Its December, I’ve got Christmas songs on Spotify (This is: Mrs Claus playlist actually!), it’s 17° outside – explain that one to me, but I’m not complaining, the shop tends to be chilly. My website will have gone live if you’re reading this, and it’s a sort of stepping up a gear kind of time.
Seibiant has been open 7 months now, we’ve gone through a couple of big changes, from being a café, to being a specialist shop. We’re now moving steadily into being a tea and coffee merchant, and it has been a massive learning curve for me in that time.
How did we start? Why tea and coffee?
These are questions that everybody asks, and the answers gets bigger every time I explain it. Basically I hated my job, and was keen to do something completely different, saw the ‘Shop for Rent’ sign, and decided what we were going to sell! Simple as that! I had always been interested in the #farmtofork concept, always been a person who shops local, bought my veg from a market garden, my meat from local producers – to the extent that at one time all the meat in my freezer had had a name. I’d also felt that you should be able to sell tea and coffee in the same way as you do wine, with tasting notes, knowing where it came from, how the farmer looked after his crop, and so on. At home, we had a tea and coffee cupboard in the kitchen with rather too many teas and coffees than was sensible, and we chose the tea or coffee depending on how we felt, including how we actually prepared it. So it seemed to be an obvious route to take – sell tea and coffee, but with tasting notes, staff who are experienced with all those tastes and flavours, and who can describe and explain the provenance of the product, and share their enthusiasm! Their latest challenge is to recognise the origin of the current coffee beans by their smell and appearance alone 😉
We opened the shop in May 2016, I was terrified doing my first coffee for a customer on our lovely La Spaziale espresso machine, but with lots of practice, the feedback got quite good. Scariest moment in the early days was having to make a flat white for an Australian – after all, they invented it! My cakes got so popular that it became a bind, needing to go home and bake every night. The name of the shop is Seibiant, which translates as ‘breather’ or ‘break’, in other words, my semi-retirement plan, but that wasn’t how it was working out. I was flat out! Then in August, it turned out that we didn’t have planning permission to have a café, so after a meeting with all the staff, we decided to go back to the original concept of a shop with tastings. Since then, things have gone from strength to strength, I’m still on a massive learning curve, but more to do with running a shop – cash flow, advertising, and so on.
I’m hoping that we’ve reached a stage where those people who saw us as being a threat to their businesses, no longer do so, that we can work together to provide quality products for our customers, and that we can learn from each other. I’m liking the idea of the Edinburgh “Disloyalty 7” card, and I think maybe we’ll approach the other coffee shops locally to see if they fancy the idea. I feel personally that I’m getting to the conscious competence stage, which feels much easier. It’s all very much of a team effort, with staff throwing ideas in, and coming up with brilliant ideas for social media, but that’s a subject for a later blog I think.
My plans for the blog is to talk about everything, from me learning to be a business person, the learning curve, but also about the individual coffees and teas, roasters, and any interesting stuff that comes from that. There are some exciting developments coming up in the near future, that very much fits with our philosophy. Tea-wise, I want to develop the wellness teas, herbals and florals, as there is a lot of interest in that side of things. We also want to develop the ‘office coffee/workplace coffee’ side of things – it’s the little things an employer does that makes staff feel valued – nothing beats a good coffee and tea – low cost/high value reward! We also want to develop the trade side, hence the developing of our own blends. So all in all, exciting and busy times ahead.