Union Brew Lab, meticulously brewed single origin coffee

Anyone who is passionate about speciality coffee in Edinburgh will know about Brew Lab. Their website acclaims "Edinburgh's home for speciality coffee since 2012" and it undoubtedly remains a key player in Edinburgh's coffee scene today.

Brew Lab (Union Brew Lab to be correct) is located in South College Street, right in the heart of the Edinburgh University area, in the "Southside" of the city. Needless to say a majority of customers are associated with the University but it's reputation also attracts coffee enthusiasts from further afield; and in "normal" times you would be hard pushed to get a seat most days. The coffee offer focuses on single origin coffee from Union Coffee Roasters in London and "carefully considered guest roasters".

I had some business to attend to in the Southside last week and so Brew Lab was my first port of call. My luck was in - with lockdown still partially in place, I was lucky enough to get a seat on two consecutive days.

The premises appear to be made up of three inter-connected units. The left hand side consists of the coffee bar/takeaway service, the middle section is the main seating area stretching from the front to the back of the shop; and the right hand side functions as a retail shop selling coffee and home brewing equipment. There are toilets to the rear of this section and some offices and training rooms.

At the moment with lockdown procedures in place entry is via the right hand (retail shop) unit, where you wait to be seated at a vacant, cleaned and suitably spaced out table. A disposable paper food and drink menu on each table includes details on how to register your personal details for the Track & Trace requirements. Once you have had your fill of the excellent coffee(s) you leave via the coffee bar area in the left hand unit. The whole process was fairly straight forward and well managed on each of my visits.

There were two espressos on offer - a washed BURUNDI/Sangira Bourbon from Union for an espresso or long black, or a natural BRAZIL/Celso & Gertudes - also from Union - for milk based espresso drinks.

There were two filters on offer - on Batch Brew, a washed COLUMBIA Veronica & Mercedes, from Union, or on Pour over - a natural ETHIOPIA/Guji from guest roaster Edinburgh's Williams & Johnson.


Time was against me on this visit so I plumped for the Columbian on Batch Brew and a chocolate brownie. A bottle of fresh water was delivered to my table as I registered online for Track & Trace and my coffee and brownie arrived shortly afterwards. The coffee arrived in a cute little metal beaker which had seen some service - a few dents and scrapes added to the cuteness. 

The coffee was lovely, it was like drinking a really dark toffee apple. I think the formal notes are cola and brown sugar with white grape and lime but to me it was a big juicy dark toffee apple - very moreish.

A great first visit to Brew Lab but I had more time the following day to plump for the pour-over from Williams & Johnson. I followed the same procedure on entry and was shown to a bar stool seat facing the coffee bar. I ordered the Ethiopian Guji and avocado toast. This took a little longer than the previous day but this time I was able to watch the barista carry out the pour-over. While I waited I was able to take in the interior of the space.



 
The walls were a mixture of plain unfinished wooden panels with sections of exposed brick.












The interior is sort of semi-industrial. with worn wooden floors, old wooden tables and school chairs, the interior looked warm and chic. 








My avocado toast and coffee arrived and they both looked delicious. The thing I like most about a well made-pour over, apart from the clean taste allowing you to pick out the various flavours, is that the coffee looks so immaculately clear. The Ethiopian promised Parma Violet, Sherbet and Blueberry and that's just what I got.

Prices are a shade higher than others in the city centre - £2.80 for an espresso, £3.00 for the batch brew filter and £4.20 for the pour over - but Brew Lab offers excellent coffees, expertly brewed; and in a great space.

Brew Lab know their market and know their coffee. If you're a fan of speciality coffees I doubt that you would be disappointed. It will always be at the top of my list if I'm in Edinburgh's Southside. 💚



Fortitude - a chance to sit in a coffee shop again, with a china cup!

Monday 10th August 2020

The last coffee shop I sat in before the covid-19 lockdown took effect was Fortitude in York Place, at the East end of Edinburgh's Queen Street. It is a small coffee shop with a big following, a respected player in Edinburgh's speciality coffee scene. I was aware that Fortitude had just opened a second shop in Stockbridge but unfortunately I didn't have a chance to visit before the lockdown.

