I have been looking forward to visiting Steampunk’s cafe, The Warehouse, for a long time. I first read about them a couple of years ago on the excellent Brian’s Coffee Spot blog, when I was planning a trip back to Scotland from Michigan and looking for coffee shops to visit. I didn’t make it to Steampunk then (not having a car made it tricky to go too far from the big cities), but I made a note to seek them out at the first opportunity.
They were also my first coffee review, the charming Costa Rica Miran 1. Needless to say, I’m a fan.
This December, having moved back to Scotland permanently, just such an opportunity arose. My wife and I took a short holiday to North Berwick, and due to my masterful plan to not bring a proper coat, we spent a lot of time indoors, mostly drinking coffee in The Warehouse.
(I got a bit distracted by all the interesting details of the cafe while visiting, so the photos in this article are quite focused. You'll just have to visit to see the whole place for yourself).
The Warehouse takes its name from the fact that it is, well, a warehouse. Or it was, anyway. Brought back to life by Steampunk but still with some of its original features, it is a large building sat back from the little high street and thus dominates the surrounding area. The outdoor seating area is probably lovely in summer, but late December means it’s not too popular.
Inside, however, the popularity is obvious. The place is heaving and finding a seat is tricky - I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like in the summer. A large bar area dominates the ground floor, with a striking black La Marzocco Linea Classic 3-group proudly on display. To the right is the roasting area, a 12-kilo Probat happily rumbling away; to the left a diverse selection of merchandise and beans are for sale.
Steampunk have been roasting since 2012, and still use their VW Campervan to sell coffee at Stockbridge market in Edinburgh at the weekends. They are also extremely dog friendly, with numerous pooches dotted around the cafe at any one time and Ernie the rescue dog dominating their Instagram account.
(He also has his own, @steampunkernie, which he shares with his fellow rescue Oscar. It’s great. Check it out.)
Seating downstairs is relatively limited - bar stools and a few tables - but there is room for the first of two antique wood burning stoves, making the place feel even more welcoming.
Upstairs is a full kitchen and lots more seating, including the second stove and lots of weathered armchairs, as well as a bookshelf offering a selection of coffee - and other - books for perusal. It is a great spot for whiling away a rainy winter’s afternoon.
The Burundi Murango as an espresso was excellent, sweet and silky smooth with notes of apple and an agreeable brightness. I have mentioned before my preference for an espresso blend, but this Burundi went some way to redeeming single origin espressos in my eyes. As a filter it had a not unpleasant hint of pipe tobacco, as well as keeping the brightness and apple sweetness.
The flat white, made with the Brazil Fazenda Pantano, had a formidable butterscotch and burnt sugar sweetness. I drained it almost instantly. It was delicious.
The staff were extremely friendly and attentive, especially considering how busy the place was. I was most impressed with the fact that all drinks are delivered to your table, even upstairs. This is a pretty terrifying prospect when you see the staircase, but it was completed with great composure every time.
Steampunk is absolutely worth the 45 minute drive from Edinburgh (the rest of North Berwick is quite lovely too). Its location means that, for anyone not based in the area, it takes some seeking out, but those who do will be richly rewarded.
That they’ve gained such a reputation - one that even reached me over in the States - is thanks to a splendid product, expertly prepared and served in a welcoming space by people who know what they’re doing.