We love coffee in this city. In fact we more than love it, we seemingly can’t get enough of it! We have a hugely vibrant independent coffeehouse scene and many of us shirk the large chains in search of a higher quality product. It’s something we’ve covered several times before on Edinburgh Editor (see Part I and Part II for a taste), but now we’re going to take a different look at it and discover what it takes to run one of these shops as we go behind the scenes to talk to Robi Lambie, the guy behind Cairngorm Coffee Co.
Cairngorm Coffee Co.
41a Frederick Street, EH2
Opened in March 2014, Cairngorm Coffee Co. serves both espresso and filter-based coffees focusing on coffees from hand roasters that they know and love. That and their legendary cheese toasties.
“Before opening up I had a very varied background. I studied Music at University which led to a job bringing live music to a great independent music venue in the town of Thurso. I also tried my hand in Advertising, Graphic Design and a Touring Musician whilst always finding a base to work at my Dads Coffee Shop in between. It was during the periods when I would return to help out at my Dads shop that I realised that coffee was such a fascinating thing. At some stage things clicked into place and I decided that it was something I wanted to be fully immersed in and expand upon.”
One of the most obvious features outside the shop is their old bike. Coffee, Cairngorms and bikes don’t really seem natural bedfellows, but as always there’s a story behind the handlebars. “I was looking for something interesting to advertise the shop as I knew that the shop signage was always going to be the pretty understated logo on the wall. So I took to eBay and found this old vintage bike which had previously belonged to a Butchers in a small town near Dumfries, and was used to deliver meat to the customers. The interesting part is that when I arrived to pick it up from a house in Glasgow it was just a few doors down from the house I had grown up in when I was very, very young. Pretty unexpected trip down memory lane!“
The name too has a story and we were keen to find its origins – we couldn’t imagine coffee growing particularly well in the Cairngorms: “It really came from the area to which the dream was sparked and my own love for coffee developed (My Dad’s Coffee Shop – Ralia – is in the Cairngorms). I suppose it’s a nod of the hat and an attempt to not forget my roots. It was actually the initial name of many over a couple of months that were dreamt up over a dinner table. I suppose sometimes your first ideas stick.”
Their delicious coffee currently comes from Mr Eion – who opened a shop in Stockbridge around the same time as Cairngorm Coffee Co. started – both very handy for deliveries and helping another local business. Now though they are on the lookout for other great guest roasters to go alongside Mr Eion – I guess it’s a case of watching this space.
What would we find Robi drinking if we stopped by? “Nine times out of ten I’ll be having a Flat White as I think the pairing of our Green Hills Blend with a little milk is fantastic. If you are feeling adventurous however then I would definitely recommend trying one of our Guest Filters. You may have to wait a few minutes, as due to the laborious nature of pourover coffee it can take a bit of time, but what you’ll get in return is something that will really put a jump in your step and will come with tasting notes that give you an interesting all round understanding and experience.” A guest filter we did the last time we stopped by (see photo above) – it’s definitely a delicious option.
As is the cheese toastie. Let’s be honest – we need to talk about the cheese toasties. “The Grilled Cheese was always something we had to do. I’m a massive fan of cheese, and growing up my go to snack was something that resembled toast on cheese, cheese toasties or cheese sandwiches fried in beaten egg. I basically loved everything about the humble cheese sandwich! I noticed though that so often the cheese was so under represented in these – I think there’s a general rule of thumb that there is no point cooking with great cheese – so we decided to bring it up to date in this culinary world that demands so much more, and pile it with fantastic cheese with local bread and chilli jam. I suppose in a sense what makes it so special to the customer is probably the utter indulgence of it, but fundamentally it’s the great produce within it that means it’s a cheese sandwich with a difference.“
2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Cairngorm Coffee Co., now firmly settled in the shop is continuing to evolve but the brand is clearly flourishing. Lots of (currently top secret) plans are in the pipeline though, so it’s looking like lots of exciting things will happen in the coming months.
With our chat with Robi coming to an end we had to ask about Edinburgh, as we ask everyone. Where is his favourite place in the city when he’s not in the shop? “I’ve always said Stockbridge when asked this in the past, as having lived there I just think the community is fantastic and it’s just a generally pleasant place to take a stroll. However, I recently took a short walk up to Calton Hill and was astounded with the beauty of the views. I get so excited by history too, so reading all the snippets about the construction of the New Town was so interesting. From now on I’m taking any friends that visit up there for a morning stroll – I can’t believe it took me so long to go myself!“
Our thanks for Robi for answering our questions.