Turn a corner in Edinburgh’s bustling West End and you’ll come across Brew Lab’s latest specialty coffee shop. It may be tucked away in a quiet side street but it’s one of the trendiest cafés around and certainly the place to go if you want to find out what “third wave coffee” is all about.
It was in this café that I recently caught up with Tom, one of Brew Lab’s founders. It’s been squeezed into a converted three-car garage, nestled close to the office district, and has an hipster steel and chipboard vibe. Most importantly, it serves up the finest filter and espresso-based coffees of the North along with a delicious array of cakes and snacks.
Tom and Dave, the other co-founder, found their inspiration for Brew Lab in the third-wave coffee movement that was sweeping through Portland, New York and London. Their name is inspired by their scientific approach. Unlike your typical artisan café, they focus less on barista’s having their own style and instead “measure, weigh, and time everything in the coffee making process to ensure they deliver the perfect coffee every time.”
The original Brew Lab has become a buzzing hub for Wi-Fi loving students but they decided to target the West End crowd of busy commuters with their second location. That means they aimed to offer “a higher turnover and faster service” with the bulk of their orders to go.
They raised capital from a trade partner to open the cafe but found that the expansion strained their cash flow. “We have a really good relationship with our bank,” Tom explains. “They wanted to help us out with the finance for this place and also for the longer-term cash flow implications”. However, they found that “the bank moves really, really slowly and unfortunately as a small business your time scales aren’t always aligned with a big corporate body.”
“The bank moves really, really slowly and unfortunately as a small business your time scales aren’t always aligned with a big corporate body”
Brew Lab applied to iwoca shortly after opening their latest café to help them pay some upcoming bills. Within two days of applying they were able to draw down the funds they needed. “The application process was super easy, very quick, very efficient and the help was there when it was needed.” They were able to effectively expand their business without worrying about whether the investment would leave them struggling with day-to-day cash flow.
So what’s next? What else could a coffee-lover want than simple, delicious coffees and nutritious locally-sourced food? Well, first of all Brew Lab are supporting the Scottish coffee industry through a training lab in the basement of their flagship shop which offers expert tuition both to seasoned baristas and enthusiastic novices. However, their biggest new venture could well be Cold Brew coffee. Cold brew, which is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period, is already a $1.2 billion industry in the U.S. but has yet to take flight in the UK. I got to taste my first Brew Lab Cold Brew during my visit and I can testify that it is absolutely delicious. Definitely set to be the coffee of choice this summer.
Don’t just take our word for it. Hear Brew Lab’s story for yourself!