There’ve been a few openings in Glasgow since my last visit (for the previous Glasgow Coffee Festival, back in 2015), so when I returned for this year’s festival, I had lots of places to catch up on. Top of the list was Primal Roast, which opened in late 2015, and was the one place everyone said to visit. In the western part of the Glasgow’s compact city centre, it made the perfect kicking-off point for my one-day tour as I stopped by for breakfast.
Occupying a spacious basement on the north side of St Vincent Street, there’s a bright, sunny front section, with limited seating, and a large, cosy rear with multiple tables and sofas where you can curl up all day if you like.
The family-run Primal Roast is as much about food as it is coffee, with both reaching a similarly high standard. Local roasters, Dear Green Coffee, provide a bespoke house-blend on espresso, while there’s a continually-rotating cast of guests on filter through either V60 or Aeropress. If you’re hungry, there are full breakfast (until 11 on weekdays and all-day Saturday) and lunch menus, with extensive vegan options for both. There’s also a range of interesting cakes.
Welcome to the second of my detailed write-ups from the third Glasgow Coffee Festival, which took place earlier this month. My original intention was to split this into two parts, but events have overtaken me, so I’m going to split it into three instead. Or possibly four, the way things are going, but hopefully not!
In Part I, I looked at the venue itself, the wonderful, soaring hall that is the Briggait, before going on to look at those exhibitors who had travelled from outside of Scotland to attend. This week, I’m continuing the theme of those who had travelled a long way to get to the festival with someone who could argue that he’d come the furthest. Me.
Exactly one week before the festival, I’d been in Japan, sent on a mission by Lisa of festival organisers (I still refuse to call them curators), Dear Green Coffee. My task? To collect coffee from various Japanese roasters for a cupping at the festival. Well, there was also the small matter of a business meeting, plus a week spent travelling around Japan afterwards, which might have had something to do with my going out there. However, I prefer the first explanation…
When I ran into Jamie, owner of Luckie Beans, at the Glasgow Coffee Festival, I learnt all about the coffee cart which had opened, at rather short notice, the previous summer. Invited in by the management at Glasgow Queen Street Station, Jamie had all of two weeks to set everything up, including sourcing the cart and all the equipment.
The result is quite impressive and a welcome addition to the station. Although there are plenty of options nearby in Glasgow city centre, there’s nothing quite like having speciality coffee on the station concourse, especially if you’re waiting for a train.
The Luckie Beans cart serves a blend and single-origin on espresso, with the option to buy the beans. There are also various sweet treats and savoury offerings, including porridge and sandwiches. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a small seating area, perfect if you have a few minutes to spare.
The Steamie’s been on my list for a little while. On the eastern edge of Glasgow’s West End in Finniestan, it’s just along from The Cran’ (and pre-dates it by several years). So it made sense to call in for lunch on my one-day, post Glasgow Coffee Festival tour. That and I’d run into the owner, Stephen, at the festival the day before, where he’d extracted a promise that I’d pop by…
Stephen, by the way, has been nagging, I mean, politely requesting, that I visit The Steamie for a couple of years now. It turns out that my failure to do so was not down to slackness on my part. No, I was waiting for The Steamie to start roasting its own coffee, which it did at the end of January. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
As well as coffee and a range of loose-leaf teas, The Steamie has an excellent range of cake, plus an all-day breakfast/lunch menu, serving the likes of muesli and porridge, along with toast, three options for poached eggs (meat, fish, veggie) and another three for baked eggs skillet (two veggie, one meat). There’s also soup, plus sandwiches (eat in/takeaway).
Welcome to the first of my detailed write-ups from the third Glasgow Coffee Festival, which took place earlier this month. The festival was last held in October 2015 and skipped 2016 while it was moved from the cold, autumn months to the warmth of a Glasgow spring. The first two Glasgow Coffee Festivals were one-day events, both of which sold out, so this year the festival expanded to two days, taking place over the weekend of 6th/7th May.
I had originally intended to attend both days, but a series of unfortunate events meant that I could only make it for the Sunday in the end. This meant that I was unable to see absolutely everything/everyone at the festival, missing out on the competitions and all of the presentations, masterclasses and cuppings (except the one I did!).
As I did last year, I’m going to split my report into two parts, although there’s no particular theme to either part, more of a random walk through who I met and what I got up to. So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy Part I of my Glasgow Coffee Festival write up. If you’re interested, Part II should be out in two weeks’ time.
I was in Glasgow at the weekend for the 2017 Glasgow Coffee Festival, but before I travelled back down south, I spent Monday visiting some of the coffee shops that had sprung up since my last visit, back in 2015 for the previous Glasgow Coffee Festival. Chief amongst these is The Cran’, a delightful little spot in Finnieston, at the eastern edge of Glasgow’s west end, which opened at the start of this year.
