Although the Glasgow Coffee Festival is one of my favourite events, I have a chequered history when it comes to attending. I missed the very first one, held in 2014, but made it to Glasgow for the 2015 festival. The festival skipped 2016, the result of a change in scheduling from the distinctly chilly October/November to the warmer days of May, expanding from a single day to an entire weekend in the process. Determined not to miss out, I arranged my first ever trip to Japan so that I could attend, and I was back again for the 2018 festival, when not even a bad back could stop me!
Unfortunately, I was working in Chicago the weeks before/after the 2019 festival, so this year, I was determined not to miss out. I put the dates (first weekend in May) in my diary, ensured that work didn’t schedule any meetings around then and even bought my tickets. And then the COVID-19 pandemic happened…
You might think that would spell the end of the coffee festival for this year, but the folks of Glasgow are made of sterner stuff, and the festival, now a 10-day event, is back in a new form.
Although I’ve visited Glasgow many times, I rarely venture east of the city centre, normally spending my time in the centre itself, in the West End and, starting last year, the south side. I’d heard about the appropriately-named East Coffee Company, which opened in January 2018, on my visit for that year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, but with my bad back, I’d not been able to get out there. However, on my return to the city in December, I made it a priority to head over to East for coffee and some lunch.
It’s a lovely little place, occupying a front and back room in a row of shops, with tenements above, a very typical set-up for Glasgow. Despite the small size, there’s plenty on offer, including a seasonal single-origin espresso from local roasters, The Good Coffee Cartel (a Colombian during my visit) with decaf from Dear Green Coffee. If that doesn’t appeal, there’s a daily batch-brew, featuring roasters from around the country. While I was there, it was the turn of Sacred Grounds from Arbroath, with a Black Honey processed El Salvador. East also offers a concise all-day breakfast/lunch menu, the food cooked in an open kitchen behind the counter.
Toro Coffee burst onto Glasgow’s speciality coffee scene (specifically the Southside) in September, becoming an instant hit, partly thanks to the efforts of cheerleader-in-chief, my friend Charlotte. Indeed, when I popped over to Glasgow last week, Charlotte’s plan for the morning was “we’re going to Toro”. Not, “would you like to go to Toro?”. No, we were going. On the other hand, Charlotte has excellent taste in coffee shops, so I wasn’t about to disagree.
Other than the coffee, the main draw is the wonderful, friendly and welcoming owners, Ross and Gill. Although a new name, Toro has good pedigree: Ross’ big brother, Iain, owns Primal Roast, one of my favourite Glasgow breakfast spots (and also home to some excellent coffee).
Although there’s a wide selection of cakes, plus toast for breakfast (as if I needed any further encouragement) Toro’s main focus is the coffee. It’s a multi-roaster, offering separate options on espresso and filter, the later available as batch-brew through the ever-reliable Moccamaster, and as pour-over, using hand-thrown ceramic Kalita-wave style filters. The espresso changes every week, while the filter is swapped every day or two, with roasters drawn from just down the road to half way across Europe.
Welcome to the latest instalment of Brian’s Travel Spot. Regular readers will know that I have something of a love affair with travelling by train, particularly sleeper trains, be it on trans-America trips, hopping between Beijing and Shanghai on China’s high-speed rail network, or taking the slow train in places like Vietnam or Thailand. However, my love affair with the sleeper train actually began in the UK with the Caledonian Sleeper, which runs between London Euston and variety of Scottish destinations.
Two weeks ago, I travelled up to Glasgow for the Glasgow Coffee Festival, a trip, which, for a variety of reasons, required me to leave on the Thursday evening before the festival and be back home by the Monday afterwards. In theory I could have done the trip on the regular train, but instead I turned to the Caledonian Sleeper, a far more romantic way to travel and, as it turned out, far more practical and just as cost effective.
So how does the UK’s premier sleeper service stack up against its American and South East Asian counterparts? Read on as I take the Caledonian Sleeper to Glasgow and back!
I first met Will, owner of It All Started Here, back in 2015 in Cardiff. We met up again at the Glasgow Coffee Festival later that year and have stayed in touch (on and off) ever since. Back then, Will combined a day job with running stalls markets/pop-ups over the weekends, serving coffee from Sheffield’s Foundry Coffee Roasters to the good people of Glasgow.
Last year he extended that principle when he opened his first coffee shop on Glasgow’s south side, It All Started Here opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, when I came up for last year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, I came up on the weekend and left myself Monday for exploring, so missed out. Therefore, for this year’s festival, I made a point of going up on Thursday night on the Caledonian Sleeper and heading over to It All Started Here on Friday.
It All Started Here is a multi-roaster, with a different roaster from around the UK on espresso and batch-brew every week. There’s also a brunch menu and a lovely selection of cakes. Even better, starting this week, It All Started here is now open six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday.
