COFFEE roasting is an industry that has been growing rapidly in Scotland over the last decade, but recent years have presented a series of challenges that have left businesses struggling to make ends meet.

Lisa Lawson, founder of Dear Green Coffee Roasters in Glasgow, said the pivots her business has had to make have been “constant” amid Brexit and the pandemic, while other companies have been struck down by soaring energy costs.

But for a couple of days next month, it is hoped this tide of curveballs can briefly be put to one side for coffee roasters to come together and celebrate why they fell in love with the product and the skill required to make it sing.

The eighth edition of the Glasgow Coffee Festival is set to give brew lovers more than just a caffeine boost with talks, demonstrations, panel discussions and latte art sessions lined up, and roasters keen to shout about why they love what they do.

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Lawson, organiser of the festival, said the UK’s exit from the EU and the coronavirus crisis brought about huge tests for Dear Green and the festival itself, but she’s looking forward to a chance to try and start afresh.

“Challenges have just been constant,” she told The National.

“Brexit was the first thing for us, we had to restructure how we sourced coffee. Before 2020 we’d already decided just to buy from importers based in the UK and stocked in the UK because we didn’t want to have stock trapped in ports.

“Then the pandemic happened. We had 10 staff but we went down to just me and one other person in the roastery, and then had to build back up again from there.

“We were supplying 95% to hospitality and then we had to swiftly move to just being an online shop.

“In 2020 we then had to pivot with the festival and we called it taking the festival to the streets. We got 50 cafes to sign up to a deal and a ticket just gave you a tour of coffee shops.

“Last year, we just did the minimum that we could just to make it happen again to prove it wasn’t disappearing. This year feels fresh and exciting and lots of roasters are at such a high level and they’ve got so much they want to shout about.”

Gillian McIntyre has equally been no stranger to being up against it in recent years after founding Something Brewed – a speciality coffee bar for weddings and special events – and coffee shop Mayze, which until a few weeks ago had two bases in Glasgow.

The National: The Glasgow Coffee Festival gives brew lovers the chance to explore the potential of the much-loved drinkThe Glasgow Coffee Festival gives brew lovers the chance to explore the potential of the much-loved drink (Image: NQ)

Both Mayze shops have now closed due to the insurmountable challenge of trying to deal with rising energy costs while hanging on to customers, in the aftermath of a pandemic the business had hardly had time to recover from.

She said she wants to use the festival as part of her efforts to try and reconnect with the industry after the frustrating decision of having to close the shops.

“The pressure small businesses are facing feels like more than what the public sees,” said McIntyre.

“Things like suppliers put minimum orders up which meant ordering was more difficult and our cash flow was being impacted badly. Utility companies wanted to take deposits for starting new contracts that we had to pay upfront, which was another thing that destroyed cash flow.

“My work was just getting pushed into the evenings and my days off and became completely consuming.

“Since I’ve made the decision to close, I’ve started trying to have a relationship with the coffee industry again. I want to prioritise the joy of the industry I fell in love with.”

Robi Lambie founded Edinburgh-based Cairngorm Coffee back in 2014 and had to make the frustrating decision to stop selling coffee abroad because of red tape created by Brexit, despite having positive discussions with potential customers across Europe.

The National: Robi Lambie said Brexit had led to frustrating decisions for his business Cairngorm CoffeeRobi Lambie said Brexit had led to frustrating decisions for his business Cairngorm Coffee (Image: NQ)

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Elgin, said the festival will give roasters a chance to chew the fat about the struggles they’ve been facing and learn from each other about new ideas.

“I think Brexit for us was challenging,” said Lambie.

“We were in our infancy of being a wholesale roastery and around that time we were just starting to find businesses we wanted to sell our coffee through. Some of those early conversations we had were with clients in the Czech Republic and Germany and we had some bad experiences coming out of Brexit where we sent coffee over and it got declined by customs.

“We just faced red tape really so we decided to halt selling coffee outside of the UK which has been a bit of a frustrating decision to make but one we’ve made just for the ease of running the business.

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“I think everyone is having a really tough time of it. It just feels like everything is tighter than it’s ever been.

“We’re looking forward to the festival. The majority of the people will have matured into business people and it’s quite hard to kind of find opportunities to talk about how we can all improve.

“We always leave with a new vigour for fresh stuff.”

The festival was born out of Lawson’s frustration there were a lack of people roasting coffee when she returned to Scotland after a stint in Australia, where her passion burst into life.

But now she is delighted that since the event’s first year in 2014, the industry has grown arms and legs and Lawson is determined to prove why Scotland is now up there with the best when it comes to coffee.

Asked what she felt was most special about the Scottish coffee roasting scene, she said: “We’re quite disconnected from a lot of the rest of the coffee world.

“A lot happens in London, and Portland and Melbourne, so I think to have a festival in Scotland for Scottish coffee businesses that attracts people to us is important.

“We want to show we are as good as any café or roaster in major cities around the world and that’s the reason we need to keep the festival going.”

The Glasgow Coffee Festival will take place at The Briggait on May 13 and 14, with two sessions on each day. To find out more click here.