As it celebrates its tenth anniversary, the Glasgow Coffee festival has grown to become one of the industry’s premier and most popular get-togethers, as Ailsa Sheldon reveals...

THE Glasgow Coffee Festival will take over The Briggait for its tenth anniversary festival from May 10 to May 11.  It’s a wildly popular weekend, bringing together roasters, baristas, coffee producers, importers and, of course, many lovers of very good coffee. 

The festival began in 2014, the brainchild of Lisa Lawson, who three years previously launched Dear Green Coffee, Scotland’s first speciality grade coffee roaster. Lawson’s career in coffee has always been about seeking out flavour: she’s been a chef and worked in wine, but it was three years as the first employee of Australia’s Toby’s Estate that taught her the depth of flavour possible when high-quality coffee beans are roasted with skill.

Returning to Scotland, then still in the depths of frothy cappuccinos, was a rude awakening and a chance to do something different. 


The first festival took place when Dear Green Coffee was three years old and the speciality coffee scene was slowly gaining popularity in Scotland. 

“There was this fledgling something happening in Scotland and I just thought it’d be nice to bring everyone together,” says Lawson. “Glen Lyon were roasting in Perthshire, Steampunk in North Berwick, Artisan Roast and Papercup and Avenue G had all started roasting, and I had a lot of connections.” 

Lawson had visited coffee expos, the World Barista Championships and World of Coffee events:  “I just thought, nobody in Glasgow understands how cool this scene is. I don’t get it. I’m so excited by all this!” 

Lawson and her small team sold 300 tickets for the first festival and 900 people turned up. “The whole day was just crazy but it worked,” she says. Since then, the coffee scene has flourished and the festival has helped Scotland find an identity within speciality coffee.

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Catherine Franks from Steampunk coffee in North Berwick says: “We love Glasgow Coffee Festival and are so happy to be a part of it again this year.

"We have so much respect for the festival team, who have constantly innovated over the 10 years, thinking of new ways of drawing together coffee lovers and those of us who work in the industry.

"The festival is great fun but at the same time, by bringing us all together under one roof, it is also instrumental in building a strong Scottish coffee scene, something we are proud to be a part of.”

Fergus McCoss, co-owner of Hinba in Oban, says: “We love the community aspect of the festival and the overall celebration of coffee in Scotland. Scotland has such a great coffee community and it’s amazing to have that all in one place over the weekend.

"It’s a great chance to meet and engage with customers and other businesses over a shared love of coffee. We’ve visited the coffee festival over the last couple of years, but this is our first year exhibiting and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of it.”

The Herald:

Over the years, Lawson has turned down large corporate sponsors in favour of keeping the festival independently-minded and run: “We’ve kept it small and local. Around 50% of the exhibitors are Scottish businesses. We want to give Scottish businesses that opportunity and maintain the festival as being Scottish but, ultimately, we want to have outside influence too. We want to learn and we want to grow. We don’t have importers or espresso machine manufacturers based in Scotland, so we also look outwards.”

Neil Glover from Figment Coffee says: “As speciality coffee has grown in popularity, I think some of the coffee festivals have become quite commercial but Glasgow Coffee Festival still feels like it has the local coffee community at its heart.

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"As we are based in Aberdeen, it is a great opportunity to meet other roasters we may only see once a year and that inevitably leads to discussions about roasting, sourcing, best practice and all things coffee. It is a wonderful gathering of other people who are as passionate about coffee as we are.

"A lot of the reason for that is Lisa and Dear Green have stayed involved in the festival throughout its growth and throughout the growth of the Glasgow scene specifically.”

The community that has built up around the festival also spills out into fringe events. Last year there was a cycle club, this year there’s a run club.

“Everyone meets at the venue, runs to a café then runs back again and gets into the festival for the afternoon” says Lawson, “and we used to have to host the afterparty. Now it just happens. There are loads of them all around the city.

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“The coffee scene has transformed in the decade since we launched the festival. I’m really proud as I think creating an event where the coffee scene could come together as a community has played a big part in that. Now Glasgow can legitimately say it has one of the best coffee scenes in Europe.”

The Herald:


Glasgow Coffee Festival is believed to be the world’s most sustainable coffee festival. It’s not a vague claim but carefully measured. Dear Green Coffee was one of the first businesses in Scotland to gain B Corp status, the highest mark of ethical and environmental business practices.

The festival measures its impact, reusing all the plywood used for construction, and encouraging active travel and public transport. In 2018, it went single-use cup-free, which last year saved an estimated 14,800 cups from landfill, diverting 545.29kg of carbon dioxide and saving 48.84kg of plastic waste. Cup-washing facilities are available throughout the venue. 

The events

Two big events will draw in the crowds at the 2024 festival.

The SCA Latte Art Championship will have a Scottish heat for the first time. 

“In the early days of the festival, nobody could even do latte art,” says Lawson. “I’d be bringing in experts from London or Berlin for demonstrations.”

Today, Scotland has a huge amount of highly trained homegrown talent and their designs will be well worth checking out. 

Also new is Roast Hero, an event inspired by Best Roaster at Nordic Coffee Fest.

“It’ll be a friendly competition. Everyone will submit a coffee. It’ll be judged blindly by everybody who’s entered the competition then available for everybody who attends the festival to taste it and vote for their favourite,” says Lawson. It’s a return to competitive coffee roasting at the festival; the UK Coffee Roasting Championships started here in 2016.

Throughout the festival, there will be talks, workshops, demonstrations and a chance to try coffee roasted across Scotland and beyond. A highlight will be an Ethiopian coffee ceremony with importers from Ethiopia.

Robi Lambie, founder of Cairngorm Coffee Roasters, says: “Coffee tastings from importers and educational talks from those within the industry are so inspiring and ensure an impactful visit.

"There’s no secret that the Scottish Coffee community is one of the most supportive and tight-knit that you’ll encounter, and the festival has really become like the annual catch-up for everyone.

"The scale of it is small enough that you can have really meaningful conversations with the attendees, but it’s big enough that there is still such a positive buzz and I find that incredibly energizing.” 

And that’s not just the caffeine.