Birch in Portree has now launched its own coffee blends which are being stocked by some of the island’s wholesalers, while coffee fans will be able to try it out for themselves in the cafe and purchase their own in the coming months.
After launching his cafe at the beginning of March last year, it wasn’t long before Niall Munro had to close the doors to Birch in Portree due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But while the hospitality industry took a hit with many cafes, restaurants and bars across the country being forced to closed, allowed to open, then forced to close again through the best part of last year, Niall took the chance to work up some new ideas to keep his new venture ticking over.
One of these ideas was to set up his own roastery, using the “Birch” brand to establish the cafe’s own taste.
He said: “The idea has been a work in progress from the latter part of last year to pull everything together and we just started roasting back in March. It’s been a great venture and learning curve and a lot of my staff were actually working in a roastery down in Newcastle before.
“We reopened the café on Saturday, May 1 and we’ve already started the roastery.”
After being inspired by his travels to Melbourne, Niall has tried to recreate the Australian city’s cafe and coffee culture with his brand in Skye.
He added: “I opened Birch up last year after spending a lot of time in Melbourne and witnessing the café culture and coffee culture over there.
“I wanted to replicate it in some way, shape or form in terms of the kind of quality of produce that seems like a general rule of thumb across the board in Melbourne.
We’re very excited to announce our next venture for Birch! ….#roastery #coffee #skye #birch #speciality #local
Posted by BIRCH on Friday, April 16, 2021
“Generally, wherever you go in the city, there is a lot of care taken over the food that’s brought in. It’s not necessarily fancy food, but stuff that’s sourced locally and there seems to be a real emphasis on that side of things. There are so many great suppliers on the Isle of Skye, ranging from meat to vegetables, to salads.
“So I wanted to try to replicate that slightly but on the coffee side of things and have a real focus on speciality coffee. That was the plan last year, when I opened Birch, then a natural progression, if you like, was to look at roasting coffee ourselves.”
With his roastery now in full swing, Niall is hoping that the desire for artisan coffee that appears to be developing across the nation is something his beverage can be a part of.
He continued: “I think more and more these days people are starting to appreciate coffee in a different sense to how it’s maybe been perceived before. Coffee is comparable to the likes of wine and the different varieties you have, the regions that it comes from and the process involved in roasting it.
“It’s been a real passion project and it’s just nice to be part of the whole process – sourcing it, importing the coffee, roasting it then serving it.
“Now, more so than ever, as a consumer people like to be aware of a full back story of what they’re consuming. It’s also a good ethical way to go in that literally you’ve got direct links with the specific farms that the coffee’s coming from. Whereas, if you were to use commodity coffee that has a much lower price point then you don’t have any of that. It’s nice to have that trail going right back to the grower.”
Though it’s not possible for Birch fans to purchase the coffee themselves just yet, with the roastery’s main customers currently being wholesale, it is possible to try out the home-produced blends in the Birch cafe.
Niall continued: “We’ve started selling to wholesale customers for the moment. I’ve got a few stockists in Skye, with Birch being one of the main stockists.
“From a retail point of view we will have it in the cafe initially and then a couple of months down the line I’ll open it up to online sales. But for the moment, we’re still finding our feet and getting the bread and butter from the wholesale stockists on Skye is the easiest way just now.
“It’s just called Birch Roastery and it made sense because it was a coffee house last year and got good recognition through social media and people were aware of it. So it made sense to utilise the name on the roastery side of things and so that it all ties in together.
“I think the ultimate goal will be for Birch to be recognised as the coffee rather than the cafe.
“We’re keeping it fairly simple on the offering front, so we’ve got one blend and one single origin as well, and a decaf. It’s going to be rotated on a monthly basis, where we’ll just get different single origins in. The goal with that though is to go down the single origin route.”