Coorie (ku:ri) is the Scottish art of living happy. It used to mean something akin to snuggle—coorie in, coorie down—but in the last couple of years it’s developed into a style of aesthetics and living. It’s not just about candles and coffee. Coorie is about taking comfort and energy from both the wild landscapes of Scotland and the cheerful interiors that inspire cozy togetherness. You might have experienced something like coorie if you’ve ever walked into your best friend’s living room or your favorite coffee shop and immediately felt welcomed and loved.
While traveling around Scotland last fall, I searched high and low for the best coffee I could find, the places that made us want to coorie down with loved ones, a book, and coffee. The local coffee haven is Edinburgh. Here, coffee shops sprout up like mushrooms after a good rain. In the center of the city, it’s unlikely you’ll walk a block without spotting at least one. In the last few years, the local scene has begun shifting more towards specialty coffee with a focus on top quality and good service. We’ve rounded up our top ten coorie shops to help you get around the city without getting caught in the rain.
This guide is meant to be used in conjunction with Edinburgh cafes previously featured on Sprudge.
Artisan Roast is a welcoming, homey spot that feels worlds away from the central tourists hubs of Edinburgh. Here the roasters care deeply about their coffee, and tucked among plants, art, and knick-knacks are colorful flavor wheels and descriptions of the current coffees they’re roasting. Bags of coffee are displayed prominently and the bar is visually open, inviting everyone into the space.
When I visited Artisan, customers from the neighborhood and tourists from all over were making themselves at home in the front tables by the picture window and their comfortable back living room-style sitting area. When you visit, look closely at your surroundings, because hidden among the usual coffee shop trappings and home-like decor is a collection of funky wall art, a gold-framed photo of Morgan Freeman who reminds everyone to hydrate, and a cheeky promise “from” JK Rowling to never write there.
Baba Budan has the kind of bubbly atmosphere that comes from baristas who are having fun behind the bar. The space is cheery too: high ceilings, sleek wood, and skinny lights pair well with their coffee to brighten up even the darkest winter afternoon. Named for the 16th century Sufi saint who is said to have introduced coffee to India, Baba Budan is a continued celebration of the spread of that beverage. The community table is a good space to work, and the whole cafe is a great place to meet up with a friend. The baristas were brewing up a Salvadoran coffee from Girls Who Grind on drip, along with espresso from Workshop. Rotating roasters include Square Mile, The Barn, Coffee Collective, and Dark Arts Coffee. If you’re feeling a little jittery from caffeine already, they have a selection of food using seasonal ingredients. It’s all made in-house.
If you’re trying to drink coffee in the cafe where JK Rowling first wrote Harry Potter, Black Medicine is the closest you’re going to get. It stands where Nicolson’s used to, which is where Rowling wrote most of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (Later books were written at Elephant House, but despite claims to be “the birthplace” of Potter, they didn’t open until Philosopher’s Stone was almost published.) Today, Black Medicine is a bustling coffee shop serving up good brews, bagels, and high energy. The baristas are an upbeat and friendly group, even when there’s a chaotic line. Their menu of milk-based drinks is reliably good, and espresso is served with a ginger cookie to make your coffee break just that bit more exciting. The bohemian decor and excitable environment is conducive to any creative who finds people-watching inspiring, and you’ll find writers camped out with laptops everywhere.
If you care about the environment (and don’t you?), you’ll be happy to know Black Medicine has experimented with using steel straws for cold drinks, has completely banned drinking from takeaway coffee cups inside, and offers a 10% discount if you bring your own mug.
Brew Lab Coffee
True to its name, Brew Lab Coffee has an underground bunker laboratory feel that makes it a favorite of students. The rooms are laid out like a rabbit’s warren and packed full of young millennials writing, studying, and talking. There’s more exposed brick than you can shake a fist at, and the decor is focused on the scientific, including a menu that visually mimics the element squares of the periodic table. The focus here is on coffee: equipment is top of the line and the baristas are clearly extremely knowledgeable about the drinks they’re serving. Brewed coffee itself is not a rarity in Edinburgh, but the pour-over bar in central view for everyone is. Service includes drinks brought to the table (if you’ve found one) and friendly baristas. V60s are brewed into carafes and served on trays; flat whites show up with perfectly symmetrical rosettas.
Though it’s one of Edinburgh's more spacious specialty cafes, popularity and proximity to the University of Edinburgh means finding a place to sit can be a challenge. If you can, try to snag one of the arm chairs at the back and settle in. When you’re done with caffeine for the day, Brew Lab also serves beer, wine, and cocktails.
