I arrived before the 9 o’clock rush. We had plenty of time to debate an appropriate roast for my horrid situation. I prefer darker, rich roasts. This morning I wanted a staunch, bitter roast, with each sip I would be reminded of how I destroyed my laptop beyond repair. I wanted to be jolted awake and punished. The brewers only had mild-mannered and subservient.
The Brew Lab had just opened in Edinburgh, back in 2012 when I wrote my first article on coffee for the Niche Lit Mag blog. I was intrigued by their alleyway New York City supposed vibe. The only view from their classy wall of windows would have been a row of dumpsters. Just like New York.
Unlike the other coffee shops in the Edinburgh Old Town area, this one actually served coffee. Freshly brewed, pour over coffee. Most places just serve espresso drinks, i.e cappuccino, latte, americano. While I love americanos, nothing gives me the caffeinated kick in my pants to wake me up like coffee. As adorable as the brew masters behind the counter were, we just didn’t share the same tastes.
Weak coffee, strong friendships
They wanted to gently coax me out of my sleep-deprived state, like an “staunch” English Breakfast tea. Bitter with lemon and a healthy dose of cream and sugar. They didn’t understand my classic rock roots that wanted a kick. I tried to explain, and finally, one of them got it. The ginger haired brewer reached to a back cupboard and pulled out his favorite, unadvertised roast. It was true american coffee: all the way from San Francisco.
He described it as pure American coffee, delicate, spicy, and even better than fair trade–because it was American! They weren’t sure if it would be popular; but if I was willing to wait for the extra preparation time, his delightful, super-secret roast could be mine.
Maybe it was my enthusiasm for coffee. Maybe it was that I looked so tired I could die. Or maybe it was that I mentioned my laptop could not be recovered, I had a writing deadline, and I just wanted a nice cup of coffee.
But the way his eyes lit up as he described the roast. Gingerly holding the bag in his hands in front of me, it didn’t matter why. I knew I was hooked. I was from America, but yes, I had to try this American coffee.
The Perfect Aesthetic
Picking a Guardian magazine off of a deserted table, I sat down in the black enclave of chrome lightening, rich wood tables, and red velvet curtains. It featured a picture of J.K. Rowling slyly staring at the camera lens from a white Victorian armchair. Her legs were crossed, one arm folded over the other, the title simply read, “What was life after Harry Potter?”
The special roast arrived on a wooden block in a tin kettle next to a tea cup and saucer. I smirked. The ambiance may scream neo-hipster American, but this enclave was still proper, albeit, indie. I poured it slowly into my cup. It was delicate, almost like highly caffeinated, doubly-steeped tea.
I could barely taste any spice in the brew itself, but that was partially my fault. I had a chosen a spicy muffin as a companion. The tea, excuse me, coffee did not kick me out of my seat, but it didn’t try to sooth me either. Cinnamon, but without the spice; delicate, like tea, but lacking in bitterness; low acidity, but not enough caffeine to truly wake you up in the morning.
The coffee reminded me of a friendly neighbor who had to tell you something really important. They’ll bang on the door and scream your name, but they won’t kick it in. They’ll just wait for you to wake up.
I was done waiting.
Discover them yourself
The wooden tray had gently held my coffee for an hour. I thanked the staff, and told them it was perfect. And while the roast was far from ideal, the experience was worth the price. Seeing a new cafe opening in Edinburgh was the sign of change, my change. I wouldn’t solely stick to my tastes; I would explore and discover new ones.
I’m excited to say that The Brew Lab is still open in Edinburgh South College! The Brew Lab, 6-8 South College, Edinburgh EH8 9AA. It is an easy walk or bus ride from anywhere in Edinburgh. If you’re in the area, pay them a visit or take some classes to learn how to brew you’re own coffee. They now serve coffee and beer , along with coffee mugs. And they didn’t even invite me!
Looks like I’ll just have to go back.