The Disloyal 7 and Edinburgh's Coffee Scene

Keen to explore the world of very, very good coffee? Edinburgh’s best independent coffee shops have just the thing to help you – a small, heptagonal thing...

Feature by Peter Simpson | 08 Mar 2017

We all play favourites, it's an unavoidable fact of life. Whether it's a favourite pair of trainers, a go-to recipe, or that one friend you just can't help but wind up in every single argument, we tend to gravitate back towards things we've previously enjoyed. We think of loyalty as a virtue, especially when we're chucking money around, and it's a virtue that often ends up rewarded albeit in comically small ways. If you've ever received a coupon in the post for 20p off cheese (valid when you spend more than £5 on cheese), you'll know what we mean.

Launched at the end of 2016, The Disloyal 7 is a loyalty scheme with a difference. Instead of challenging you to funnel as much of your cash as possible into one shop in the hope of getting some sweet, sweet loyalty points and pennies off your gouda, The Disloyal 7 is about getting you to go to... wait for it... lots of different places. 

It hits upon an interesting point that's at the heart of building a community, but it can seem a bit counter-intuitive. Think of a music scene – it can survive off the buzz of one or two key bands for a while, but if those bands change direction for whatever reason, their fans might disappear having not engaged with the genre itself. If the buzz band say: 'Hey, listen to these bands as well' then an appreciation for the genre itself is built up, and a scene can be sustained even if a few details change. Now, swap all the musical nouns with their coffee equivalents, and you see the point.

The Disloyal 7 applies this scene mentality to Edinburgh coffee, with a baker's half dozen of the city's best coffee spots all involved. Get a loyalty stamp from a coffee in each of them, and you can get a free drink in the one you liked the most. You explore some of the city's coffee scene, the cafes each get a chance to impress you and turn you into a regular, you have even more places for to add to your mental coffee map, and you get something for free. It's a win-win-win-win, and three of those wins are yours. Congratulations.

The seven all have things in common, but each of them has its own little foibles and quirks. There's Cult Espresso, a brick-lined semi-subterranean spot just off the Meadows that serves up a killer flat white; round the corner is Filament Coffee, with its natty decor and great bagels to go with your coffee.

The Scandi loveliness of Lowdown on George Street is the perfect antidote to city centre shopping, and Baba Budan at the Waverley Arches serves up top-drawer doughnuts alongside coffee from Copenhagen's Coffee Collective. 

Cairngorm have spots at either end of the city centre – the West End shop is a haven of angular lines and bright light, while the Frederick Street branch is a cosy underground lair that's all wooden benches and coffee bags on the ceiling – while Fortitude's cafe upstairs from The Stand on York Place is the definition of small but perfectly formed. Brew Lab rounds things off for those who are super-serious about their coffee, or simply want to sit in their enormous red chesterfield chair giggling like a Bond villain.

Each venue has its own unique vibe, and they're each doing interesting things with their coffee. Which one will be your new favourite? Better try them all and find out; that card won't stamp itself... 

As part of UK Coffee Week, The Disloyal 7 host a Guided Coffee Crawl on 14 Apr (tickets £25), as well as an open crawl of the seven venues (£15) from 10-16 Apr.