Last week, I brought you Part I of my round-up of this year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival. Although the Glasgow Coffee Festival by name (it’s held in Glasgow, after all), it’s more a celebration of Scotland’s growing specialty coffee scene, with plenty of contributions from further afield. It’s a lovely, one-day festival, held this year on 17th October. Small, laidback and friendly, there was plenty of time to talk and socialise, an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.
In the imaginatively entitled Part I, I talked about the venue itself, the magnificent Briggait, looked at the vintage espresso machines and up-to-date hand-grinders that were on display, ran through all the coffee that I drank and reported back on my attempts to pull a shot on a Slayer.
In the even more imaginatively entitled Part II, I’ll run through all the Scottish roasters that I met, round up all the other roasters that I chatted to, and round-up everything else I found at the festival. However, before that, let me introduce you to Wil Freeborn…
You can see meet Wil after the gallery.
Wil Freeborn is a very talented artist who, last year, produced a calendar featuring drawings of some of my favourite speciality coffee shops in Edinburgh and Glasgow. We’d not met, but I’d bought Wil’s calendar last year and was following him on social media, so when the opportunity arose to meet him, I jumped at it.
Wil was exhibiting prints of his drawings, plus some amazing hand-illustrated coffee cups, each one themed on a particular speciality coffee shop. The pictures in the gallery don’t do them justice: they really do have to be seen to be believed. Sadly Wil’s not producing another calendar this year; he’d been doing the research and preliminary sketches, but ran out of time. Instead, I believe that he’s reprinting last year’s calendar (check his web site) and a new calendar should be out this time next year.
Wil wasn’t the only artist at the festival. I popped down to the Meadow Road Coffee stall, where I found some amazing cups from John Maguire. These came in an interesting range of sizes, all in a striking black-and-white design, but in irregular shapes; some with bulging handles, others with wavy rims. I was very tempted to buy one or two, but wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get them back home with me.
Finally, in the artist category, a group called All The Young Nudes was there, running drop-in life-drawing sessions. I can’t draw for toffee (although I’m told this is not necessarily an impediment), and managed to completely miss the sessions anyway. If you want to try them out, All The Young Nudes run regular weekly sessions in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and now London. See the website for details.
Coming back to Wil, as a special treat, Wil let me have a peek inside his sketch book, which is full of pictures of cafés and roasters from across Scotland. We talked about how the speciality coffee scene has taken off across Scotland, with coffee shops and roasters popping up in the most unlikely places. If I can, next year I’m going to do a tour of Scotland and see if I can’t track them all down. In the meantime, quite a few of them had come to me instead.
First of all, I popped along to see Luckie Beans, from Berwick-upon-Tweed. In England. Well, that’s a good start for my round-up of Scottish roasters… In my defence, it’s almost England and the roaster himself, Jamie McLuckie (any idea where the name came from yet?), is most definitely Scottish. Luckie Beans are relatively new, having only started roasting this year. There’s a house-blend, Love Lane, which is a little darker, with a touch of robusta, aimed squarely at the more mainstream market, and a small range of single-origin beans.
Luckie Beans, quite inventively, hadn’t brought an espresso machine, and instead was brewing up the coffee using a syphon. I didn’t get to try any at the festival, but I do have a bag of the Love Lane blend at home which I’ve been putting through my cafetiere first thing in the morning. Sadly I’m not getting on with the robusta and am looking forward to seeing how it will go through my espresso machine, where I suspect it will fare much better.
Next I called in to see Ovenbird, from Stirling, which is definitely in Scotland. Ovenbird had brought along a little half kilo sample roasters and was roasting (and selling) Rwandan green beans on the stall. Ovenbird has been going a little while now and has a strong on-line presence, including various blends, single-origins and tasting packs, plus subscriptions. Since it was being roasted there and then, I had to try some of the Rwandan (which, just in case anyone jumps to any conclusions, had been roasted the week before), which I had as an espresso. Although I enjoyed it, I found it a little too bright for me.
Next, flying the flag for the Highlands, came Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters, who had one of the most striking and prominent stands in the whole festival, so naturally I visited it towards the end of the day. I’ve been aware of Glen Lyon for a few years, having had (and enjoyed) some of its Red Stag espresso blend a couple of years ago. Based in Aberfeldy, Glen Lyon had some strong links to origin and I went to a talk (the only one I made it to) about a trip to Rwanda to meet some coffee farmers there.
