It feels right that a company called Unorthodox Coffee Roasters should receive an atypical cafe review, for a number of reasons. A few months ago, I sat down to write my first review of their rather delicious Pure Magic El Salvador, but it turned out that there was very little information about this (still quite new) company. So I emailed them, asking if I could ask some background questions to help give my article some depth. Chris Bode, one of the two founders, emailed me back such a comprehensive set of answers that I thought I’d just share them with you (thanks for doing the work for me, Chris!).

Secondly, when I went to visit Unorthodox’s brand new cafe on Kinross high street, they knew I was coming. So my usual approach of awkwardly ordering a coffee and then hiding in a corner scribbling notes and furtively taking photos wasn’t going to work (it did mean that the photos are better this time though). It’s hard to gauge a cafe when you’re not anonymous – how differently would customers and staff/owners interact were I not hovering in the background, for example? So I’m focusing more on the layout and atmosphere rather than reviewing it as I would a normal coffee shop.

Therefore, please enjoy my “interview” with Chris, and then after that are some thoughts on the new space itself.

Who are the Unorthodox Coffee Roasters? Chris and Neil are two 28-year-old entrepreneurs roasting vanguard coffee. We live coffee as any coffee roaster should. We are a little bonkers but that means we can bring a new twist to the Scottish coffee market.

How did Unorthodox begin? We both quit our jobs in March 2015 and stepped on a plane to Brazil. The primary reason we did so was to go traveling. However, this reason was soon replaced with educating ourselves about every aspect of coffee. We visited coffee plantations in every country from Bolivia northwards, collecting raw coffee which the locals were happy to give us for free when they heard our story. My main worry was crossing borders with kilos of raw coffee as I was told this may be a problem. We roasted coffee in frying pans along the way allowing us to taste beans from each location. This was truly the start of what we are now.

Why base yourselves in Kinross? I, Chris, live in Kinross and have done since I was 6 years old. I know the area and I know there is no chance of a good cup of coffee. That must change.

Who are your coffee influences? All come from our travels. Danilo from LAB in Buenos Aires gave us a massive amount of motivation and coffee knowledge. Casey from Cafe Verde in Lima, Peru who invited us in to chat with him while roasting, our first time watching and learning about the roasting process. Carlos from Casa Verde in Santa Ana, El Salvador (no relation to Cafe Verde) who introduced us to the RoK espresso maker and made us write our names on his hostel's wall saying we must not forget him when we were famous. Cesar Magana from Juayua, El Salvador who selflessly taught us insurmountable coffee information over two days and drove us to his plantations, drying station and coffee hut to show us the end to end process. Mr Has Bean Steve Leighton who always answered our emails despite us essentially being complete randoms. Finally to all the travelers we met over 314 days who inspired us to create this venture and have ordered bag after bag of coffee from us to all over the world.

What is your roasting philosophy? Initially we were focused on roasting Scandinavian style, very light. However roast after roast we have found that the best tasting coffee actually comes from a slightly longer roast. Not much longer, but a little. The element missing from some Scandinavian roasts is depth of flavour. I like the rich butteryness some coffees exhibit and this essentially vanishes with too light a roast.

Where/how did you learn to roast? Roasting knowledge was learned through a multitude of aspects. For one, the people we met in Latin America taught us a lot about the machines and how they work. In every city we aimed to seek out the roasting machines and get a lesson at every opportunity. Along our travels we roasted raw coffee in hostel frying pans, sometimes on a gas hob and sometimes on electric. Back to basics! Sometimes the beans would burn and sometimes they would be raw on one side but roasting in a pan teaches you so much about controlling the roast. It's about getting the heat just right. And you can hear the crack, so you can tell if you are roasting too fast or too slow.

One of my best memories was asking a woman at a coffee warehouse in Caranavi, Bolivia for some green beans which she gave us for free. They only had about a few tons in there so a few handfuls was fine. We had to then remove the parchment with our fingernails. We roasted them a few days later and drank one of the best cups of coffee I had ever had. And the coffee was of course roasted in a pan in a hostel. And we used our Hario Mini Mill to grind and the Aeropress to brew. Wow. Later we discovered that all of that warehouse coffee was destined for the instant coffee making factory across the road from our hostel. I nearly cried.

