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Meet the bearded barista buzzing over his bike brews

Meet the bearded barista buzzing over his bike brews

Lewis MacKenzie’s day starts with an uphill cycle pedalling his 170kg travelling coffee shop through Edinburgh’s steep streets.

It is just as well there is the promise of a hot drink from his coffee cargo tricycle when he arrives at East Crichton Street.

Armoured with everything to make espresso-based drinks, the small shop was imagined by coffee lover Lewis one afternoon as he pondered alternative means of transport, a search which led him to discover a cargo tricycle.

Picturing this as an ideal transit for his portable coffee shop, he placed an order for the bike from Copenhagen and added to the design to create a small station for serving coffee.

  (© Lewis MacKenzie)
via STV via STV

“I came across the cargo tricycle,” Lewis explains. “And I have always loved making coffee. I got this idea to amalgamate the two together.

“I have managed to get everything you need in it in order to make espresso-based coffee.”

The ‘Bearded Barista’ can be found at the busy student hotspot most days where he sells everything from a flat white or cappuccino to long blacks and homemade cold brews using North Berwick roasters Steampunk Coffee.

Without a shopfront separating Lewis from his customers, he says the coffee cargo takes away any feeling of pretentiousness about trying new coffee. Even his name is an ironic reference to the coffee scene trends.

“When it comes to the coffee, we are trying not to be pretentious about it in any way,” he said. “We just like to be able to inform people about it.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a hipster but we do poke fun at it and I suppose that's where the name comes in. It is sort of a bit of a dig at the subculture of bearded baristas but also a personal thing as well.

“There is a little bit of [irony].”

Lewis adds: “For me, it is about customer service. There is not much between me and the customer, there's not a big workspace. It is just me and the customer and they can see everything I am doing.

“It is about having a nice conversation. It is personal enough that you feel approachable to ask questions.”

One of the coffees which has been causing a bit of a stir is Lewis’ ‘shlongo’.

  (© Lewis MacKenzie)
via STV via STV

“The shlongo has gathered quite a lot of attention just due to the name," Lewis said.

“It is just a short long black - a double espresso with the tiniest amount of water on it. It can take the edge off an espresso,

“I like to think of it as a gateway coffee to a harder coffee like an espresso.

“We also do cold brew coffee. We worked hard on a recipe for some really nice slow-dripped coffee which is a little bit different to how people do cold brew coffee.”

While the shlongo reels in the more adventurous, Lewis says the rise of the smaller coffees which is so popular in other European countries is catching on in Edinburgh.

“I sell a lot of macchiatos and espressos which are the two smaller drinks,” he said.

“I think more and more people are wanting less milk or water to dilute their espressos. I think that is a reaction to the fact that espresso is getting a lot better, the roasts are a lot lighter so you can taste the floral or fruity notes - it doesn't all just taste like a used cigarette."

While not crafting cappuccinos, the ‘bearded barista’ can be found talking all things coffee on social media, a tool he says has been essential for his travelling business.

“Social media has been a big player on how things are progressing and where we are,” he said. “It is a nice way of showing the culture behind the business.

“Especially on Instagram - you have a little community of followers.

“At the moment, we are going to try and make it the whole way through winter at the spot we are at the moment.

“It will be fine,” Lewis laughs nervously pondering the inevitable cold weather. “I can make myself a coffee or hot chocolate whenever I want.”

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