The new shop in Stockbridge's Hamilton Place has been open for a takeaway service for the past few weeks and has now opened up fully, offering a sit-in service also. My timing was spot on and I was able to get a seat to check out the new shop while enjoying a coffee.

Fortitude have a fairly straight forward procedure which follows a series of steps to meet the covid-19 guidelines for staff and customers. The counter is at the front of the shop, a few feet away from the large main windows at the entrance which allows for a few bar stools along the windows. The signage on the counter and markings on the floor helps to maintain the required physical distancing. However the cheerful welcome from the girl behind the counter includes some further guidance to help you make your order. I ordered the bulk brew filter coffee which was advertised on the counter - Ethiopian Banko Gotiti (a fully washed Heirloom variety for the coffee specialists) - with a chocolate brownie to accompany.

I was asked to wait just a few minutes while a table was cleaned after the previous customer left - some hand gel is available to clean your hands while you wait. After the counter, which runs a few meters into the shop, is the seating area with toilets to the rear. I was soon shown to my table right at the back of the shop. Tables are spaced out appropriately and access is clear for wheelchairs and pushchairs; and child seats are available.

While I waited on my order I checked out the interior of the shop. You're immediately drawn to the old wall tiles along the length of the walls; and the high ceilings with ornate detail along the edges and beams. There was a steady flow of customers looking to sit inside; and customers ordering takeaways - no doubt many loyal customers from the local area who would previously have visited the York Place shop. 

The shop was previously a cafe area within the Ronde Bicycle Outfitters, selling bicycles, clothing & accessories - see the photo below.



Now refurbished, Fortitude have put their own stamp on it and the space is now a modern family friendly speciality coffee shop; and with some low chilled music playing in the background, it oozes great vibes and is sure to be a success with the local coffee lovers. 

The most obvious difference when you look around the shop is the lack of an espresso machine at the counter. The owners have installed the impressive MODBAR system where the "business end" of the espresso machine is hidden below the counter. Only the streamlined silver taps for milk steaming and group heads are visible to the customer, allowing a more open space over the counter between the server and the customer. This is a new innovative system for coffee shops, with only one other system installed in Scotland at the moment I believe. Elsewhere, retail shelves stock coffee home brewing equipment and Fortitude's own range of coffee beans.


After five minutes or so, the cheerful girl serving at the counter brought my order to my table - a carafe of water, my cup of coffee (in a china cup!) and chocolate brownie. The Ethiopian Banko Gotiti was described at the counter with notes of Peach, Strawberry & White Tea, brewed on the bulk brewer; and it was lovely.


I'm not the greatest at detecting all the various different notes coffee has to offer - I didn't get the peach or white tea but it was clean and crisp, with the strawberry coming through strongly. These guys know how to brew good coffee - but I knew that already.

It must be difficult opening a new shop in the current climate but Fortitude are experts. With their usual friendly service and pleasant coffee shop atmosphere, this is sure to be a very popular new coffee venue in Stockbridge.

Gordon Street Coffee

Tuesday, 4th August 2020

The weather was dreich and I was looking for a decent cup of coffee near Edinburgh's Waverley Station. I had a few favourite coffee shops in mind but I wasn't sure how they were operating with the lockdown still largely in place. As I crossed the High Street near North Bridge the smell hit me - a smokey, ashey, almost wood burning smell. I recognised this smell right away - it was coffee being roasted and it would be coming from Gordon St Coffee on Market Street. I headed towards Market Street.

Woohoo! They were open, with a sitting-in service too and there was a free socially distanced seat at the window - haud me back.

I've written about the Gordon St coffee shop previously in my post labelled "coffee shops near Edinburgh Waverley Station" but that was in March, just before the lockdown came into force. The Gordon St crew are a very professional outfit - I've visited here on a few occasions and have also ordered coffee from them on line. Their service was excellent on each occasion.

