Black Pine Coffee is one of the many independent speciality coffee shops that make up the thriving and growing Glasgow coffee scene. Black Pine Coffee serves blend of coffee they designed with The Good Coffee Cartel, retail coffee from a rotating selection of roasters, sweet treats, and toasties. In this interview, I chat with Pete, the owner of Black Pine Coffee, about what it's like to run the store.
Could you tell me a bit more about your background and why you decided to open Black Pine Coffee Co.?
I actually had no prior experience in coffee (or hospitality at all, unless you count washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant when I was 16) before starting Black Pine. I worked for a big whisky & spirits company and while it was a great job, I just felt it was a now or never moment to work for myself (a quarter life crisis?). My childhood friend has a barbershop in Perth where I opened up a little coffee bar, which I then moved to Glasgow when he opened his shop on Great Western Road. A few months later the unit next door became available and that’s where we are now!
Walk me through an average day in your work life. What tasks take up the most time in your day?
An average day when I am in the shop and when everyone is getting ready for open involves dialing in the coffee and filter brewing, getting cakes out and making sure everything is looking presentable. The rest of the day is making lots of coffee, prepping and toasting toasties, chatting with awesome customers and cleaning. Lots of cleaning. Close-down is all about getting it all spick-and -span for the person opening the next day.
In terms of an average day when I’m not in the shop, there are so many e-mails to deal with, mostly trying to sell me something or billing me for something. There’s always something that’s running low in the shop (Blue roll, lids, hot chocolate...), so I need to make sure I’m on top of orders pretty much all the time too. Book-keeping is probably what takes the most time; uploading, paying, reconciling invoices, running payroll etc. There are a lot of tasks going on in the background to keep things ticking over.
How did you decide on the opening hours you have now? What tasks need to be completed before you open and after you close to make sure the cafe is ready for when you are open?
Our opening hours were originally based on similar businesses around us and have been tweaked to suit the area we’re in. During lockdown we cut them right down and slowly opened longer and longer. We open at 9 am currently because it’s the earliest I can personally do because of childcare, but hopefully we can open earlier again in the future. We’ve always closed at 5 pm, but we’ve always had the odd customer asking for later so it might be something I revisit once we’re back open fully.
What food do you serve alongside your coffee? How did you decide on your food menu?
Toasties! We’re a coffee shop first and foremost and I’ve never wanted to have a massive food offering. We keep things super simple and use local, high quality ingredients. We get read from Ciaran at The Hundredth Monkey Bakery, cheese from I.J Mellis down the road and chilli jam from Trodden Black.
Cake-wise it’s usually pastries from Yolk & Pod, Gluten-Free bakes from Wild Flours and whatever treats we’ve managed to bake in our tiny little kitchen (I’ve just made some incredible brownies, if I do say so myself).
I noticed on Instagram that you often order filter coffee to sell on retail. How many customers come into your store to buy bags of coffee? What does your retail offering mean to you as a coffee shop?
I decided to rotate our filter coffee offering because I really love trying new coffees from different roasters, but knew we’d be sticking with the same coffee on espresso. We have our own blend from The Good Coffee Cartel on espresso (a seasonal blend of 60% Colombian, 40% natural Ethipoian) which really seems to hit the spot with our customers and proves to be really popular.
Our rotating filter coffee gives us the freedom to try some really interesting coffees. while our blend is by far and away the most popular retail offering, our customers love being able to try different roasters and origins.
In general, retail coffee is more popular than ever, as I think a lot of people picked up home brewing devices during lockdown.
How have you seen the Glasgow coffee scene evolve over the last few years? At what rate do you think the industry is growing?
We’ve been here for nearly four years and there have been about five different shops open up within a few hundred metres of us (not all speciality, mind you) and it looks like there are another couple opening up down the road too. I know it’s the same on some other streets where my friends have coffee shops, so yeah, the speciality coffee industry is still growing super fast.
What is the most challenging part of your day running a coffee shop?
The mental aspect is the most challenging part. I have to think: Are sales ok? Staff happy? People following Covid rules? Do we have enough of this in stock? Is that ceiling above the toilet leaking again?
Being self-employed is always challenging, but it’s the price we pay for the flexibility, the community and the freedom. It’s a roller coaster but it’s worth it.
What is your go-to coffee drink when you are at a cafe (or behind the bar!)?
A wee batch brew because it’s all to easy to pour a cup all through the day.
Are there any origins from which you would like to try coffee but have not done so yet?
I can’t think of any that I haven’t tried actually, but I’m sure there are some. I’ve only recently tried coffee from China and Papua New Guinea.
How would you sum up the Glasgow coffee scene in one (or a few) word(s)?
You can find out more about Black Pine Coffee on their Instagram page at @blackpinecoffee or on their website at www.blackpine.coffee.
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