By Tyson Yates
HAVING spent some time working as a barista, I know the significance of that carefully crafted leaf you see floating in your coffee. That is, I know it requires some semblance of effort, not to mention skill. The milk needs to be heated to a precise temperature, stretched to the right consistency with all the bubbles stamped out. The crÃ¨me needs to be thick and extracted from the bean using a quality grinder and a cleaned filter. Only then can the magic happen as you flicker your wrist from left to right when you pour.
This is not to be confused with the generic, artificial franchise logo that is planted on top of your cappuccino by an unenthusiastic teenager shaking chocolate through a pre-patterned shaker with one hand while tweeting with the other: “Makin coffee for sum Aussie jerk #puberty”.
At Wellington Coffee, located in the heart of Edinburgh’s busy New Town, you get your leaf. You get this because the focus of this small but central independent coffee house is offering high quality java and not much else. There is little in the way of food, there are too few seats, yet I find myself craving more than just caffeine when it comes to finding the right café. I want quality and simplicity, both of which are on offer at Wellington Coffee.
The key to Wellington Coffee seems to be its minimalist approach, which is a deliberate attempt to shine the spotlight on high quality beans. The little interior space it has holds only two tables for customers while a single, simple rectangular counter is the place for both making coffee and exchanging money. Lining the walls are thin wooden benches designed for a quick sit down as customers wait for their cuppa to be carefully prepared.
Also minimalist is the service, which isn’t flowered by false niceties and up-selling but is rather direct and efficient as to cater for its largely take-away crowd. Located in Edinburgh’s bustling New Town, the place for business and high end shopping, Wellington Coffee is at its busiest weekdays before and after working hours. During this peak time the place has the atmosphere of a pestered hive with frantic staff and customers alike so if you hope to snag a seat, try lunchtime.
Summer is another story entirely. When the sun makes an appearance so do the tables on the sidewalk which sees Wellington Coffee suddenly turn into a sizable establishment where you can choose to sit outside on the street or at basement level.
With no lunch menu, Wellington Coffee has little to offer in terms of food. Beside the cashier, on open display is a small selection of sweets which include freshly prepared cakes, brownies, breakfast bars and scones. All mere distractions from the main attraction.
Wellington’s big boast is its coffee. It claims is to be the only joint in Scotland to offer London’s Square Mile beans and it is all the busier for it. Though quality beans and expensive machines will only get you so far. What it comes down to are the well trained and knowledgeable baristas who consistently ensure the cappuccinos are foamy, the lattes creamy and the Americanos are served hot.
Well, funnily enough, Wellington Coffee’s only connection to New Zealand is by its name. This doesn’t stop it being a haven for tourists and backpackers from Down Under who enter its doors in search of a taste of home. What they get however is a satisfying gulp of the cosmopolitan. The coffee machine is American, the beans are from London, the grinder is Italian and the owner is from Glasgow. Not to mention, the barista, who has just returned from three years of examining Melbourne’s own coffee culture, picking up a few tricks along the way.
A welcome consolation was the easy listening soundtrack which was peppered with Aussie artists including Angus and Julia Stone as well as an acoustic version of the Crowded House favourite, Fall at your Feet being a particular highlight. All connections, right?
Wellington Coffee provides efficient service and is entirely focused on quality. It essentially functions as a pop up café that just so happened to find a permanent home. If you are looking for somewhere to linger, best stick to one of the franchise cafés, though you will regret it when your latte bears an unintentionally suggestive phallic symbol instead of that magical leaf.
33a George Street
Edinburgh, EH2 2HN