The coffee shop is across the street from the Market Street entrance to Waverley Station, so very handy if you're travelling to or from Edinburgh by rail. Gordon St's main base is in Glasgow, again well located for travelers at Glasgow Central Station.


The Edinburgh shop was well laid out and clearly marked out for social distancing measures; and there were several signs in place advising customers of the safety requirement when in the shop. The staff wore masks and a perspex screen was in place at the ordering point. I remember the long counter from my last visit which had a selection of cakes and pastries and a huge display of hand made chocolate truffles. No truffles today but I'm sure they'll be back after the lockdown is fully lifted.




Gordon Street Coffee offer a good range of espresso based coffees and single origin coffees but I was craving a flat white. They had two espressos on the go - the House Blend and the Edinburgh Blend. I opted for the Edinburgh Blend first, with a cinnamon swirl and both went down a treat. I then tried the House Blend - as a flat white again. Both coffees were nice but for me The Edinburgh Blend has the edge. I thought it was a bit richer but smooth, with maybe a slight nuttiness in there somewhere. Nice. 


Roasting was taking place during my visit at the other end of the shop. Normally, customers can approach the area and discuss the process with the roaster and I will certainly make an effort to visit again on a roasting day after lockdown has finished and certainly look forward to trying more of their coffees. 💚
            



'ello, 'ello, 'ello . . . . . .Coffee?

'ello, 'ello, 'ello

       

Police boxes were first installed in Edinburgh in 1933,  to allow police officers on the beat to phone in to their station to report incidents and to receive orders. They were designed by City Architect Ebenezer MacRae and were manufactured by Carron Ironworks in Falkirk. Inevitably, with the progress of technology and specifically the introduction of radios and mobile phones their intended use became redundant.

In 2012 the Scottish Police Authority started to sell off the boxes with the help of Edinburgh City Council and over a period of a few years boxes were either bought and removed, or bought for a change of use. Some were brought into use as Tourist Information Boxes and some were fitted out as coffee kiosks, which required new supplies of electricity and water. Since then many have changed hands and have been used as retail outlets for coffee, food, ice cream, porridge and cannabis oil (I believe).

So I set out earlier this week to see if I could find any which were still operating as coffee outlets.

It was obvious from my travels around the city centre that the majority of coffee shops were still closed due to the lockdown. Footfall was still really low, although there appeared to be a "trickle" of tourists starting to appear around the city. 

I did come across one outlet which was open, near Waverley Station at the junction of Waverley Bridge and Market Street called Waverley Cafe. The box was in good order with some attractive ornaments and plants outside. I saw tins of Illy Coffee on the shelf but these were just for show - the girl serving said they had changed from Illy but wasn't sure what the current coffee was.💁 Obviously this outlet is aimed mainly at the tourist market; I'm sure the coffee they sell is good enough but I decided to preserve my potential caffeine intake for now.


I spotted a few more while I drove around, which were obviously still closed due to the lockdown or were not in use.


Lothian Road, by Usher Hall (Coffee)
Temp closed due to lockdown









Grassmarket, (Ice Cream)
Temp closed due to lockdown






I then drove towards Bruntsfield - I had passed one previously which was open, with a small queue of customers so I was hoping to be able to buy a coffee there.

I was in luck, Sam's Coffee Box was still open and no queue!

The box is well situated at the end of Bruntsfield's main shopping area; and just at the edge of Bruntsfield Links. Ideal for a takeaway coffee and a bun; and a sunbathe in the park.

Sam, who owns and operates the box, was able to give me an outline of the coffee scene in Bruntsfield during the lockdown, as he has been open throughout. He has a loyal following from the local community and offers espresso based coffees using beans from Williams & Johnson coffee roasters in Leith and a small selection of treats and sausage rolls. 


 




Williams & Johnsons Peru Espresso is a favourite of mine so I was able to enjoy a flat white while I spoke to Sam. It wasn't long before more customers arrived so I left Sam to sell more of his great coffee.




