INTERVIEW: Robi Lambie (Cairngorm Coffee)

With Cairngorm Coffee Highland-born Robi Lambie was very clear about what he didn’t want. He didn’t want his specialist coffee shop to be ostentatious; to seem like the kind of place you don’t belong. The world of coffee shops can feel very imposing, if not downright confusing to someone who’s used to having A COFFEE. This counts for one of us by the way. Uncultured swine. Anyway, Cairngorm Coffee was to be a place where the average person could feel relaxed but still drink exceptional coffee. It opened on Frederick Street in Edinburgh over two years ago and a second shop has now opened up on Melville Place. We caught up with Robi to discover more about the business and what drives him forward…

You have fond memories of your dad’s own Ralia Café [near Newtonmore]. Could you perhaps share some of those memories with us?
“Most definitely. A large part of it was simply being in the Cairngorms and enjoying the surroundings. Living in a National Park in the Highlands making Coffee is something I would have to take over commuting around the city any day (personal preference obviously!). I suppose being around my Dad running the business had a lasting effect on me, and whilst I tried to work extra hard to prove my worth to the other employees, seeds were being planted as to how I could build my own elsewhere.”

For anyone unfamiliar with Cairngorm Coffee how would you describe your approach to coffee? What makes it and your shop itself stand out?
“I think our approach to coffee is very customer-centric. As coffee geeks ourselves we want to know as much as we can about the coffees we’re buying, but understand that not all customers are as interested in our level of detail. Hospitality and service mean a lot to us and we strive to find ways to be informative about the things that contribute to the experience without becoming alienating.”

Do you see any particular trends when it comes to the shop’s customers?
“I don’t think we notice many trends to be quite honest. We’ve been lucky enough to develop great relationships with all sorts of people since opening and our newest opening has further cemented to us the wide variety of coffee lovers in Edinburgh.”

You very recently opened a new shop on Melville Place. How is it faring so far? Do you have any intentions of expanding even further?
“So far our experiences at Melville Place have been fantastic. We were fairly brash opening up at Easter which is always a busy time for us anyway, but it seemed a perfect time to get our hands dirty and see what worked. Our intentions are strictly with our current endeavours which have us busy enough for now!”

What have you learned since opening your own coffee shop?
“I think I’ve learnt an abundant amount about coffee. My love for the specialty coffee industry has blown into an obsession which has me learning new things most days. I think the way in which I approached coffee two years ago opening the first store, and now with the second, are worlds apart and it’s really exciting to think how that will evolve further moving forward. I’ve also learnt how to do a fair bit of DIY which I’d never really tried my hand at. There’s only so many times you can afford to call a joiner out to put shelves up before you give it a bash yourself!”

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