Greenshoots: Cairngorm Coffee reopens in Edinburgh after repeated closures

Greenshoots: Cairngorm Coffee reopens in Edinburgh after repeated closures

Robi Lambie at the Frederick Street shop

An Edinburgh coffee shop has announced it will be reopening after repeated closures, hatching a plan to future proof its Edinburgh city centre branch, which opened in 2014.

Cairngorm Coffee’s Frederick Street venue alone turned over more than £250,000 in 2019. However, with lockdowns, low footfall, and a staffing crisis caused by the “pingdemic”, the venue has since struggled and turnover was just £30,000 in 2020 and £55,000 in 2021.

Although city centre footfall dropped, the business thrived as online orders skyrocketed. The brand has since expanded its wholesale business and won a new legion of fans after opening in Bonnie and Wild at St James’ Quarter. The company’s Melville Street location continues to serve the West End of the city, as it has done since 2016.

Now founder Robi Lambie is hoping to reinvigorate the Frederick Street location with a business model ready for life in a post-pandemic world.

The Frederick Street cafe will cater to the change of pace and increasing interest in specialty coffee by transforming the branch into “an immersive coffee experience” serving limited edition beans from around the world.

Mr Lambie said: “We are doubling down on what made our “OG” location great back in the day – the experience – but this is a complete revamp. I don’t think it’s enough to just open a run of the mill specialty coffee shop anymore. So many people make great coffee so we have to do more to compete.

“While the roastery and Melville Street are flourishing, Frederick Street wasn’t best prepared for the pandemic and it has struggled to recover from it, so we’re going to be aggressive and relentlessly ambitious to make sure we’re ready for the cost-of-living crisis.

“We will stop at nothing till we’ve created the most well-rounded, immersive coffee experience possible. Visiting our shop will be an event, during which people slow down and truly appreciate the very best coffee, rather than just guzzle it on their way to work.

He continued: “We’ve renovated the space to return to the essence of what this shop was when it opened, which is all about community and bringing the very best coffee possible to our customers.

“I love the idea of customers getting to know each other around one big table as they learn about coffee. We want it to be as approachable and welcoming as possible.”

The venue’s repositioning as an experiential brand home is the next step of a five-year plan devised by co-owners Mr Lambie and Harris Grant.

As part of this strategy, the company has recruited Adrian Manusco, one of the coffee world’s most respected experts as head of coffee. The Australian who has more than 15-year’s experience in the industry is a Q grader (arabica), AST trainer and World Brewers Cup Judge.

Mr Manusco, who has previously worked for Minor Figures and Five Senses Coffee in Melbourne, will curate the very best of coffee from around the world for the menu. All coffee will be available as a limited edition - Cairngorm will only ever buy-in enough to make 50 cups of each whole bean.

Mr Manusco commented: “We’re excited to be able to showcase the coffee we’ve been drinking at home and celebrate our friends in the global coffee community.

“Coffee is a natural product, which means it deteriorates as it ages. We’ll be freezing every coffee so people can taste it at its very best.

“Frederick Street will be a safe environment for people to learn to love specialty coffee. When you walk in through the door, our job will be to provide a truly curated service - we’ll spend time with every single customer. We’ll find the exact coffee that will suit your tastes: it’s our job to find what you really want, not what you think you want.

“I get that this all sounds incredibly pretentious, but we ask people to come with an open mind. We promise you the most welcoming, least scary experience possible - and you’ll leave appreciating coffee more than you ever thought was possible.”

Each customer will be guided through a choice of three different espresso beans and a wine-style hand-brewed filter menu with 15 different options - with plans for this to exceed 100 by the end of the year.

The cafe will open from 9am to 5pm on Wednesday to Sunday. The space will be used as a space for cuppings, recordings and events on Mondays, Tuesdays and evenings.

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