After Bruntsfield I continued on to Morningside and found The Drip, a coffee box situated midway down Morningside Road. The Drip was open and I spoke with the owner Jakub while I had one of his excellent flat whites. 

The Drip, Morningside
Jakub and his wife Aimee operate two converted police boxes, this one at Morningside and another at Tollcross. The Tollcross unit is temporary closed for the lockdown period due to the low footfall in the area.

Both units have recently been decorated with some zany graphics, painted by a local artist. They certainly make the boxes stand out on the grey Edinburgh pavements.

The Drip offer a selection of cookies, muffins, brownies and pastries to accompany their excellent coffee. The coffee is a bespoke blend, supplied by Edinburgh roaster Mr. Eion and I found it smooth and well balanced, chocolate and nutty.








                      
The Drip, Tollcross
 
So, perhaps not as many police boxes converted to coffee outlets as I had thought but it was interesting to see a few of those which were. Obviously the lockdown period has affected the operation of many so I will revisit this again when things get back to "normal".

In the meantime . . . . evening all  



Coffee shops coming out of lockdown - nearly!

I spent a few days travelling around Edinburgh recently to try and get an overall picture of the status of the city's coffee shops. Lockdown restrictions were lifted last week, allowing cafes and restaurants to serve customers inside as long as suitable safety measures were in place. 

However I was interested to see how owners would approach this with some very obvious major operational challenges. For example, they would need to consider the likely low level of custom available at this time, as "non-essential" businesses - especially the large offices - were still on lockdown. Travel is only just opening up again so the crowds of tourists normally seen at this time of year are also absent. I was also craving a professionally made flat white - I have been brewing coffee at home during the lockdown but could never achieve the great standard of coffees available in Edinburgh's coffee shops.

I visited the City Centre areas and some of the surrounding communities such as Bruntsfield and Stockbridge. Many of the coffee shops are either remain closed or operate a takeaway service only; and only open on certain days of the week. Those which are open and provide a sit-in service obviously have a reduced capacity due to the required safety measures; and only offer a restricted menu.

In general, the streets in the city are still eerily quiet. The impact of the large number of offices which were still closed was obvious to see - where is the footfall which would provide the necessary sales? A few of those who are trading have raised prices but this may also have an adverse impact on customer perception. It appears that the majority of coffee shops have decided not to offer a sit-in service but to continue with a takeaway service only for now, partly due to an anxiety over the various safety measures to be taken but also due to staffing issues. Some staff would still be furloughed - and why would you request staff to return to work without having confidence in achieving an adequate level of sales?

It's obvious also that the location and layout of the premises can affect the ability to open up safely. Some may be lucky to have patios or pavement areas for tables externally, while some may find it difficult to operate at all with the necessary social distancing requirements inside.

A brief summary of the current status of some of the city centre coffee shops follows (as at Wednesday 22nd July).

Burr & Co, George Street (within footprint of The George Hotel)
CLOSED

Lowdown Coffee, George Street
OPEN. Closed at the time of my visit for refurbishment but has since opened and provides a sit-in service. Mon to Sat 9.00am - 5.00pm, Sun 10.00an - 5.00pm.

Wellington Coffee, George Street
OPEN. Fully open but with minimal seats inside, however good seating is available outside on the basement patio or on the main street (weather permitting!)

Castello Coffee Co, Castle Street
CLOSED
Their second shop in Bruntsfield is open for takeaway service only.

Cairngorm Coffee, Frederick Street
CLOSED
Their second shop in Melville Street is open for takeaway service only.

Gordon Street Coffee Co, Market Street
OPEN
offers a sit-in service, Sun to Fri10.00am - 5.00pm, Sat 10.00am - 6.00pm


The Milkman, Cockburn Street
OPEN, takeaway service only

The Milkman is a small but fabulous coffee shop and I have written about a previous visit in my post "coffee shops near Edinburgh Waverley Station". I had a flat white here, which was nice. The owner is currently using beans from Obadiah Coffee Roasters in Edinburgh.



