The Edinburgh coffee scene has come on in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, with many brilliant cafes and coffee roasters all offering something unique and tasty. One individual in particular has been quietly brewing away and expanding into all corners of the Scottish capital and that person is Jonathan Sharp, who’s been bringing his personal touch and individual style to the scene since 2005.
His first space – Kilimanjaro Coffee – opened in a spacious and inviting shop on Nicholson St, a busy stretch of road close to Edinburgh University. At that time we were mainly focused on growing the London community, but when Jon reached out to see if we would supply him it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
When you visit Kilimanjaro, make sure you take your time. Order a coffee made on the first Synesso in the UK and indulge yourself with eggs benedict and a fresh juice to wash it down. Lots of dark wood detailing, mismatched furniture and leather armchairs keep the space casual, while the gentle hum of people deep in conversation welcomes you to take a seat on the sofa and read a good book. Make sure you check out the beautiful photos around the cafe, depicting life and the journey of coffee in Africa.
Not content with just one cafe, Jon came across a great space on Wellington St in Edinburgh New Town, and in 2008 Wellington Coffee was born. A far cry from the original cafe, Wellington has low ceilings, a dozen chairs at a push and a focused coffee menu alongside a few sweet treats. It is lively, with a constant queue of people all patiently waiting for their fix. When the sun shines, grab your coffee and sit outdoors on the sunken terrace and hope the clouds stay clear for just 10 minutes more.
Another year passes by, and with it the opportunity to open a third cafe, with 2009 welcoming Press Coffee. It’s a little off the beaten track, but you’d be hard pressed to walk past it if you were in the area thanks to it’s bold blue exterior and canary yellow walls. Inside, marble table tops are paired with dark wooden chairs and a Synesso Cyncra doing the business behind the bar. Tasty sweet treats greet you as you place your order, a nice accompaniment to a pot of warming earl grey tea on a cool Scottish afternoon.
2010 and 2011 saw Project and Blackwood thrown into the mix, a mere 15 minutes from each other and broadening the reach of Jon’s empire to the Morningside area of Edinburgh. As you’d expect, each cafe has it’s own distinct character – Project’s high ceilings and mix of green wood, stone and brick detailing make for a modern feeling cafe, with comfortable, soft seating. The walls are adorned with framed pictures of other speciality cafes around the world, and a delightful brunch menu will make sure you stay longer than anticipated.
Blackwood on the other hand is all blonde wood paneling and brass tables, with an art deco style and peaceful, classy atmosphere. Freshly squeezed juices, scones with jam and cream and lots of natural light all help to make the space an idyllic and relaxing place to be.
Leap forward to 2016, and speciality coffee has spread over the UK in a major way. Coffee shops are opening at an alarming rate and Edinburgh is spoilt for choice, but there are still many pockets of the city which are crying out for a great cafe. Jonathan searched long and hard, and eventually found one such spot which was perfect for his relaxed style of space to fit right in. Sandwiched between the University and the National Museum of Scotland, Forrest Rd connects the leafy Meadows with Edinburgh Old Town, and is now home to Thomas J. Walls.
Housed in an old optometrists, a cheeky nod to its former life is apparent in cafe’s name and logo. Art deco in style and with an air of sophistication as you enter, you are immediately made to feel welcomed by the friendly staff and inviting selection of pastries. Make sure you arrive hungry as the brunch options are mouth watering – think pumpkin granola, shakshuka, and a must have sriracha benny! The only other thing to do after ordering a coffee is to decide where to sit: watch the world go by next to the gun wielding bunny or hide away from the world in the beautifully lit rear area complete with stone walls and antique fireplace.
The secret to Jonathan’s success is never taking his finger off the pulse, and we applaud him for his dedication. No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without visiting one of his cafes, as he has created something very special and continues to educate and push the industry further forward. Chances are you will bump into him on your visit, happily serving customers at the till, training one of his many staff or steaming milk to perfection.
104 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9EJ
33A George St, Edinburgh EH2 2HN
30 Buccleuch St, Edinburgh EH8 9LP
196 Bruntsfield Pl, Edinburgh EH10 4DF
235 Morningside Rd, Edinburgh EH10 4QT
Thomas J Walls
35 Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 4QN