The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Based in Glasgow’s Southside, It All Started Here serves coffee from a rotating selection of roasters as well as cakes and other treats baked in-house. In this interview, I chat with the owner of It All Started Here, William, about his inspiration behind starting the cafe, the Glasgow speciality coffee scene, and more. I hope you enjoy the interview.
For my readers, could you tell me a bit about yourself and your role at It All Started Here? Where did the name It All Started Here come from?
I’m William and I’m the owner of It All Started Here. I got into coffee when I lived in London and got a taste for bright, fruity coffees, particularly as espresso. I moved back to Glasgow in 2014 when the scene in Glasgow was starting to develop. It All Started Here began in 2015 as a pop-up at a local farmers’ market. Instead of having a safe house espresso I wanted to serve naturals and fruit forward coffees. I thought it was a shame there were all these interesting coffee that were usually just offered as filter, when most people drink flat whites/lattes/Americanos and they’re usually made with a safe blend or single origin.
I wasn’t sure how people would react to fruitier coffee and was expecting it to be a one off, but people seemed to like the fact the coffee was different. The farmer’s market became a regular slot, then we began doing more popups at places like Bakery47, and in 2017 we opened our shop in the southside of Glasgow.
In relation to the name, there were a few cafes in London with longer names like Look Mum No Hands! and Tina, We Salute You which I thought were quite fun so I wanted to do something similar.
Can you talk to me a bit about the Glasgow coffee scene. How has the scene evolved over the last few years?
When I moved back in 2014, Avenue, Papercup and Dear Green were established and doing some really nice coffee. Papercup served one of the most memorable coffees I’ve ever had. It tasted like blueberries. I think Lab opened around then too, doing some interesting coffees from Europe. Since then things have grown, with Kaf opening around the same time as us (and also as a multi roaster cafe), and Short Long Black. We’ve got some really good roasters too, with Thomsons (who’ve been around forever), Dear Green and Papercup, along with Good Coffee Cartel who are relatively new but roasting some nice stuff. There’s a few good ones no longer with us, like Avenue, Artisan Roast and Pena (who served some great coffee from Workshop), but things have definitely evolved for the better in the last few years.
You are a multi-roaster speciality coffee shop. Can you tell me what this entails? Why did you choose to offer coffee from multiple roasters rather than sticking with a single roaster?
Being a multi roaster means you serve coffees from different roasters rather than sticking with one. Part of the fun for me is trying different coffees and comparing the flavours. My favourite coffee shop in London, Craft Coffee, used to have an option of two espressos and two filter coffees, and they changed the roaster every two weeks. I’d go in and just ask for everything and loved trying different roasters and origins and flavours and getting to know more about coffee that way. It was annoying when they served an amazing coffee and then a few days later it was gone though!
I wanted to replicate that with It All Started Here, but given we were doing popups Saturday and Sunday, it made more sense to change the coffee and roaster each week, and we’ve stuck with that since.
How do you manage the logistics of being a multi-roaster shop? How do you decide when to select coffee from a new roaster. How do you go about ordering your coffee?
The biggest challenge is forecasting so you can order coffee and have it properly rested before you use it. Freshly roasted is best but you want it to be rested 10-14 days before using it. So when we put a new coffee on, we have one sitting resting already, and that’s our cue to order a new one. Then when we switch to the next one, we have one resting, then we order another.
We have about eight to 12 roasters we trust and are comfortable ordering from without trying samples. If they say a coffee is good, we’re happy to take their word. Other times we get samples from new roasters, or get tips from friends about great coffees they’ve tried. We always try to serve naturals when possible as they fit the type of flavours we want to serve, but given coffee is seasonal, we need to work with what’s available.
How many customers do you typically get in a day? How many of your customers are actively enthusiastic about speciality coffee?
We can have 50 to 150 customers in a day - we’re not a super busy spot but that allows us to really focus on quality. We have a reputation for being a speciality shop so we have a lot of customers who are really into coffee, but even the customers who wouldn’t consider themselves coffee geeks still often ask about the coffees we have on or the tasting notes. It’s really nice to see people getting more into coffee as time goes on.
What periods are busiest for you in the day? When are you the least busy?
We’re normally busiest between 11 am and 2 pm, with the end of the day being quieter.
Aside from preparing coffee, what tasks take up the most time in your day?
We make all our own cakes, so throughout the day we might be icing cakes and getting them ready for service. Otherwise we try to spend time engaging with customers, but at the moment it’s tough through a perspex window.
If you had to sum up the Glasgow coffee scene in one word (or a few words), what would those word(s) be?
Still space to grow.
What’s your go-to coffee drink?
Espresso (and a filter).
What coffee(s) are you drinking at the moment?
I usually have a few bags on the go at home. Just now I have Bookisa from Square Mile, a Colombian from Workshop and a Burundi from Cairngorm.
You can find out more about It All Started Here on Instagram @allstartedherecoffee.