Machina Espresso, Tollcross
OPEN, takeaway service only

Cult Coffee, Newington
OPEN, takeaway service only


Three.14, Newington
OPEN, takeaway service only

I stopped at this small Bakery and Coffee Shop just opposite The Commonwealth Swimming Pool on Old Dalkeith Road, as I had read some very good reports on social media about the coffee. They are currently serving a Peruvian coffee on espresso from Edinburgh roasters Williams & Johnson. I had a flat white and it was lovely, one of the best coffees I've had in a while. It would have been madness not to try one of their cakes so I had a slice of lemon and poppy seed cake, which was also lovely. This is the sort of small independent shops I love going to - I'll be back!



Fortitude, Stockbridge
OPEN, takeaway service only

I've been meaning to visit Fortitude's new coffee shop in Stockbridge since it opened but the lockdown period stopped that. I stopped for a flat white, although I had a decaf on this occasion, which was nice.

Although they are open for takeaway orders only I was able to get a glimpse of their impressive Modbar Espresso system, one of only two in Scotland I believe. This system allows the business end of the espresso machine to be hidden below the counter, with only the sleek taps/group heads on show. Really impressive! 

So, in summary, it's obvious that this is a difficult time for operators who must try to make the right call which best suits their business. While we all look forward eagerly to the coffee shops opening up as normal again I can understand their wish to take a bit longer for business needs. I'm sure we can wait a little longer before we can enjoy a coffee shop visit as we did before the lockdown. 💚


Spotlight on Allpress Espresso

Spotlight: 

on Allpress Espresso



I often like to dig deep into a particular subject, to find out more about what's below the surface and so I wanted to add a section in my blog to "Spotlight" areas such as individual coffee shops, roasters, coffee beans etc. My first "Spotlight" is about Allpress Espresso coffee.


I was first drawn to "speciality coffee" in the early '90s after visiting a Seattle Coffee Company coffee shop in Edinburgh's Lothian Road. I loved the feel of the space and a new experience of lounging in a trendy environment with a huge milky espresso based coffee. This was the start of a new "Second Wave" coffee scene and it was fast moving. It was sad to see the Starbuck's takeover of Seattle Coffee Company in the late '90s but soon the whole scene was changing with a huge influx of speciality coffee shops, including large national chain shops such as Costa Coffee and later, Cafe Nero.

Then came a "Third Wave". Entrepreneurial businesses wanted to go further - sourcing the coffee beans themselves and roasting the beans locally to bespoke profiles; and describing the flavours of the various roasts just as a wine connoisseur would do for wines. The beans would have a certifiable traceability where a story could be told about the origin of the bean, down to the Country, Region, individual farm and even the farm workers.  

The core products on offer are on the whole, espresso based coffees - espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, etc. - but there has also been a resurgence in filter coffee using various brewing methods. The coffee experts, geeks, aficionados, speak about their preferred brewing method, extraction rates, correct degree of grind, amongst a host of other parameters they like to use to get the best possible result. However, whilst the coffee shop owner can offer this to attract the knowledgeable coffee drinkers, the core offer will usually be a range of espresso based drinks. These can be made from a "single origin" coffee with it's own distinguishing taste, or a blend of coffees to combine the best components from a range of different beans. The large chains such as Costa and Nero have their own bespoke blends which are popular and easily recognisable to their own consumer base. The advantage of these blends are that they are consistent and have "middle-of-the-road" flavours which attract and satisfy a wide following. When you visit a Costa or Nero you know what you're going to get and you will go back again - it's a "safe haven" in today's coffee scene.


Castello Coffee Co
7a Castle Street, Edinburgh EH2 3AH
www.facebook.com/CastelloCoffee


While I like to visit lots of coffee shops and try the various different coffees on offer, I always like to have my own "safe haven" (or two) in the back of my mind - sometimes you just need to get some time-out where you know the coffee will be good. Fortunately, with the wide variety of coffee shops available in Edinburgh I'm able to have a number of "safe-havens". One of them is Castello Coffee Co in Castle Street, who use Allpress coffee - a reliable and consistent espresso coffee.