Glen Lyon had some interesting single-origin coffee on the stand, including a micro-lot from Vietnam, which, in hindsight, I wish I’d tried. However, given the Rwandan talk, I went instead for the West Coast Roast, which highlights coffee from a specific origin, in this case a Rwandan Buf Nyarusiza. However, as with Ovenbird’s offering, I found it a little too bright for me
Next to Glen Lyon was Round Square Roastery from Ayrshire, another relative newcomer, who I popped in to see right at the end of the day, when I was all coffee-ed out. Round Square is another example of the spread of speciality coffee in Scotland and I’m hoping I’ll be able to call in and see them next time I’m in Scotland.
Finally, let’s not forget Dear Green Coffee, who organised the whole things and who were tucked away at the back of the festival. Since I was on a mission to meet new roasters, I didn’t get time to go and say anything but the briefest of hellos. However, I did pop by to the magnificent new roastery which Dear Green was in the process of moving into, where the after-festival party was being held. It’s an amazing space and, having heard about all the plans for it, I’m looking forward to coming back when it’s finished!
I always love catching up with Cumbria’s Carvetii and, as an added bonus, my favourite purveyors of single-origin hot chocolate, Kokoa Collection, was on the next door stand, only Paul, from Kokoa Collection, wasn’t actually there. Instead, the guys from Carvetii were looking after the stall on his behalf. What better combination, hot chocolate and coffee?
Gareth & Angharad, who run Carvetii, are always good value. I had a long talk with Gareth about the challenges of running a speciality coffee roastery in what is not, at first sight, prime third-wave coffee territory. Carvetii has been going for five years now and it’s been a long, slow process of steadily building the market, supporting and encouraging customers along the way. Carvetii also fly the flag at various local/regional markets and food fairs. Anyone looking to grow a speciality coffee market could do worse than spend half an hour with Gareth and Angharad.
The Carvetii stand, as well as having lots of coffee, had one of the most essential of elements at a coffee festival, a water tap. In fact, since I know Carvetii’s coffee fairly well, I didn’t actually have any, but I drink an awful lot of water. The other place with a water tap, and the most popular stand in the whole festival, was Sheffield’s Foundry Coffee Roasters, which had teamed up with local lad Will, of It All Started Here. If you’re ever in Glasgow and want some Foundry coffee, seek out It All Started Here at one of the weekend markets/pop-ups that Will frequents.
I didn’t get much change to talk to Lee and Callum from Foundry (or Will for that matter) since they were constantly busy, pulling shot after shot on Foundry’s lovely lever machine. I did however, round off my day with a shot of the Ethiopian Rocko mountain, which continued my knack of picking espresso that was far too bright for my palate!
Talking of lever machines, I made my usual pilgrimage to the J Atkinson & Co. stall to have a drool (err, I mean, look) at its Faema E61 and watch a few shots being pulled. I also briefly stuck my nose in at the Coopers stall at the end of the day to say hello. I’ll be catching up with both of them at Cup North.
One of the many good things about the Glasgow Coffee Festival is the quality, quantity and variety of food on offer, plus the abundance of places to sit and eat it. I ended up grabbing a couple of (savoury) things through the day; a wrap from Riverhill Outside, the outside catering arm of the lovely Riverhill Coffee Bar, and a sandwich from Meadow Road Coffee. However, there was plenty of other food on offer, including a decent selection from McCune Smith, who managed to sell out before I got to them (although I heard very good reports). Sweet things were also there in abundance: I had one of the last doughnuts from Edinburgh’s Twelve Triangles, being sold on the Brew Lab stand. There were also cakes and chocolates on sale at various stands, including Spitfire Espresso, Three Sisters Bake and Sugar Wings.
I did pretty well in getting around the stands. The only ones I really missed out on were Coopers from Huddersfield, who I knew I’d be catching up with at Cup North, and Caffeine Fix. Finally, thanks to everyone who gave me coffee: Coopers, Andy from Our Coffee Love, Carvetii/Foundry Coffee Roasters and Avenue Coffee.
The Glasgow Coffee Festival was a runner-up for the 2015 Coffee Spot Award for Best Saturday Supplement by the way.
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