The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
The Milkman cafe in Edinburgh, provided by Robert from Edinburgh Coffee Shops.
I came across the Edinburgh Coffee Shops blog when I was looking to read about Edinburgh's police box cafes. Across the city, there are a few cafes that appear in old police boxes. I found the post on Edinburgh Coffee Shops to be the more comprehensive on the topic. Robert Knox, the author of the Edinburgh Coffee Shops blog, kindly took some time to talk about his blog. The interview is below.
Why did you decide to start reviewing Edinburgh coffee shops?
I started my blog in late February this year, shortly before the covid-19 "lockdown" came into effect. Like many others, I love to visit a coffee shop just to have some "me time", or to meet a friend for a catch-up; and just to enjoy the ambience of the coffee shop.
I owned a coffee shop in Edinburgh some years ago and have always been captured by the coffee scene, especially speciality coffees. Edinburgh has a great coffee scene (under normal circumstances) but I realised there was a huge variety of menus, service and appeal on offer; so I decided to write a review of my visits to make others aware of the various outlets available, from my perspective.
What is your approach to writing a new review? Do you have any factors you keep in mind when visiting a cafe?
I usually visit a coffee shop a few times before writing a review, both sitting inside and getting a takeaway, just to get a feel of the place. I don't think you can comment on a service accurately on one visit. I also prefer not to visit during busy lunchtimes, as this can also give a skewed impression of what's available.
So I find it best to visit in the morning or afternoon for a coffee (and cake) and this allows me a quiet period to absorb everything and make a few notes. If I'm not in the way, I like to talk with the owner/barista about the coffee but that can be awkward with the current social distancing measures in place and wearing a face covering.
You've been reviewing cafes mainly after the first UK lockdown. Have you made any changes to your blog or your style as a result of the lockdown?
I haven't been able to visit as frequently as I'd like to because of the current restrictions. I still visit a coffee shop when I can but at the moment I tend to just post a brief summary of my visit on Instagram.
How do you decide which cafes to visit?
I normally visit coffee shops by area eg: City Centre, Stockbridge, Bruntsfield etc and will visit the various coffee shops in a particular area over a few days. This also gives me a feel for the local area and the sort of outlets which are most popular - which can change from area to area.
Sometimes I'll plan a visit on the back of a particular coffee review. Most coffee shops run with coffee from a preferred roaster but the speciality coffee shops will rotate the coffees on offer, so I like to taste as many as I can.
You post a lot on Instagram where you share photos of cafes. How do you decide what to share on your story?
My main aim is to post photos of coffee shops from around the Edinburgh area, showing the coffee shop itself and the coffee and cakes they serve. However, I've recently been sharing some photos from coffee shops elsewhere in the UK and around the world. Some of my followers are from around the world and so I have a larger collection to choose from.
What advice do you have to someone who wants to start writing about coffee and cafes?
Just do it! There's no such thing as 'the best coffee' or 'the best coffee shop' in Edinburgh, or elsewhere for that matter. We all have our own individual likes and dislikes and if it highlights the various small independent businesses available, the more the merrier.
Do you like coffee with a snack? If so, what's your go-to?
Carrot cake, or Carrot cake.
Is there any one coffee drink you order more than others?
Usually prefer a flat white but I often have a pour-over when tasting a speciality coffee.
Do you brew at home? If so, what are you drinking?
Yes, I have a small Gaggia espresso machine to make flat whites. I also have an Aeropress and a V60 for filter. My grinder is a Sage Smart Grinder Pro. I'm currently drinking a limited edition espresso blend from Source Coffee Co in Edinburgh, which is lovely.