Here's a brief summary of Allpress Espresso:

Allpress Espresso is a coffee roaster and ‘espresso specialist’ founded by Michael Allpress in New Zealand, in 1989. Michael started out with a basic coffee machine and cart and has expanded the business into a key player in today's speciality coffee market, supplying independent cafés around the world with a strong focus in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and Japan.
Allpress concentrate on using a great product - regularly visiting reputable exporters in Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala and Indonesia to source good quality beans. Ethical sourcing of huge importance to Allpress. They will visit the plantations, check the picking regulations, how they look after any migrant workers, whether doctors and dentists are provided on site and whether there is good housing. 

They are also passionate about the way they roast the coffee beans, using the Hot Air Roasting method and have even designed their own roasting machines based on this method. Allpress has always been in pursuit of flavour and with a great product enhanced with the right roasting technique, they can offer a reliable, consistent great cup of coffee.

The beans making up the espresso blend are Brazil Melado, Colombia Pescador, Guatemala Sierra Encantada and Sumatra Garuda. The coffee is described by Allpress as:

"A perfectly balanced, medium roast coffee. Sweet and complex with a long smooth finish.  Brazil brings body, good sweetness and a long, smooth aftertaste. Colombia and Guatemala provide juicy apple acidity, caramel and milk chocolate tones. The wet-hulled Sumatra brings great body, some spice and earthy notes, dark fruit notes and sweetness."

I subscribe fully to the thoughts of Michael Allpress in the photo below:

"As a coffee drinker, I want the coffee that I drink in the morning to be regular, to be the same, to be like the coffee I had yesterday, and the day before. Coffee can be a friend, as opposed to a surprise"

You can get more information on Allpress with their full range of coffees on their website https://uk.allpressespresso.com/
Allpress this year. Photo/Adrian Malloch/Listener

Coffee shops in Edinburgh City Centre

Following my first post listing a few of my favourite coffee shops near to Edinburgh Waverley Station, I have pulled together a further list - this time it's a selection of coffee shops in Edinburgh City Centre. There are numerous attractive options in the City Centre so I will most likely update this list at a later date. As before, due to the current covid-19 "lock-down" these are reviews of my visits carried out last month (March 20) before the lock-down took effect. Some of the shops are operating a restricted take-away service and many continue to offer an on-line (or telephone) ordering service for retail packs by post. We all look forward to a return to "normality" soon. Stay safe everyone.


☕ ☕ ☕


Fortitude Coffee
3c York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EB (New Town)

www.fortitudecoffee.com




Fortitude Coffee is a speciality coffee roaster in Edinburgh with a coffee shop on York Place. It's a smallish shop with around 12 seats inside and a few seats outside on the steps up from pavement level. I am aware that they opened a second shop at Hamilton Place, Stockbridge just before the covid-19 lock-down was put in place, so I haven't been able to visit yet.

The shop at York Place is easy to miss if you're not paying attention - up a set of steps from the main street. Each time I have visited, the shop has been busy but fortunately on this occasion I was able to get a seat. There are only a few small tables and chairs on one side of the shop, with some retail coffees displayed on shelving above the tables. Along the opposite wall is a long wall bench with stools and I was able to take one of these.


There is always a friendly welcome here and the service is quick, while the staff always appear unhurried. The small counter towards the rear of the shop has a glass display cabinet of tasty looking cakes, pastries and sandwiches; and I ordered a piece of carrot and walnut cake - and a flat white of course. The shop has a great atmosphere, with a nice balance of lively chat and chilled music.


My flat white was excellent. It was expertly made, well balanced with just a wee touch of "fruitiness". Prices are in line with other speciality shops in the area, my flat white was £2.80, a latte costs £2.90 and a pour-over £3.50. Fortitude roast seasonal single origin coffees and the staff are delighted to offer advice on the various beans when asked.


