Having rapidly become an intrinsic part of the unique community in St Andrews, the St Andrews Waffle Company is beloved by residents and visitors alike. Renowned for their delicious waffle-centred meals, Waffle Company is also the only place in town serving signature artisan Glen Lyon Coffee. Through their collaboration with the company, St Andrews Waffle Company is promoting Fair trade values within the community, emphasising ethical practices and contributing to changing traditional practices in the coffee industry.
Glen Lyon Coffee was founded in 2011 by Fiona Grant who, as a travel writer for Lonely Planet, travelled to coffee grain regions for work and was thus inspired to open a roaster herself. She set up camp in Glen Lyon, one of Scotland’s largest glens, and while the business has now moved to the market town of Aberfeldy, its origins in the remote and tranquil retreat are commemorated through its name.
Ms Grant began the business as a solo project, but Glen Lyon has now expanded to a team of six people in order to meet the demands of serving coffee to over 60 cafes across Scotland.
I spoke with Jamie Grant, Fiona’s husband and business partner, who opened up to The Saint about the business and its practices. Mr Grant told me that, by offering “specialist roasters and high-grade commodity coffee”, Glen Lyon distinguishes itself as a name that does good and tastes good in equal measures. “Many other cafes use lower-grade commodity coffee that isn’t as traceable or ethically sourced as speciality coffee.” explained Mr Grant.
This traceability is another factor that makes Glen Lyon stand out in the coffee industry. The coffee can be linked back not only to the communities they originate from, but as far as individual farmers themselves. Chris Rose, owner of the St Andrews Waffle Company, noted that Glen Lyon’s single-origin coffees provide a “backdrop to trace where the beans come from”. From Kenya to Uganda and Colombia, the company go as far as providing an individual photo of the grower.
Moreover, by traveling to the origin communities (with upcoming trips to Ethiopia and Guatemala in the next few months), the Grants get the opportunity to discuss and negotiate with farmers directly. Ethically-sourced Glen Lyon coffee comes witha guarantee that farmers receive above the Fairtrade price for their products. Coffee beans also have a limited shelf life, and so the Glen Lyon team carefully ensures they source excellent coffee beans at their prime.
Glen Lyon also advocates for other environmentally-friendly and ethically-sound practices. For example, they promote the use of compostable kilo bags and reusable tin pails to store and transport their coffee beans. Moreover, they utilise electric cars for deliveries to contribute to their goal of becoming a zero-waste corporation.
In addition to this, they encourage their customers, such as Chris Rose from St Andrews Waffle Company, to use reusable cups to serve the coffee. In this way, they ensure that every stage of the coffee industry process from sourcing the beans, to transporting them, to serving them to customers reflects their strong sense of social responsibility. Coffee chaff is also recycled and used as bedding for free-range chickens while, rather than wasting long-dated beans, they distribute them to homeless individuals across the country.
With their strong Scottish identity and close bond with the country, Glen Lyon is a valuable supplier for St Andrews Waffle Company. Aiming to “stay small” and remain “true to Scottish roots”, Mr Grant and the entire team want to “maintain good products, high quality standards and exceptional service”. They are committed to continuing to serve their hugely popular signature coffees to their loyal customers.
St Andrews Waffle Company holds Glen Lyon close to its heart. Sitting down with Mr Rose, The Saint was able to learn more about their partnership. Mr Rose spoke of how, when reaching out to many coffee roasters while starting his business, he stumbled upon Glen Lyon.
Despite being small and just starting out, Glen Lyon already boasted a “strong reputation for exceptionally good quality products”, Mr Rose said. He also appreciates the fact that Glen Lyon is a “small, Scottish-based family business” with “shared values”. For example, Mr Rose noted that the Grants are “not just in it for the bottom line” and do not “make decisions for commercial gain that compromise them, their supply chain, their growers or their customers.”
This reassures their customers, such as St Andrews Waffle Company, that they are being valued and their personal ethics are being followed at every stage of their business process. Noting that Glen Lyon’s “morality is second to none,” Mr Rose emphasised that this is intrinsic to their appeal to customers and is central to their collaboration with St Andrews Waffle Company.
Moreover, Mr Rose admits that, before collaborating with Glen Lyon, he and his wife had thought they had been “drinking excellent coffee for years” but realised they did not in fact understand the coffee market at all. This is where the Glen Lyon team came in; they educated Mr Rose and his staff about coffee, providing training and education about the origins of coffee, the processes behind it and the stories of the people growing it. This demonstrates the incredible commitment Glen Lyon has to the coffee roaster process and their desire to increase awareness and appreciation for the craft. It is another way in which Glen Lyon distinguishes itself from coffee chains.
Mr Rose spoke of how, while he pays more than other businesses for coffee, making a smaller margin, he is reassured that he receives coffee of an “exceptional” standard, making St Andrews Waffle Company stand out from other establishments in terms of quality. By sourcing 100 per cent Arabica speciality coffee, Glen Lyon ensures that Waffle Company is “one of the best places in town to get coffee, sitting in or taking out”.
From my own experience of trying the delicious blends of Glen Lyon coffee concocted at Waffle Company, and hearing about the immense effort the two businesses make to offer something incredible and unique to their customers, I can only say that coffee addicts and critics alike will not be disappointed.