The sign that a country has truly embraced specialty coffee is when cafes, and especially roasters, start popping up in small towns and villages where before there might only have been, at best, a Starbucks.
In the US, for example, you would be hard pressed to find even a zip code without its own independent roaster, such is the reach and level of quality that the third wave of coffee has brought to the country.
In Scotland, until very recently, all the top roasters were located in either Edinburgh or Glasgow. This has slowly started to change, however, with North Berwick’s Steampunk, Glen Lyon in Aberfeldy and Dumbarton’s Home Ground leading the charge to expand beyond the two cities' borders.
The newest of the lot is Kinross-based Unorthodox Coffee Roasters. Having only been in operation since the summer of 2016 they quickly zoomed to the top of my must-try list - granted this is in large part due to their rather excellent Instagram account, upon which I stumbled a couple of months ago.
Started by Chris and Neil, two 28-year-old entrepreneurs who became fascinated by coffee while traveling through South and Central America, Unorthodox aims to be, well, different. Their philosophy, according to their website, is to: “Be ethical, innovative and unconventional. Rules are there to be broken.”
They set up in Kinross because, says Chris, “I know the area and I know there is no chance of a good cup of coffee. That must change.” And in doing so they also hope to help raise the quality of coffee across Scotland in general.
The coffee I chose to see if they are as iconoclastic as they claim was their El Salvador Los Pirineos or, as they term it, Pure Magic. This was one of the countries they visited on their travels, so I was interested to see what they had learned.
An eight time winner of El Salvador’s Cup of Excellence competition, Los Pirineos is situated on the slopes of the Tepaca volcano in the Usulatán department. A third generation family farm, it is currently run by Gilberto Baraona, whose meticulous approach and constant experimentation with new varietals and growing methods are legendary.
The coffee arrived in a brown stand-up pouch, along with a beautifully produced tasting note/info card and a brew guide for making a Hario v60 pour over.
The dry fragrance is instantly intense, a fierce flash of hot buttered toast and sweet cherry. It is quite intoxicating.
In the cup there is a fundamental sense of balance, with a sweetness and depth that the dark chocolate notes serve to bolster. The brightness builds slowly, melding nicely with a silky smooth body and an exceptionally clean finish.
It has an almost butterscotch richness that mellows somewhat as the brightness develops, leaving a sweet undercurrent that lingers through the finish.
Unorthodox are obviously extremely new, but their enthusiasm and commitment to exposing more people to proper coffee is infectious. Their ultimate goal is to “turn Scotland into a coffee-loving country like Norway or Finland, to get people focused on quality and service.”
In the meantime, they’re concentrating on mastering their art and building their name. This El Salvador makes an excellent case for keeping an eye on them.
Varietal: Red Bourbon