As I travel quite a lot, and am always in a search of new exiting cafes, and as I am vegan, I started to realize that while it’s rather easy to find recommendations of artisan coffee, as well as recommendations of good vegan restaurants, however, it seems quite hard to find good cafes with vegan options. That is why I decided it’s a good idea to share with you what I’ve learned about the most vegan friendly third wave coffee shops in Edinburgh (which is really good in both domains, in case you were wondering).
Before I start telling you all about my favorite places, I will note that these are not the only coffee shops with vegan options in Edinburgh, there are many more, these are just the ones with the most options, and my favorite ones. In fact, they are so good I feel like they each deserve a separate post, but then I’ll never get to tell you about all the other amazing places in Edinburgh. I promise to tell you about some other amazing cafes, (with fewer vegan options) in one of my next posts. Another disclaimer is that when I talk about “vegan options”, what I actually mean is something sweet to go along with your coffee.
Cairngorm coffee is a local specialty coffee with two amazing locations, offering quite a few vegan sweets and two very different vibes. The name, is derived from the beautiful national park in the Scottish highlands, though both shops are based in Edinburgh. The bigger space is located on the west border of New Town, and is a bright space, surrounded by large windows, with a lot of seating options, including large communal tables, bar seats and a few “regular” tables. From the outside the place has a pinkish tone to it, which resonates on the inside (by the wooden furniture and bronze lined lamps). The decor is crisp and chic, with white tiles, wooden tables, large white and bronze lamps hanging from the ceiling and a dark industrial counter. The place also has some green splashes of hanging plants, and a display of merchandise. Although the space itself is quite large, and whenever I’ve visited it, it’s quite busy, there is still a cozy and intimate atmosphere, and the staff is friendly and helpful. The second location of Cairngorm is in the heart of New Town, pretty much in the middle of George street. This location is a hidden gem, as it is actually bellow street level. The cafe has a dark blue exterior, and a big sign inviting you to take a few steps down and enter. Here too, the interiors somewhat resonate the exteriors. The space itself has a much more casual decor, with a wall covered with dark green tiles at the front, a brick wall behind the counter, and then some brighter pastel colors at the back of the shop. The space has a communal table, a couple of regular seats, and some more spots behind an old piano that is now being used as a bar. As the place is basically underground, the lights are dim, which compliments the cozy atmosphere. As the place is less busy than the other location, feel free to have a long chat with the staff, that will get to know you quite quickly, if you keep coming back.
Both locations offer the same amazing coffee – it is more on the bitter side, and though its flavor is rich, it is not too strong. However, each location offers a slightly different variety of pastries. I should note that the options do change daily. Nevertheless, whenever I visited either location, they both offered at least 3 different vegan sweets. My favorite was a raspberry loaf I had at the Melville place location, which was super moist and had a good balance between sweet and zesty. The only thing I ever tried there and did not like was the Chai loaf, which was quite dry and flat.
Both locations are also very laptop friendly. The bigger location can be a little noisy at times, but the smaller one is quite ideal to work from. The Melville pl. location is open from 8am-6pm on weekdays, and from 9am-6pm on weekends, while the Frederick st. location is open from 8am-5pm on weekdays and from 9am-5pm on weekends.
Like Cairngorm Coffee, Lovecrumbs also has two different locations with quite different vibes. However, unlike Cairngorm, Lovecrumbs is actually known for its cakes rather than for its coffee, though the coffee is good too. The bigger location is on Grassmarket in Old Town, not too far from the Edinburgh Castle. It’s a spacious room, with an eclectic decor, combining both industrial and rural elements. It has two big colorful merchandise displays, and a beautiful vitrine with numerous yummy cakes. The place is also quite an urban jungle, with a lot of plants. This locations is pretty busy whenever you get there, and has a bustling atmosphere to it. Staff if friendly, and you can take your coffee and cake and sit at one of the communal tables, a single table, or at the bar seats. Here too you will find a piano functioning as a table. The smaller location is in Stockbridge, right by the farmers market (open on Sundays year-round). This little cozy space is bellow street level, and has a pink little inviting sign on the door. Once you enter, you will find yourself in a turquoise colored room, with a little nook padded with pillows, and in front of the counter with a cake display. When you keep walking in you will find a corridor with merchandise displayed, and there are a couple more tables at the back. This space is actually called “mini Lovecrumbs”, and has a very laid back atmosphere to it. The space is smaller, and so is the selection, but it’s a great place to relax and have some cake.
