan was one of the ones that we were curious in trying, partly because of their description in the Scottish Coffee app but also for their appearance in the Disloyal 7 coffee wheel.
It was the only time I did not pick up an espresso, but wanted to try their filter coffee. They told me it would be about 10 minutes to batch brew one, which I was okay with, but I might have expected a chemex or a v60 to be brought out for two filter coffee drinkers. The shop was not busy at the time, so maybe this is just how their process works, but I wanted to see their brew style closer. Anyway, we sat ourselves outside, wondering how it would be to pop by here in the mornings.
My co-pair, a very caffeine addicted Finn, was getting a bit grumpy about the wait, but the coffee was delivered to us in the 10 minutes as they had promised. Clearly an African coffee, the tea-like substance of the filter brew was a very different coffee from your full-bodied Columbians or Costa Ricans. Still very good, but not for someone who prefers a fuller body in their coffee. I liked it, I would go back.
Coffees started from £2, and they also served snacks, donuts and other little bites. Cash, card, contactless, Disloyal 7 member.
Some people would call this a “studenty hipster cafe”, but if I was still a student I would call it “home”. The Brew Lab was situated near a Edinburgh uni campus and one of the museums, the location in old town of Edinburgh a very popular and quiet at the same time. You just have to know it’s there to experience a very rustic interior and a good cup of coffee. Popular among young adults and academics, based on a quick look around the inside, the Brew Lab had a cozy and quiet atmoshpere, the ambient music helping with studying or just a friendly conversation over a hot or cold beverage.
You order from the counter, they give you a block with a number, and you find a seat. Moments later you will find yourself with a few espressos and a glass of water. The service was very polite but not overly friendly (I’m a Finn and I smiled more than the staff here on that day), but they were efficient and brought us high quality double espressos. The interior had exposed brick wall as details, and the floors looked like recycled wood panels. I like a shop that recycles materials, and Brew Lab was definitely on top of that game.
Their double espresso did not have the correct espresso spoon, though (don’t trust me on this). A disaster for all you spoon fans out there. If I lived nearby I would definitely make the Brew Lab my lounge, a home away from home. Cozy, tasty, efficient. All you need.
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for Part 2, where we visit Glasgow’s finest and brightest.