Set up by Todd and Courtney, who worked together at the now defunct Avenue Coffee Roasting Co, I first learnt about The Good Coffee Cartel at last year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival 2017, when I ran into Todd, who told me about plans for a new roastery and coffee shop. Naturally, on my return to Glasgow for this year’s festival, I made a beeline for the new space on Glasgow’s south side.
The Good Coffee Cartel is a curious mixture: quirky coffee shop, roastery, ceramics workshop: it’s all these and more. The roastery is very clearly the backbone of the business, the vintage 15kg Probat sitting in the corner at the back. However, it’s also a spacious coffee shop, with a soon to be added back garden, somewhere you can sit all day and enjoy whatever excellent coffee Todd and Courtney have on that day, with different options on espresso and batch-brew, all served in cups that have been handmade on site. Even better is the pricing structure: all the coffee is £2, all the cakes are £2 and if you really want to push the boat out, you can have an espresso, espresso with milk and batch brew for £5.
Welcome to my write-up from the fourth Glasgow Coffee Festival, which took place last weekend in the Briggait, the festival’s home since its inception in 2014. Last year the festival moved from the cold, autumn months to the warmth of a Glasgow spring and was also expanded to two days. This year it retained this format, taking place over the weekend of 19th/20th May.
For the first time, I attended both days, although this is probably only recommended if you are a coffee blogger and/or serious coffee nut, since I suspect that an average (normal?) person can see everything they want in a single day. For me, however, it meant that I could take a more relaxed approach, visiting pretty much everything/everyone at the festival, although, as usual, I missed out on the competitions and all of the presentations, masterclasses and all but one of the cuppings.
I had hoped to write this up in three parts, just as I did for last year’s festival, but sadly various issues, including my bad back, and other travel commitments, have limited me to this single post. So, join me as I take a quick tour of the venue, look at one of festival’s main themes, reusable cups, and talk about how Glasgow Coffee Festival is the first coffee festival to go disposable free.
Short Long Black is a new addition to Glasgow’s growing south-side coffee scene, having opened at the start of April this year. I first met the owner (and head barista and chief dishwasher) Darryl when he was awarded the 2017 Barista Bursary from Beyond The Bean. Back then he was working for Dear Green Coffee, but after taking a year out, he decided to open his own place, settling on a spot on Victoria Road, just north of Queen’s Park.
The shop itself is a relatively modest affair, but beautifully fitted-out, Darryl doing all the work himself in the two months before opening. There’s a small amount of seating at the front and more at the back, or you can grab one of the two stools outside on the pavement. Darryl sources the coffee himself, which is roasted on his behalf by local roasters, Thomson’s and served on espresso or batch-brew filter from a commendably-concise menu. This is joined by cakes and (from 11 o’clock) by toasted sandwiches, supplemented by a concise but tasty brunch menu at the weekends. Sadly I was there on a Friday and otherwise occupied at the weekend (at the Glasgow Coffee Festival).
It’s that time of year again! No sooner has one festival finished, than another looms on the horizon. In this case, it’s the fourth Glasgow Coffee Festival, now firmly set in its new timeslot of May. For its first two years (2014 and 2015) it was a one-day even which took place in the chilly months of October/November. However, it skipped a year in 2016 to move warmer times in May, as well as expanding to occupy the whole weekend, putting it on a par with the likes of the Manchester Coffee Festival, which it closely resembles in scale and atmosphere (compared to, say, the London Coffee Festival). This year it takes place over the weekend of 19th/20th May.
Although called the Glasgow Coffee Festival (it’s held in Glasgow, after all), it’s more a celebration of Scotland’s excellent specialty coffee scene, with lots of contributors from further afield as well. Perhaps the biggest news this year is that the festival has done away with disposable cups, a subject close to my heart. Don’t worry, if you don’t bring your own cup, KeepCup will be on hand to lend festival-goers a cup for the weekend, in exchange for a £5 deposit.
Along with Primal Roast, Kaf Coffee was top of people’s recommendations to visit when I was in Glasgow in May for the Glasgow Coffee Festival. A very recent addition to Glasgow’s growing speciality coffee scene, it only opened in March, which tells you something about the impact it’s made given how many people recommended it to me.
Kaf Coffee nicely fills in a gap as Glasgow’s speciality coffee scene extends to the west. It’s just off the Dumbarton Road, not far from the likes of Siempre Bicycle Café, and provides a useful stop if you’re determined to wander the length of Dumbarton Road to visit the western outpost that is Meadow Road Coffee.
Kaf Coffee is a true multi-roaster café with a commendably-concise coffee menu and several options on espresso and pour-over. It’s always a pleasure to find somewhere serving James Gourmet Coffee, which is a mainstay on espresso, with a couple of single-origins from various roasters via the Kalita Wave filter. For somewhere so small (you’d be lucky to get 10 people inside), Kaf Coffee has impressive breakfast and lunch menus, all made in the kitchen at the back. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a decent selection of cake too.