Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017 Preview

The Glasgow Coffee Festival LogoIt’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.

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Avenue Coffee Roasting Co

Avenue Coffee's Diedrich roaster, with a batch of freshly-roasted beans in the cooling pan.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.

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Spitfire Espresso

The Spitfire Espresso logo, as painted on the wall of the shop in Candleriggs.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).

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Meadow Road Coffee

The words "Meadow Road" written as is on a street sign, in black on a white background, while perched on top is a black and white line drawing of a bird with a coffee bean in its beak.Glasgow used to trail its neighbour (and great rival) Edinburgh in the speciality coffee stakes. However, in the last couple of years, Glasgow has been catching up fast through a new breed of coffee shops such as Meadow Road Coffee. Traditionally, speciality coffee in Glasgow has clustered around either the West End or, more recently, the City Centre, but Meadow Road bucks that trend, situated at the far end of the Dumbarton Road, which runs due west from the West End’s southwest corner.

Before purists such as myself cry foul, Meadow Road Coffee is indeed on Meadow Road, on the corner where it meets Dumbarton Road, giving the coffee shop windows on both sides. Although north facing, it catches the morning sun and is generally filled with a pleasing, subdued light. A small rectangle, Meadow Road has a simple layout, counter at the back, seating along the windows. A good deal of the interior is given over to a small but impressive kitchen which turns out an equally impressive range of food, vying with the coffee in terms of quality. The latter comes from local roasters, Dear Green Coffee, on both espresso and filter, the latter supplemented by regularly-rotating guests.

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Glasgow Coffee Festival 2015 Part II

The poster for the 2015 Glasgow Coffee FestivalLast 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…

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McCune Smith

The words McCUNE SMITH GLASGOW in black typeface on white.Once upon a time, speciality coffee in Glasgow was generally a West End thing, but in the last couple of years, that’s changed, with pioneers such as the Riverhill Coffee Bar, Laboratorio Espresso and today’s Coffee Spot, McCune Smith, moving into the city centre and its immediate surroundings.

A little way east of the centre of Glasgow, you’ll find McCune Smith at the top (west) end of Duke Street, right on the edge of the University of Strathclyde, in an area that feels like it might have the estate agent tag of “up-and-coming”. In the words of its owner, Dan, it’s a sandwich bar which caught the coffee bug, teaming up with Glasgow’s very own Dear Green Coffee to turn itself into a lovely little spot.

In keeping with many places in Glasgow, McCune Smith marries excellent coffee with a very strong food offering (not surprising, given its sandwich-bar origins). However, with a nod to Glasgow’s Enlightenment history, McCune Smith is named after Dr James McCune Smith, the black intellectual and abolitionist who became the first African American in the world to hold a medical degree when he graduated from Glasgow’s Old College in 1837.

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Avenue Coffee, Great Western Road

Avenue Coffee on the corner of Glasgow's Great Western Avenue and Barrington Drive.While in Glasgow for Caffeine Magazine in April 2014, I visited Avenue Coffee on the Great Western Road, where I met a young barista named Katelyn. Back then it had recently opened, was known as Avenue G, and, upstairs on the mezzanine level, a coffee roaster was being installed: Avenue G was about to start roasting under the name “Avenue Coffee”.

Realising that anything I wrote would be out-of-date before I even published it, I decided to wait until I’d had a chance to visit the roastery before writing up the Great Western Road branch. Fast-forward 18 months, the young barista had turned head-roaster, and I was finally able to accept Katelyn’s long-standing invitation to visit.  You can see what I made of the Avenue Coffee Roasting Company in the Meet the Roaster series; today I’m focusing on the coffee shop part of the operation.

Sitting on the corner of Barrington Drive, Avenue Coffee a lovely, sunlit spot, decked out in wood, brick and bare stone. Best described as the speciality coffee wing of Avenue G, it showcases the roastery’s output (plus guest roasters) with two options on espresso and three on filter, prepared through any of six brew methods.

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Glasgow Coffee Festival 2015 Part I

The poster for the 2015 Glasgow Coffee FestivalTwo weeks ago I was in Glasgow for the second Glasgow Coffee Festival. 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.

Both in scale and atmosphere, it felt more like Cup North than the London Coffee Festival, 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. I was there for eight hours and still didn’t manage to get around all the stalls (as well as missing all bar one of the talks/workshops/masterclasses/ cuppings).

Some of that was deliberate, because I knew that I would be catching up with people either later that week (I’d set aside a day each to visit new coffee shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh) or a few weeks later at Cup North. Some however, I missed simply because I ran out of time… Despite this, I had a wonderful Glasgow Coffee Festival and will be back next year!

There was enough going on that I’m splitting my report into multiple parts, starting with this, imaginatively entitled Part I (and continuing with the equally imaginative Part II next week)…

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Glasgow Coffee Festival 2015 Preview

The poster for the 2015 Glasgow Coffee FestivalCoffee Festivals come thick and fast this time of the year. The end of September saw not one, but two inaugural festivals, the New York Coffee Festival, and, slightly closer to home, the Northern Ireland Coffee Festival. Then, last Saturday, along came the first Edinburgh Coffee Festival, while this weekend, it’s the turn of Prague’s Coffee Festival.

The coming weekends see two of last year’s favourites making their second appearances. At the start of November (7th/8th), Cup North returns to Manchester, while next Saturday (October 17th) we have the return of the Glasgow Coffee Festival. Sadly I wasn’t able to make it last year due to various diary commitments, plus Glasgow annoyingly being at the other end of the country from where I live (how dare it!). This year, however, it’s been circled on my calendar for a long, long time.

Held in the Briggait, a soaring hall that was built as Glasgow’s fish market over 100 years ago, it’s just around the corner from festival organisers, Glasgow’s very own Dear Green Coffee roasters. Tickets are just £11.25 (including booking fee), which gives you access to nine hours (10:00 – 19:00) of coffee-based events, including the UK’s first-ever roasting championships.

PS If you’re heading up to Glasgow for the Festival, don’t forget to check out my Coffee Spot Guide to Glasgow for some of my favourite places to go.

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Siempre Bicycle Café

The Siempre Bicycle Café logo, a stylised face with a handlebar moustache, painted in black on the white brick wall at the café .Glasgow’s Siempre Bicycle Café continues the long association between cycling and coffee, occupying a multi-facetted space right next to the Kelvinhall Metro station in Glasgow’s West End.

Out front, there’s a cycle shop and sales room, where you can, if you like, sit and take your coffee, while at the back, there’s an equally large room where more typical café seating shares the space with the counter, which itself encloses an open-plan kitchen. If you keep on going, there’s also a large, sheltered garden right at the back. Unless, of course, you’re coming from the station, in which case you reach the garden first, then the café and finally the bike shop. Siempre also has a takeaway window, so you don’t even have to go inside if you don’t want to.

Serving Dear Green Coffee’s Goosedubs blend on espresso, with single origins available as filter from both Dear Green and another local roaster, Charlie Mills, Siempre has got the coffee side of things covered. There’s also an impressive array of tasty-looking cakes, plus a very comprehensive food offering. This being a cycle shop as well as a café, there’s also plenty of secure bicycle storage both inside and out.

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