You can't visit Edinburgh at the moment without noticing the new coffee company in town - Black Sheep Coffee Company. I passed outlets in George Street, Princes Street and spotted a huge advertisement on a new building at the West End - Black Sheep Coffee, Coming Soon. So I needed to find out more.
I had a look at the George Street outlet first. It's a fairly small shop and was quite busy so I headed for the Princes Street site. It was easy to spot, having some large flags advertising the shop.
The entrance was a few steps up from pavement level and you arrive in an entrance foyer. The coffee servery lies to your left, in the main area but you must first select your order from an electronic screen in the foyer - much like those used in large modern eateries such as KFC, or McDonald's. You're issued with a number, then you can approach the servery and watch the screen above the bar to see where you're number lies in the queue. There's not really much chance to interact with the barista/server.
When you receive your order you can then take it to the coffee lounge, which is upstairs.
The coffee lounge was fairly quiet at my visit so I was able to grab a seat at one of the tables which overlooked Princes Street and had a great view of The Castle. The interior of Black Sheep sites are described as "an immersive Urban experience"; and while I liked some of the wall graphics I thought the atmosphere was pretty soulless. The space had a cold canteen-ish look, with a lack of character - an important aspect of a modern coffee shop. There were a number of tables which hadn't been cleared and they weren't cleared during my visit.
You have the choice of Arabica, or Robusta coffee when selecting your drink on the electronic screen - I chose a Robusta oat flat white, as Black Sheep state a "Robusta Revival" as a usp. The literature states that the Company are "proud to be serving the first speciality grade Robusta on the market" - listing the benefits of "Double the Caffeine, Lower Acidity, Fuller Body and Richer Crema". While I'm aware that it's common to blend a small percentage of Robusta to Arabica beans to achieve a crowd pleasing coffee, I'm not sure a totally Robusta coffee would suit many.
My flat white was drinkable but not memorable. I may have enjoyed it more in more pleasant surroundings but it still wouldn't be enjoyable enough to make me head for a Black Sheep outlet, rather than the excellent Indy shops we have available. In fact, I think this type of large chain coffee offering seems to be more about securing key commercial property in major cities than making excellent coffee available for more people.
Not my thing I'm afraid 😕