Occupying a long, thin space running along Argyle Street, The Cran’ (which is named after the local landmark, a large crane on the banks of the Clyde) offers an interesting range of vegan food, cakes, loose-leaf tea and some excellent coffee on espresso and bulk-brew from a rotating cast of roasters, all served in a quirky space which reflects something of the history of the building it occupies.
The coffee-side of the operation is run by Gillian, who I first met in Avenue Coffee’s Great Western Road branch when she was a barista there. She was originally brought in by the owner, Aziz, to provide training, but when he saw how good she was, he immediately invited Gillian to run the coffee part of the business.
So there I was, minding my own business at the London Coffee Festival, when I ran into Lisa of Dear Green Coffee, organiser of the Glasgow Coffee Festival. Rather foolishly, I mentioned that I was flying to Japan that week, returning just in time for the festival. Well, said Lisa, in that case, why not bring back some Japanese coffee and we can have a cupping? Why not indeed…
Fast-forward two weeks and there I am in Tokyo, thinking that I really should get do something about my rather spur-of-the-moment agreement to Lisa’s proposal. Fortunately, I’d just embarked on a week’s travelling around Japan, so was able to pick up a rather eclectic mix of Japanese-roasted coffee.
Like my trip, there was no great planning involved in my purchasing, which might explain why I brought back with three Kenyans, two Ethiopians and a pair from Costa Rica. Typically I either bought something I’d tried (such as the Ethiopian I picked up from Kaido Books And Coffee) or I asked for recommendations. With hindsight, I rather wished I’d got some of the aged Kenyan coffee I had at Café de L’Ambre, but alas that thought only came to me five minutes ago…
It’s that time of year again. No sooner has one festival finished, than another looms on the horizon. And, in my case, as soon as I get back from Japan, I’ll be heading up to Glasgow for the third Glasgow Coffee Festival. Unfortunately, I had to miss the first festival, which was back in 2014, but I made it to the second festival, which took place in 2015. Sadly, it then skipped a year in 2016 in order to move from the distinctly chilly months of October/November to warmer (we hope) times in May (the weekend of 6th/7th).
Although called the Glasgow Coffee Festival (it’s held in Glasgow, after all), it’s more a celebration of Scotland’s growing specialty coffee scene, with lots of contributors from further afield as well. After the first two years, when it was sold out, the festival has expanded from a single day to occupy the entire weekend, from Saturday morning to Sunday evening, putting it on a par with the likes of the Manchester Coffee Festival, a festival which it closely resembles in scale and atmosphere (compared to, say, the London Coffee Festival).
So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy my Glasgow Coffee Festival preview.
Avenue Coffee grew out of the Avenue G café on Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End. The intention was for Avenue G to roast its own coffee and the second branch, on the Great Western Road, was designed with this in mind. More of a coffee shop than the original, the mezzanine level at the rear of the shop was set aside as the roastery and Tom, then head roaster, oversaw the procurement and installation of the Diedrich roaster.
However, Tom left and the roasting duties were shared by Katelyn and Todd, who have now been joined by Colin, who they are training up as a roaster in his own right. These days, Avenue Coffee roasts around 100 kg a week, of which between 40-60 kg is for its own use (one-third at Great Western Road, two-thirds at Avenue G) with the remainder going to the likes of Glasgow’s Spitfire Espresso and Rialto in Eyemouth. Output includes espresso blends (for example, Spitfire has its own bespoke espresso blend) and single-origins, a cracking decaf (which I’ve enjoyed at home) and several seasonal single-origins roasted for filter. These are all available to buy in the two Avenue stores as well as on-line.
Another of Glasgow’s growing band of coffee shops, Spitfire Espresso joined the fray in 2015. Unlike the subject of Monday’s Coffee Spot, Meadow Road Coffee, which is taking speciality coffee out west, Spitfire Espresso is right in the centre, on the corner of Candleriggs and Ingram Street, less than 10 minutes’ walk from both Glasgow’s Queen Street and Central Stations. It’s also close to the likes of Laboratorio Espresso and Riverhill Coffee Bar and, in the other direction, McCune Smith. Spitfire also uses a local, Glaswegian roaster, in this case Avenue Coffee, which provides Spitfire with a bespoke espresso blend.
Spitfire Espresso is a bright, spacious spot, with high ceilings and plenty of seating, including tables outside on both Candleriggs and Ingram Street. There are also generous windows on both sides, adding to the bright interior. There’s a strong World War II/swinging 50s theme, with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. As well as the aforementioned espresso, there’s also an all-day eggs menu, plus sandwiches and cakes, with the egg dishes and sandwiches named after WWII aircraft (eg Hawker Hurricane, P51 Mustang and Lancaster Bomber, not to mentioned the eponymous Spitfire: scrambled, poached or fried eggs on toast).