The Grassmarket branch has an incredible selection of vegan cakes. The last time I visited they probably had five different cakes as well as double chocolate cookies. The cakes change daily, so you never know what you will find when you arrive, however my favorite one thus far is their Lemon and blueberry loaf. But honestly, you will drool just from walking into the cafe, and you will have a hard time to choose.
Note that Lovecrumbs is a nice place to work from, however, they have a no laptop policy on the weekend. The Grassmarket location is open from Monday to Friday from 9am-6pm, on Saturday from 9:30am-6pm and on Sundays from 12pm-6pm, while the Stockbridge location is open from Wednesday to Friday from 11am-6pm and on the weekend from 10am-6pm.
Lowdown Coffee is one of Edinburgh’s most acclaimed artisan coffee establishments. It is located in new town, right at the heart of George street. Although its located in such a busy area, it is still quite a hidden gem, as it is bellow street level, and you can’t really see it when you walk by. Lowdown’s coffee is probably one of the best in town, and if you are a coffee lover (vegan or not), this is a must. Though the cafe’s main focus is on their coffee, they serve snacks too, and they also have a nice selection of pastries, two of which are vegan cakes. Both cakes are quite creamy and decadent – the first is peanut butter banana cake, and the second one is a coconut chocolate cake. Both are really good, with a perfect moist texture and a creamy layer, with quite a lot of rich, different flavores. Also, you get quite a generous portions (I have never been able to finish my slice). As for the decor, Lowdown has a modern minimalist design. The coffee is made at an open counter, that actually looks more like a kitchen display than a coffee shop. I have to admit that the first time I walked through the door I was unsure it’s a coffee shop, but once I realized it was, I found it quite cool. The space isn’t very big, and it can be quite busy at times, so if the weather doesn’t allow to sit out (where you can find a few more tables), you might have to wait for a little while.
Note that Lowdown is not laptop friendly, there is no Wi-Fi, and the place kindly requests to not occupy a table for longer than an hour an a half (since it’s not a very big space and the cafe is quite popolar). Lowdown is open from 8am-6pm on weekdays, on Saturdays it opens at 9am, and on Sundays at 10am.
William & Johnson:
Like both Cairngorm Coffee and Lovecrumbs, William & Johnson have two different location. Their flag store and roastery, is located by the shore of Leith. I heard about this place on my first night in Edinburgh from the waiter that was serving my table at a vegan restaurant. He told me I should really go to Leith, as that is the coolest neighborhood in Edinburgh. He also suggested that while I was there, I pay a visit to William & Johnson, which he argued was the best independent coffee shop in town. I googled the place and saw that it was about 45 minutes away from where I was living at the time. However, I saw they had another location, at the Waverley Mall, near the Waverley train station, and since that one was much closer and on my way, I decided to pop by. I admit I was slightly skeptic about a cafe that is located in a train station’s mall, but I figured I would give it a shot. I ended up walking into a super cool space, with modern Scandi-vibes – all minimalist, with white walls, wooden furniture and some hanging plants. They also served really good coffee (as promised) and quite a few vegan options, including vegan granola cookies and the national Scottish dessert – Cranachan (note that the pastries do change daily). Much to my surprise, though the space is quite big, I felt very comfortable and at ease sitting there. It offers a communal table, bar seats as well as regular tables. I brought my lap-top and set at a regular table. The Wi-Fi was reliable, and I was left alone to do my thing. When I finally made it to the Leith location, I discovered that both places were decorated pretty much the same. This too was quite a large space with white, wooden furniture and hanging plants. The Leith location does have a little more of a community feel to it, and it also hosts some events. However, both locations are very much recommended.
You can visit the Waverley location from 7:30am-6pm on Weekdays, from 8:30-5pm on Saturdays, and from 10am-5pm on Sundays. The Leith location is open from 8:30-5pm on weekdays, from 10am-5pm on Saturdays, and from 10pm-4pm on Sundays. If you happen to visit this location on a Saturday, you might want to visit the Leith farmer’s market, less than a block away.