The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
I have turned to other sites for inspiration on what I should include and leave out in my coffee reviews. One of the sites I’ve really enjoyed reading over the last few months is The Pourover. The owner of The Pourover, Fionn, was based in Scotland, reviewing many Scottish cafes and beans. Fionn then moved away to Michigan and has been publishing weekly posts on coffee news.
I sat down with Fionn over email to talk about the Pourover blog. The interview is below.
How did you get started with a coffee blog?
I’ve been in the coffee industry on and off for most of my working life, starting at Caffe Nero in Cambridge before I moved over to Michigan and began a career as a barista and then coffee roaster in Ann Arbor. I studied creative writing at uni, so the two things sort of naturally combined themselves.
I started the Pourover in 2016 when my wife and I spent a year in Scotland–unfortunately right as Brexit happened and essentially crushed our hopes of moving over permanently, at least in the short term. I figured the blog was a way to get involved in and support the specialty coffee industry in Scotland, and at the same time I began writing the occasional piece for Sprudge which got me interested in freelancing.
How do you come up with ideas for your blog posts?
The Pourover was originally focused on coffee and cafe reviews, so whenever I went anywhere I would search out the nearest specialty shops and go visit. I also wrote the occasional feature or interview, but those were mostly happy accidents or subjects I had felt strongly about for years (for example, my “in praise of diner coffee” article).
When I moved back to Michigan and began writing about coffee professionally–city guides for Sprudge, new cafe features for Daily Coffee News etc–the idea of writing coffee reviews on my own time became less appealing.
I still keep a long list of potential article ideas, but with a full time writing job I don’t currently have a lot of mental bandwidth left over to write much other than the weekly news roundup.
You have a weekly series where you share the latest news in the coffee industry. Why did you decide to write about coffee news?
I always struggled to keep up with the latest coffee news, so writing a weekly roundup seemed like a good way to both keep informed and always have something to write about. It’s an incredibly niche topic–my readership is, understandably, not massive–but just on a personal level it’s still very helpful to a) keep myself up to date on what’s going on in an industry I’m currently not directly involved in, and b) force myself to write at least a thousand words every week. That alone makes it a worthwhile endeavor.
On Instagram, you use a greyscale aesthetic in your images. Could you tell me a bit more about this aesthetic and what it means to you?
Well, my Instagram feed started out as a way to document my daily coffee brewing and promote my blog, as well as another attempt at self-discipline–posting a new (interesting) photo every day is hard. The main reason it’s black-and-white is because I don’t see color very well, and so making everything greyscale just seemed like the easiest way to not have to worry about it. The fact that it’s become an aesthetic that people know me for is just a nice bonus.
You have interviewed a few people on your blog, such as Catherine Franks from Steampunk and baristas from Starbucks. What encouraged you to start this interview series? How did you conduct these interviews?
I mostly started the interviews out of personal interest in learning more about people in the industry who ran companies I admired (Steampunk) and also just the luck of “knowing” them through social media (Brooke McDonnel from Equator). Having a growing social media network helps me find people to interview, which is helpful.
I mostly conduct the interviews via email due to time difference (here to Scotland, here to Brazil) and because the people I’m interviewing are busy and I want to make it easy for them. They’re doing me a favor after all. The Starbucks one I did over Facebook because that’s how I found the interviewees, by reaching out to Starbucks barista groups.
You have spent a lot of time talking about Scottish speciality coffee on your blog. What was your favourite part of the Scottish coffee industry?
I appreciate how many of the most successful and influential Scottish coffee companies are run by women (Steampunk, Dear Green, Glen Lyon) and I think that reflects well on the industry as a whole.
You write about coffee professionally, too. What do you feel are the greatest differences between writing your own blog and writing professional pieces?
Tone, mostly. Writing for clients involves matching brand voice and staying professional, whereas with my blog I can write what I want and be as snarky or critical as I want. There is a risk that criticising companies means they might not want to hire me in the future, but at the same time if I’m criticizing them it’s for good reason so I probably don’t want to work for them anyway.
What is your favourite snack to have with a cup of coffee?
I don’t really have a favorite. But if forced to choose, probably millionaire’s shortbread.
If you could visit any coffee origin, which one would it be, and why?
Probably Ethiopia. I’ve been to Colombia, so it would be nice to compare how they process coffee in Ethiopia.
What is your most memorable coffee experience?
Visiting Colombia back when I was a roaster.
You can read Fionn’s blog at thepourover.coffee. I recommend the interview with Jonas Leme Ferraresso, a coffee agronomist, if you’re not sure where to begin.