“The Disloyal 7 is a celebration of where we’ve all come from, and where we’re going.” This was the sentence that stuck in my head after catching up with Matt Carroll, owner of Edinburgh-based specialty coffee shop Fortitude Coffee. “I think it represents Edinburgh becoming very aware of its own specialty coffee scene: a scene we can all feel very proud to be a part of.”
In November of 2016, seven of Edinburgh’s independent coffee shops launched their new scheme, the Disloyal 7. A loyalty card with a difference, the card encourages coffee lovers to visit all seven destinations before they can get their eighth coffee free, at a member’s shop of their choosing. “Seeing everyone on the same card,” Carroll told me, “it really feels like we’re all together, and it gives our customers a chance to share in that excitement too.”
What unites the cafes is their focus on quality and consistency; their environment of open, friendly, and well-natured competition keeps the standards high for all involved, including any new specialty cafe that arrives on the Edinburgh scene. “The beauty of the 7 is that we are all independents,” Robi Lambie, owner of Cairngorm Coffee, told me when we recently met. “Our core values are very much the same, but there’s still enough variety between the member shops to keep things interesting for our customers.”
Each of the cafes brings its own unique style and traits to the group: Baba Budan serves some of the city’s best doughnuts out of a converted railway arch; Paul Anderson from Lowdown Coffee grinds every shot carefully through his trusty Mahlkönig EK 43; Fortitude's Carroll is known across the city for his amazing retail coffee selection, sourced from Europe’s finest roasters; Cairngorm features beautiful spaces and fantastic food; and Cult Espresso and Filament Coffee are all about friendship, great service, and a welcoming, local setting. Brew Lab, the oldest member of the 7, focuses on excellent pour-over coffee as well as extremely popular espresso and brewing classes, offered in its bespoke coffee laboratory classroom to keen, passionate, and loyal customers.
The card itself was designed by Ziemowit Kaczmarski, ace barista and graphic designer at Filament. He chose a seven-sided shape to ensure that every shop on the card would have equal space, a spirit of egalitarianism that is at the heart of the Disloyal 7. “The design lends itself to equality,” Garry Stone, owner of Cult Espresso explained. “A normal card would lead toward a specific pecking order, but with this there is no up or down, everyone is on an equal footing, and we are proud to be sharing our customers as well as our knowledge and friendship.”
Cairngorm's Lambie summarized the 7 perfectly: “We always try to think about what mainstream shops cannot do. [The card] is so far from the ideology of most high-street chains that it’s not something they could ever consider. Because we are independent, we have that luxury.” The 7 are an inspiring example of the power of teamwork, and I look forward to my free coffee!
Gavin Smart is a freelance photojournalist based in Edinburgh. Read more Gavin Smart on Sprudge.