Connecting you with the people of Scotland by sharing their stories
Hi Niall, please tell everyone a bit about yourself and introduce the brand.
Hi there, my name is Niall Munro and I run Birch. My main passions in life revolve around food, drink and music, so Birch has been a real passion project and I have loved every minute of it.
Where in Scotland are you located, and what is it like in your community? Are there many other small businesses nearby?
I’m based on the Isle of Skye, where there are lots of other small businesses. Skye is predominantly based around tourism, so most businesses across the island cater to that.
How did Birch come about? And was it always your intention to start roasting your own coffee?
The idea for roasting almost felt like a natural progression from opening the cafe. It was a way for us to properly delve into coffee and be a part of the whole process, from sourcing and sampling to roasting and profiling our own coffees. The idea came about when myself and Elliot, our head roaster, were sitting in Birch one winter’s day talking about how much fun it would be to start roasting and create a product we had full control over. In the following weeks, the roaster was ordered and there was no looking back! Traceability for us is key. We know the exact farm our beans come from and have direct links to the farmer. In a world where you have people that vote for the likes of Brexit, creating further division between countries, it’s essential we still try to work together as much as possible on a global scale. One small business at one side of the world working alongside another small business at the other.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of sourcing and roasting the coffee? And what’s your favourite part?
I love sampling new coffees and figuring out what we’re going to be roasting next. Every coffee you try is so different from the last one, so trying as many as we can never becomes tiresome.
As well as the roastery, you also have Birch Cafe, what was the inspiration behind opening the cafe?
The idea for Birch came about after spending lots of time in Melbourne over the years and experiencing their coffee and food culture first hand. The quality of produce and standard of service is in my opinion unrivalled, and it’s very apparent. People over there take great pride in what they do and it definitely shows. I love the whole cultural element around coffee, so being able to try and replicate just a small amount of that on Skye really excites me.
Do you have a favourite snack and coffee combination from the cafe that we should try?
You can’t go wrong with marmite whipped butter on sourdough and a fresh cup of filter in the morning.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
We’re currently working on a new roastery that will be built by the end of the year. As well as it being a production space, the roastery will be opened up as a stripped back version of the coffee shop, where customers will have more of a chance to learn a bit about the coffee and roasting process.
We love the makers and creators that you’ve teamed up with to curate your beautiful cafe, can you tell us about any of your favourite projects?
Every aspect of Birch and its aesthetic has been thoroughly thought out, with care focusing on every detail. I take great inspiration from both my mum and older sister who have always had an amazing eye for interiors and it’s something only in recent years I’ve grown to love and appreciate. Working with Sarah at Sanna Mac, who designed our brand, coffee boxes and website has been an absolute delight. Teaming up with Cara Guthrie to produce our own custom ceramic range was also very exciting. My favourite project has to be working on the murals outside of Birch, where I managed to convince my dad who is an artist to paint them. It’s become part of Birch’s identity and has really transformed the laneway. People now gather outside whilst taking in the artwork and enjoying a coffee, and that was always the reasoning behind doing it.
Niall, when you’re not roasting coffee and running the business, what are you up to?
I’ll generally either be eating, playing badminton or working on my other venture, Skye Live Music Festival, which is next May and not to be missed!