The shop has a toilet facility at the rear. The large window and narrow glazed double doors at the entrance and the light decor helps to provide a cheery and bright interior. The steps up to the entrance from the main road would restrict wheelchair access.


In my opinion this is one of Edinburgh's finest speciality coffee shops and I can't wait to visit their new shop in Stockbridge at some point in the (hopefully, very near) future.




☕ ☕ ☕


Lowdown Coffee
40 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LE (New Town)

facebook.com/lowdowncoffee




Lowdown Coffee is a modern speciality coffee shop in George Street, Edinburgh's prime shopping street. It's a small basement shop but has a modern bright, almost minimalist, interior and seats around 15. They serve speciality single origin coffees, which are rotated. The coffee used at the time of my visit was an Ethiopian Halo Espresso, from The Coffee Collective in Denmark. Lowdown also serve fine teas and a light food menu, which includes (I'm happy to report) a great selection of cakes.

You access the coffee shop down some steps from pavement level, onto a small basement courtyard which has a few tables and chairs. When you enter the coffee shop, you are welcomed by the staff at a small counter and shown to a table. A menu is brought to your table along with a carafe of fresh water and a glass - a nice touch while you ponder the menu.

Lowdown doesn't have a traditional serving counter so the whole room is open plan. The espresso machine and drinks prep area is on a countertop set against the back wall, which seems strange at first, however this allows you to see your drinks being made (impeccably I might add). I ordered a flat white and a piece of lemon cake. I watched my flat white being made from scratch, from the weighing out of the beans, the grinding, the precise timing of the espresso brew, the milk steaming and latte art. I was enjoying myself - and the coffee and cake were both excellent. Prices are a little more expensive than other speciality shops in the area - my flat white cost £3:00, a latte also costs £3.00.

The steps down from the main street obviously are not wheelchair friendly, the coffee shop has a toilet facility and the menu stipulates a maximum stay of 1.5 hours. Overall, Lowdown Coffee is a key player in Edinburgh's speciality coffee scene.

☕ ☕ ☕


Wellington Coffee
33a George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HN (New Town)


Wellington Coffee sits on the corner of George Street and Hanover Street, at basement level. It is small inside but has tables and chairs on the basement patio area and in good weather tables and chairs are also available on the main pavement area.

At first glance the interior seems plain and uninspiring, however once you're inside and get used to the space (and smell the coffee) it actually has a great atmosphere. With the old wooden tables and stools; and part wood-clad walls, you quickly feel at home. This is a popular spot for coffee lovers so you'll do well to get one of the 16 seats.

Wellington doesn't offer a wide menu for eating but concentrates on the coffee and treats. I had a flat white with a huge slab of chocolate brownie and both were delicious. The coffee is Red Brick, supplied by Square Mile coffee roasters in London. My flat white was well made and chocolatey, so I had another. At £2.85 for my flat white and £3.00 for a latte, prices are a smidgen above average in comparison with others in the area.

The coffee shop has a toilet but the steps down to the entrance will obviously restrict wheelchair access.

This is a great coffee stop in a good location with a great atmosphere, whether you are visiting on your own or meeting friends.

☕ ☕ ☕


Cairngorm Coffee
41a Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EP (New Town)
Cairngorm Coffee has two coffee shops in Edinburgh - one in Edinburgh's West End and this one, which is the smaller of the two, in Frederick Street. This is another basement coffee shop which you can easily pass by without noticing.

Cairngorm Coffee have their own roastery (in the Cairngorms funnily enough) and serve the usual pastries, cakes and brownies; and some spectacular looking toasted sandwiches. The entrance to the shop is down some steps from pavement level. It's fairly small inside - the servery counter faces you immediately as you walk in. The seating area is over to the right of the counter, with around 20 seats in a mix of industrial style benches and stools. The ceiling over the seating area is lined with old hessian coffee bags but with light coloured walls and generous lighting the small space inside is bright enough and very cosy looking.