Behind the bar in Cairngorm read the words “Coffee and grilled cheese.” Generous sandwiches are constructed by the staff, and the coziness of this childhood favorite meal perfectly matches the coziness of Cairngorm. The ceiling is hung with burlap coffee sacks, and the natural wood and forest color palette evokes the eastern Highlands mountain range it’s named for. A snowboard, a skateboard, and skis hang on the walls to bring mountain adventure inside, or you can pick up an AeroPress and bag of this micro-roaster’s coffee to take on your next outdoor escape. When I dropped by, Cairngorm’s baristas were brewing up an excellent selection of Five Elephant coffee and their own Central American selection. They served up what was, hands down, the best flat white I had in Edinburgh. Attention to service is in everything Cairngorm does: tea was served with a timer to ensure it wasn’t over-steeped, newspapers were available for reading, and tablets set into bar seating were available to browse their website.
Find Cairngorm by descending some stairs from the main level of Frederick Street. The small patio outside is aces when the weather is great, or cozy up inside.
Just a block off of the Princes Street Gardens and the main tram line, Castello Coffee waits to supply you with coffee and food to fuel up. The space is clean and bright, and framed art features prominently on the walls. Clearly named for Edinburgh Castle nearby, this shop serves up an Americano made with Allpress Espresso that’s fit for a monarch and delicious hot chocolates for everyone else. The breakfast and lunch soup options are great, as well. Friendly baristas are behind the bar and the bustling energy patrons bring in and out of the shop is the perfect pick-me-up to accompany the coffee when you need one.
If you’re out playing tourist or shopping nearby, Castello is a convenient and reliably good shop to drop in on. Grab a seat at the counter facing the window to watch people stream by in this busy neighborhood or enjoy their wide patio seating under umbrellas to protect you from the elements.
Tucked away on a small road close to the University of Edinburgh is wee gem Cult Espresso. This long narrow shop has a sapphire blue facade that makes it stand brightly out from the rest of the store fronts on the street, and the front door promises coffee, brunch, and good times—indeed, the service is amazing and the energy in the shop is cheerful and welcoming. When I visited I had a delicious long black and a good long chat with the baristas about the coffee scenes in the US and Scotland, what makes Cult special, and how excited they were about the coffee they were serving that day. As a group of self-proclaimed “coffee nerds,” Cult is constantly curating seasonal single-origin coffees from the UK and Europe, and they’re truly dedicated to making sure each cup is delicious.
Cult Espresso may not be an actual cult, but I could come to be (almost) as dedicated to it as a real one. Drop by the shop for their ritual brunch and coffee combo, and don’t forget to snag some of their branded swag on the way out.
More than any other, Fortitude Coffee feels like a barista’s coffee shop. It retains the appearance of a converted rowhouse and is a peaceful background for great coffee, friendly baristas, and a community vibe. I sat by the windows and enjoyed a juicy pour-over roasted by Fortitude and perused the simple food menu. When I visited, they were quick to talk up the other coffee shops on the Disloyal 7 card, as well as recommend other must-try places around Edinburgh. They host the occasional cupping with their full lineup of coffees, and recently co-hosted a Meet the Roaster event with Edinburgh Coffee Society, so if you’re just visiting, check with the baristas to see if there’s an event coming up. Though still a relatively young scene, Fortitude is proof of how great a city’s coffee network becomes when everyone in it cares about the same main goals: delicious beverages and open community.
On a busy day, Fortitude is the perfect tranquil spot to relax, chat about coffee, and grab a bite to eat. Their full wall of retail coffee and coffee equipment is a great source for whatever your coffee-loving heart needs.
Literally low—down a flight of stairs—Lowdown is a minimalist shop. It’s a peaceful place to get away from the bustle of the main road, and has an airy feel to the decor and art. If you’re looking for a quieter place than Black Medicine to get work done, Lowdown is going to be your best bet for a distraction-free environment—the baristas are focused on careful, precise brewing. The coffee served and sold at Lowdown comes from all over Europe, including the delicious balanced shot of Ethiopian coffee from Colonna that was on drank when I stopped by. Similar to Artisan, Lowdown’s espresso bar is open and visible to guests, which invites an easy engagement that the baristas welcome.
The pastry case was full of beautiful pastries, including several cake options that are always the perfect pairing with any coffee for a good mid-morning snack. Bring a friend to take a break from shopping or sightseeing, or hunker down here with a good book. Lowdown is the perfect place to pass an afternoon with a cup of coffee.
The coffee aesthetic is strong with this one. Above the bar hangs a black metal industrial light fixture from which a portafilter, a pitcher, and other various coffee implements hang from to float over the space. The walls are clean and white, and the tables are modernist sturdy wood and black metal. In Machina, several shelves are dedicated to different retail options; if you’re looking for equipment Machina seems to have the largest selection in Edinburgh. Located just up the street from Filament, this micro-roaster’s shop is another warm and relaxing space to escape rush hour or a quick rain shower.
Drop by early to enjoy the food menu options and sign up for their coffee subscription service while you’re there. Try to snag the window seat—not only is it super comfortable, it’s the perfect setting for your next Instagram photo with coffee.