Situated right at the station entrance and next door to its sister restaurant Alston Bar & Beef, it appears to have the ideal spot. Thousands of commuters flow past every morning and if they can tempt folks away from Costa and Starbucks they shouldn't struggle for business any time soon.
GSC is one of a growing number of coffee houses in Glasgow roasting their own beans on the premises. They have gone one further and created a unique blend, aptly titled the ‘Glasgow Roast’. I was lucky enough to try the house espresso and the fully roasted espresso (more on the differences in a sec) and I can certainly vouch for the fresh flavour.
The purpose of my night however, was to see the roasting process in action. Master roaster John Gartly invites Glasgow’s burgeoning population of coffee experts to join him twice a week for free demonstrations. Luckily, there wasn’t a huge crowd on the first floor where the compact Diedriech roasting machine was situated. John (we swapped business cards so I can use his first name) told me about the relatively small size of this unit compared to previous jobs. It does the trick mind you and services an already healthy customer base. He also took care in explaining the differences in how the coffee growing regions of the world impact on the various tastes of each bean. His knowledge of not only the growing, farming and trading process but the livelihood of the growers is astounding. Happy to chat about his craft and how he has learned his trade, it was refreshing to hear real passion and not a textbook run-through of the roasting process.
Following our lesson on the quality of beans, the roasting process began. I’m not going to go into the full process but it was quite hypnotising. The beans are turned and tossed over burning hot plates and begin to crack. The genius of the roaster is to disregard gadgets or timers to determine progress. He measures the roast by the first crack (the expansion of the bean – much like a popcorn effect), which produces the house blend, and the second crack; producing the full Glasgow Roast. The house blend will suit those who like their coffee to kick them in the face with a pleasantly bitter taste. The full roast is far smoother and is to be enjoyed over the morning paper. My personal preference is the harsher wake up call. Relying on smell, he then opens the hatch and drops the smoking, heavenly smelling beans out of the roaster to be turned, buffered and cooled. The super fresh cargo is then bagged and tagged for sale to the public.
I asked how fresh one might expect coffee beans to be in the larger chain stores around the city. And while not condemning them, he simply made the valid point that by the time beans are roasted, processed, bagged and transported from the roasting plant in the south of England; the shelf life will have naturally diminished.
Of course, in addition to the beans being roasted upstairs, the baristas on the ground floor are serving up the usual selection of Lattes, Cappuccinos and herbal teas along with food and cold drinks. The shop also has a drinks license, which means travellers can enjoy a wee beverage while they watch the in-house departure board.