Do you have a favourite origin? Always a tricky one. My answer would be El Salvador. The country is incredible. The people are friendly, the land is beautiful and the coffee is good too. The processes that we saw in El Salvador show that the plantation owners take coffee really seriously. This is extremely important because it drastically improves the quality of coffee you will be drinking.

Where do you see the company going? This is an interesting question! Roasting coffee is our core skill and will always be the key focus of our business. As a start up company our vision is definitely to grow, but we are against doing something normal and expected (as our name suggests). We will look to do something that changes the game. Something bold. Coffee isn't just about a drink, it's about an experience.

So then, to the review.

Kinross is a small town just off the motorway north of Edinburgh. It’s a rather non-descript place (sorry, Kinross), but its high street is pleasant and, right there in the middle, sits Unorthodox Coffee (the sign had yet to be painted when I visited). Inside, Chris and Neil have taken an especially rustic approach, with wooden floors and recycled or hand-built furniture on show throughout. Wooden crates have been given new leases of life all over the cafe, forming a table or a stand for the hulking Mahlkonig EK43 grinder at the end of the bar.

The bar itself is refreshingly straightforward, with a simple pour-over setup and a roll of paper hung on the wall for a menu. At the time I was there they had not hooked up their espresso machine for coffee, but were using it to steam milk for cafe au laits. Otherwise, it’s straight black pour-overs for everyone, and judging by the reactions of the customers, no one minds.

They also have a small kitchen behind the bar for preparing toast and cakes and suchlike, and further nooks and crannies waiting to be utilised. The production area is further back still, where bags of Wee Stoater, Pure Magic and Clockwork Ninja were being readied for sale. I had a cup of the Clockwork Ninja while I was there, and it was excellent – a washed Colombia from the Cauca region, it tasted of chocolate, apple and toasted nuts.

The obvious focal point of the cafe, however, is the beautiful Giesen W6A 6kg roaster, in pride of place against the right hand wall. I appreciate when coffee shops show off their roasters, not just because they’re pretty and I get to stare longingly at them, but because it lets the customer know that yes, this is a place that takes coffee seriously. They close the cafe on Mondays and Tuesdays in order to roast (it’s a little difficult to roast coffee in the midst of customers) and are currently beginning to offer their coffee to other cafes and businesses as well as online.

I have to say, I love the Unorthodox cafe. The layout, design, atmosphere and approach is extremely my jam. I love the use of interesting and recycled materials; I love that they built the huge communal table themselves; I love that the roaster is slap bang in the middle of the space; I love that they have a pared down, uncomplicated menu; and most of all I love that they’re bringing specialty coffee to a part of the world that would usually have no access to it whatsoever. This kind of venture should be encouraged all over Scotland, in every town no matter the size. And on top of all that they’re lovely chaps. Pay them a visit.

You Might Also Like                                  


          Nov 26, 2017                                REVIEW: ETHIOPIA SIDAMO GUJI—TANDEM COFFEE ROASTERS, PORTLAND, ME        Nov 26, 2017                       Nov 26, 2017                                


          Aug 8, 2017                                COSTA RICA TARRAZÚ, MR EION COFFEE ROASTER        Aug 8, 2017                       Aug 8, 2017                                


          Jul 25, 2017                                MEXICO TERRUÑO NAYARITA, LUCKIE BEANS COFFEE ROASTERS        Jul 25, 2017                       Jul 25, 2017                                


          Jul 18, 2017                                UNORTHODOX COFFEE ROASTERS, KINROSS        Jul 18, 2017                       Jul 18, 2017                                


          Jul 10, 2017                                THE CULT OF COFFEE, ABERDEEN        Jul 10, 2017                       Jul 10, 2017                                


          Jun 26, 2017                                THE COFFEE APOTHECARY UPDATE, UDNY, ABERDEENSHIRE        Jun 26, 2017                       Jun 26, 2017                                


          Jun 12, 2017                                CAIRNGORM COFFEE, EDINBURGH        Jun 12, 2017                       Jun 12, 2017                                


          Jun 5, 2017                                TANZANIA IYENGA, GLEN LYON COFFEE ROASTERS        Jun 5, 2017                       Jun 5, 2017                                


          May 29, 2017                                LABORATORIO ESPRESSO, GLASGOW        May 29, 2017                       May 29, 2017                                


          May 23, 2017                                MALAWI MZUZU MISUKU, OVENBIRD COFFEE ROASTERS, GLASGOW        May 23, 2017                       May 23, 2017