Steampunk coffee are my local coffee roasters based in the Scottish East coast town of North Berwick.
My first ever taste of specialty coffee was a latte from steampunk. This was the moment that I fell in love with speciality coffee.
As my local roaster and introduction to specialty coffee I have followed their story for some time. As my curiosity and eagerness to learn more about speciality coffee grew, I had accumulated a number of questions. So its no surprise that when I started my blog Cath at steampunk was one of the first I had in mind.
Fortunately after reaching out, Cath was great and agreed to answer my questions! It is a really great read and I personally have loved reading about this from the view of someone within the local Scottish coffee community.
I hope you enjoy!
For anyone that may not be aware can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I live in North Berwick with my two teenage kids and two crazy rescue dogs. We ended up here via Edinburgh but I originally grew up in the US. As a young person, my favourite place to hang out was record stores and seedy diners where I would sit in a booth with a book and endless refills of very bad coffee. I guess that’s how my love affair with coffee began. For me it was all about the environment and what the coffee accompanied rather than the coffee itself, but coffee was definitely an important ritual in my life. This has also been an influence in the sort of environment I enjoy in a cafe – comfortable, lived in/maybe a bit shabby and full of old stuff and most importantly a great friendly vibe.
What was your introduction to specialty coffee and how did this inspire the beginning of Steam Punk?
The first coffee I remember that really blew my mind was an Ethiopian Harrar from Starbucks, being old enough to remember the second wave as it happened. It was so different from the mugs of Folgers I was used to and I suddenly realised that coffee could be something else entirely other than just a black bitter swill. My first taste of specialty coffee was at Artisan Roast in Edinburgh many years later. I had a flat white – a real diversion from my usual filter brew. It was sweet and creamy and beautifully crafted. Again it lifted my idea of what coffee could be about. I was running a baking business at the time and this experience made me realise I wanted to delve further into the world of specialty coffee.
Can you give an insight into your role at Steam Punk and what does a day in the life involve for you?
Every day is completely different – which is what I love most about my job! I can be sure that it will involve speaking to really interesting people, working alongside some brilliant creatives, doing a lot of scut work and always involve a healthy dose of problem solving and sorting things that go wrong. Almost all of my days begin with a very early walk on the beach – I often share these on Instagram stories – which is such a positive way to wake up and start the day. Honestly, I think it keeps me sane despite the incredibly early (5am) starts. Then I will go into the shop and work my way through a list of whatever needs doing – taking web orders to the post office, maybe packing orders or in the cafe itself (I’m now doing less of that). I have a lot of planning meetings – we are always working on a new project and also spend a fair bit of time writing or taking pics – for blog posts, our weekly newsletter, Instagram stuff. I keep the website up to date, order stock for it, liaise with the roastery and cafe teams. Recently we have also been refurbishing our cafe. There always seems to be a lot to do.
You have had some exciting coffee releases recently. I have Colombia El Carmen on my brew bar at the moment! Can you give a bit of detail of the process of sourcing your coffee and what factors you take into consideration when deciding which coffee you are going to release?
Yes, we really enjoy having a rotating selection of single origin coffees. We love the variety this brings. So we have one coffee that we buy in a bigger quantity (at the moment our Fazenda Caxambu from Brazil) to use at our main espresso and for wholesale partners. This one should be around for about 4 or 5 months so that it offers a consistent favourite. It changes 3-4 times per year. Then we buy small lots of three other coffees in rotation which last approximately 2 months each. We want them to be around long enough then if someone really loves a particular bean they can enjoy it for a little while before it changes. We always have 4 coffees on offer plus a decaf.
I really love the science behind and learning about coffee roasting. What would be your advice for someone who aspires to enter the world of coffee roasting?
It is definitely a combination of craft and science so I think the best way to learn is by a combination of working (and doing) with a good roaster as well as by possibly studying through a course. Every roaster (the machine, I mean) is different and whereas you may understand the theory if you are using an older roaster in particular (like ours) you will really need to understand the equipment and learn how to work with it.
Steam punk are at the heart of the North Berwick community. You connect with people through an active instagram account, podcast and hosting online events. How important is that engagement to you?
That engagement is at the heart of what we do. Hospitality is all about welcoming people and conversations. That is crucial whether it is across the coffee bar between barista and customer or via social media, blog, pod or other route. Connections are our lifeblood so while we have not always been able to meet physically over the past year, we have sought out other ways in which to connect. It is honestly the most rewarding aspect of what we do.
In the past you have collaborated with other Scottish Roasters namely Dear Green and Glen Lyon. As someone who loves trying coffee from different Scottish roasters I thought this was a great! Can you give a bit of insight into how this came about and what your thoughts are on the Scottish coffee industry?
Yeah, that’s been a really fun ongoing collaboration. I’m a huge believer in collaboration over competition and really admire and respect these other female led businesses. Obviously I’ve met Lisa and Fiona over the years at coffee events and I know we share similar values although the three businesses are very different. A few years ago, I had just been on a road trip around the North Coast 500 in my van and stopped off at Fiona and Jamie’s in Aberfeldy on my way home. After spending an evening eating and chatting it felt like we were just so much on the same wavelength. A month or so later as I was starting to think about a gift set we could offer at Steampunk for Christmas, it seemed natural to approach Fiona and Lisa and see if they were interested in putting one together that was a collaborative effort between our three roasteries. They were and the rest is history.
Is there anyone in the coffee industry that inspires you or that has influenced you?
There are many inspiring and incredibly knowledgeable and passionate people in the coffee industry. Every time I attend an event I am further inspired! I have to say, however that I also draw inspiration from many creative people in a multitude of fields. I am privileged to be able to meet and talk to people every day who are pursuing their passions in a range of creative areas and that is incredibly inspiring and motivating.
Do you have a favourite coffee origin and what tasting notes do you look for?
I have a big love for Ethiopians, I know that is such a cliche, but I find them endlessly interesting and variable. I love the big fruit and florals they can offer. The one we are roasting just now from Debeka Farm is actually a Brazilian varietal grown in Ethiopia. It is so cool to try to unpick the influence of all the growing factors on the final coffee. It is also a great story of collaboration across the globe and the product of a connection we made when we travelled to Ethiopia in 2019.
You can find out more about Steampunk coffee as well as shop their coffee and brewing equipment at http://www.steampunkcoffee.co.uk and you can find their podcast on Spotify!