We did in the end find great coffee and tea in the Grey City – Aberdeen

 

You’d think it could be easier to find good coffee and tea in a big city like Aberdeen.

It’s always hard when you arrive in a place you’ve never been before and have no real idea of where to go. It didn’t help that the Tourist Office were on their staff training on Monday morning; or that the wonderfully-named MacBeans coffee and tea merchants don’t actually serve you a cuppa (they have no space).

And even the coffee shop across the road from MacBeans, which usually serves their coffee, was closed for refurbishment. So I began my wandering round town, following vague local recommendations and not really finding places that pressed the FancyaCuppa? buttons.

If you’re stuck along the Granite Mile in Aberdeen, you can soon lose heart. It may once have been the street that was built on trading money in the 19th century, but it is now a largely bland ‘High Street’ full of corporate chains.

So I was delighted to stumble across the Rosemount district, just a 5 minute walk from Union Street. It’s full of little independent shops, both basic (like butchers and bakers) and arty bohemian places.

There I found the Richmond Street Deli. Leeanne kind of gave up on the deli side of things when things got tight in the recession, but has made it into a lovely little local café now.

Richmond Street Deli in Rosemount, Aberdeen

They get their coffee and tea from the same local Aberdeen company. Naked Bean also do a line in loose-leaf teas (Naked Leaf) and since I had a (correct) hunch that I may not find anymore loose-leaf teas in town, I went for a pot of tea and home-baked flapjack. It gave me the fillip I needed as the spots of rain began that would drench the rest of my day. (But forgot to take still pics of the tea, so you’ll have to wait for the video…)

Aberdeen is really a tale of two cities (well, three, if you count Rosemount).

Old Aberdeen was built up around the Cathedral and the university in the 15th century. It’s worth a visit anyway just to escape from the grey and granite.

Aberdeen Cathedral - St Machar's Church of Scotland

Highlight of the cathedral was actually finding out who the ‘Scottish Samurai’ was. Thomas Glover was an Aberdonian who went to Japan and ended up founding Mitsubishi. His family are buried in the Cathedral graveyard, so lots of Mitsubishi workers do a pilgrimage here every year, though Mr Glover himself is actually buried in Nagasaki!

Just down from the Cathedral is probably the most beautiful High Street in the country. It’s only got about 4 shops and is all old stone and cobbled streets. A ‘High Street’ in name only.

And right by the university is Kilau Coffee, the Old Aberdeen branch of the coffee shop being renovated down in the centre of town.

Outside Kilau Coffee in High Street Aberdeen

I happened to arrive for the opening of their restaurant upstairs. Great if I had been a reporter from the local paper, but probably not the best time to arrive on a tour of the country, wanting to drop by and chat to people.

The coffee here is fantastic (MacBeans, of course), and the cakes excellent.

Cappuccino at Kilau Coffee in Aberdeen High Street

The restaurant was clearly popular and will no doubt be even busier once the students are back, but I was actually more comfortable downstairs in the more casual coffee shop area, where they drummed up another fabulous coffee and let me admire the bundt cakes (well, I couldn’t have MORE cake, since I’d had their grapefruit, lemon & poppyseed sponge upstairs).

Great place, great setting. I’d be interested to see how it feels when term time begins. And I’m also keen to get back to Aberdeen one day and try their branch down in Little Belmont Street, once it’s re-opened.

The rest of the day was a wash-out, and I was mighty glad I had taken local advice and not tried to get to Orkney in the driving rain, with wild winds and visibility down to 2 feet (it’s what comes of wearing glasses…).

The Catholic Cathedral didn’t have much of note; and the Episcopalian Cathedral was locked on Mondays.

Catholic Cathedral in AberdeenEpiscopalian Cathedral Aberdeen

Hmmm, not sure I’ll manage a return trip on this particular tour. Can I face another ‘grey’ day? Well, only if the rain holds off.

Hey, at least I found good coffee and tea in Aberdeen, so thanks to Kilau and Richmond Street for that.

Video: Aberdeen – a Tale of Three Cities

 

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