The menu - and a sign behind the counter - advertised "coffee & grilled cheese", so I ordered the cheese toastie with a flat white. My flat white tasted nice, although I found the steamed milk a bit thin and so the "latte art" on top didn't last for long. The toastie however was amazing - with thick, stringy melting cheese oozing out the sides. The cheese was very strong (which I like) and a good choice on a cold day. My flat white cost £2.80 which is about average for speciality shops in the area and a latte was priced at £2.90. Filter coffee and speciality teas are also available.

The shop has a toilet - there are a few seats outside on the basement patio area and further seating outside at pavement level. Overall, a cosy and friendly coffee shop with a laid-back atmosphere.

☕ ☕ ☕



Burr & Co
20 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PB (New Town)



Burr & Co sits on George Street, within the larger footprint of The Intercontinental George Hotel. While the coffee shop supports hotel guests, it is also a popular venue with the general public. It is cosy, welcoming, affordable and easy going; and the brand is "inspired by Victorian coffeehouses, with a 21st century twist". Burr & Co have a second location in London, on the corner of Bernard Street and Russell Square and their coffees are supplied by Caravan Coffee Roasters in London.

Entrance to the coffee shop is directly from George Street. There is a window bar either side of the entrance door which I always make for, if free. The interior of the shop has a continental look, with wood-panelled walls, large mirrors, small round marble-topped tables and mosaic tiled floor. A long servery counter runs deep into the shop, displaying the range of cakes, pastries, sandwiches and light lunches on offer. As usual, I was happy to order a flat white but it was approaching lunchtime so I added a ham and cheese croissant. I thought at first that the clientele would mostly be business types from the hotel but I couldn't have been more wrong. Burr & Co is a friendly, lively coffee shop which has a good local following.


My coffee and croissant were both excellent. The shop offers the usual espresso based drinks and has a brew bar with single origin coffees from Caravan Coffee, London. The espresso is a bespoke George Street Blend produced for Burr & Co. It was pleasantly chocolatey, with just a hint of fruitiness. I had tasted a few different coffees earlier that day and fancied a cup of tea, so I ordered an Earl Grey to finish off with. The tea was excellent - from speciality tea supplier Shibui Tea based in Loanhead, not far from Edinburgh. The prices in Burr & Co are very reasonable and in line with speciality coffee shops in the area - my flat white cost £2.70 and a latte was priced at £2.90.


Access from the main street is fine for wheelchairs and the shop seats around 26. Although the shop doesn't have a dedicated toilet in the space, you are directed through the back of the shop to the hotel toilets, which is an experience in itself. The toilets are immaculately laid out, with fresh flowers, fancy hand soaps, lotion and individual cotton hand towels.


Whether you visit Burr & Co for one of their excellent coffees or teas, you won't be disappointed. Overall, an excellent coffee shop for some "me time" or to meet a friend.



☕ ☕ ☕



Castello Coffee Co
7a Castle Street, Edinburgh EH2 3AH (New Town)



Castello Coffee Co is situated on Castle Street, not far up from the junction with Princes Street. It only has a small frontage, amongst a row of large commercial buildings, so it's easy to miss. 

The interior is bright and modern although small, with around 15 seats - a mixture of small tables with chairs; and some wall bar seating. You enter the shop from the main pavement level and so has good access for wheelchairs; and there are more seats outside. The counter has a display of cakes and sandwiches on offer and the menu board advertises breakfast and brunch including home made soup.

I ordered a flat white and cake; and the service was quick and friendly. Castello use Allpress Espresso - and the coffee was excellent. This is Allpress's signature coffee, a lovely smooth blend with notes of chocolate and caramel; and a wee hint of fruitiness and perhaps even a feint hint of spice?  While I enjoyed my coffee and cake it was obvious that the shop has a loyal local following, with a steady flow of take-away orders too. 


Overall, Castello Coffee Co is a small, friendly, modern coffee shop, with great coffee and some delicious looking light meals.



☕ ☕ ☕



Introduction to Edinburgh Coffee Shops Blog

Union Brew Lab, meticulously brewed single origin coffee