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. 💚

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