Fortified—or, perhaps, better described as “fat-ified”—with a salted caramel doughnut, I embarked upon the best espresso I’ve yet tried in the UK at Brew Lab Coffee.
Brew Lab is in Edinburgh, Scotland, an easy walk from the tourist madness of the Royal Mile. Located near a university, its clientele seemed to consist mostly of students and…pregnant ladies.
These notable women may also be students, but I was mildly amused to find myself seated next to someone immensely gravid on both of my visits. And, no, it wasn’t the same woman, unless she was a Mission: Impossible spy wearing an unimaginably perfect fake face. I think it is safe to describe Brew Lab Coffee as a family friendly establishment.
It is also a “coffee snob friendly” cafe. I find the coffee shops I wish to visit when traveling by searching for “single origin espresso.”
I’m not so elite a coffee snob that I refuse to drink any blend of beans, but I do find that the overall beverage quality is higher in shops that at least offer the option of exclusivity. Brew Lab Coffee features two† different kinds of beans at the espresso bar: one for straight, black shots, and another for drinks blended with milk. That’s a clear marker that the drinks are going to be good.
And, yes! Yes, their espresso drinks are excellent. It is well worth a moderate walk up and down Edinburgh’s ubiquitous hills, through sometimes heavy rain, past a multitude of other shops offering fair espresso, and even with arthritic feet. Brew Lab’s coffee was so good, I did not explore the other fine options I read about online, but returned to savor it again.
As luck would have it, Brew Lab Coffee is as charming a setting for a good sip as it is competent in the making of one’s drink. Like much of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the visitor will feel steeped in history here. The cafe’s brick walls and reclaimed wood elements are atmospheric, warm, and inviting. The warren-like layout offers cozy corners enough for all patrons, though admittedly this may not be the best hangout for those with extreme claustrophobia.
Hints of the space’s former use as an office remain in the rather cheeky access to the men’s toilets. I felt a bit indelicate photographing it as the large window offers a rather generous view. I liked the “Meeting in Progress” sign, however, and risked my Victorian sensibilities and the poor gents’ modesty with a quick snapshot.
Brew Lab Coffee is located at 6-8 South College Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AA. It’s open seven days a week, and worth the walk from the Royal Mile.
0131 662 8963
†And two more coffee varietals for pour overs at their brew bar, making four types in total. I stuck with my preferred straight espresso shots having only a few days in Edinburgh and a tragically low threshold for caffeine consumption.