What do I look for when I’m exploring looking to find the best coffee in Edinburgh? It really is a complicated question because finding the ‘best coffee in Edinburgh’ is essentially is just one's personal opinion. Some people look purely at product, some people look at environment - some people love getting Starbucks and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
For our lists:
A Speciality Coffee Shop Tour of Edinburgh, Scotland
List of the best Coffee Shops in Edinburgh
Our Verdict on the top 10 Trip Advisor Cafes
What I look for:
I look for three very specific things. It all starts when walking through the door, a welcome is the first and probably the most important thing in cafes. I know it sounds a bit strange when looking for the ‘best coffee’ that I mention a greeting - but this has a point to it.
For me, the first coffee of the day is a comfort thing - I want to feel relaxed, welcomed and safe. Maybe this feeling then resonates to the other times of the day as a result but something as simple as a “hello” can make a coffee for me taste even sweeter. There are a few places in town that make an outstanding coffee but I rarely frequent these spots, purely because I feel like an intruder in their own space. If I go, I typically get a takeaway.
A bad vibe can take a 10/10 coffee to a 6/10 quite quickly - the negative thoughts have already been placed in your head before the coffee is served. Places that completely nail a greeting in Edinburgh for me are Fortitude Coffee, Lowdown, Cuckoos Bakery and Baba Budan.
I’m going to say it, Starbucks and Costa both absolutely excel in this as well. Customer service is placed at a very high standing in each of their company ethos.
Layout, identity and environment definitely play a part for me when finding the ‘best coffee in Edinburgh’. Embrace what you have and never try to be anything you’re not, coffee shops that try too hard to be something they are not, typically tend to fall flat on their face.
I think both Cairngorm shops are a great example of this. On Melville Place, they are blessed with big, bright open windows and they embrace this open feeling - moving their linear workspace to one side. The point of sale is then placed at the end of the room so you physically have to walk into and exist within the open space before even ordering. Genius.
On the other hand, their shop on Frederick street is completely different. Situated below street level, they take advantage of the basement with its exposed brick walls and make use of the compact space they have. Being a tad more intimate, you’re instead at the point of sale as soon as you walk right through the door and then left to your own devices.
Each shop has their own individuality based on their physical characteristics and then do their best to complement these features. Both are incredibly comfortable to sit in and both have killer playlists.
Then obviously we get to the product which is fundamental when looking for the best coffee in Edinburgh. My personal favourites are obviously Lowdown, Cairngorm and Fortitude - I think I’ve stated this enough throughout my writing but let's throw a couple others in there that absolutely nail the physical exercise of making a coffee.
I think Brew Lab with two options for both Espresso and Filter do an incredibly good job. Typically their two espressos will cater to both casual and experienced coffee drinkers so it’s unlikely they can’t find something you won't like.
Both Williams and Johnson shops also do a fantastic job when it comes to overall quality. I think their espresso makes a banging flat white and as that’s the most popular coffee drink served, I say well done. Play to your strengths, it’s a great end milk coffee.