Appreciating Independents #2: Jordan Valley

(Read about why I started this series here)

Jordan Valley, 8 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DH

For any tea lovers out there, Jordan Valley should be your first choice destination. The range is phenomenal. I took some quick snaps on my mobile phone – not great quality but just to give you an idea – best going in and seeing for yourself!

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As well as stocking just about every tea under the (UK) sun, I’d wager that this shop – more like a treasure trove – has almost every ingredient you might require for a (healthy) recipe. Opened in 1991, Jordan Valley sells spices, grains, seeds, olive oil, tomato sauces; deli goods like olives, cheeses, hummus and falafel; dates, chocolate, Halva and Turkish sweets. Also vegan foods plus items that are surely hard to find elsewhere – for example hemp seeds, black turtle beans and coconut oil.

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They are a productive lot here; pies, pasties, cereal bars and cakes are made in the owner’s small factory in Fife, and they have an online shop offering free deliveries if you spend £30 or more.

But for me this kind of place is a pleasure to shop in. It has such a brilliant selection of goods and a decent amount of space, and I always feel I can browse for a while if need be. It adds colour and choice to this interesting area of town, and prices are reasonable. My box of Bedtime tea was cheaper than in my local Morrisons.

But even if I bought a few goods and ended up paying, say, 40p more in total than I would in a local supermarket, in my book that would be 40p well spent. Also, these are quality products.

Why not try somewhere new this week shopping-wise? Jordan Valley deserves our support and needs it, too, as chain supermarkets continue to open in the vicinity with alarming frequency.

Sample prices:
£2.35 Pukka bedtime tea
£1.20 Goat’s cheese, 100g
£1.10 Baba Ghanoush, 150g
£1.05 Baking powder, 150g
£1,00 Cinnamon powdr, 100g



This was a week that…


Light nights were enjoyed
The sun shone. And shone and shone. Very exciting for Edinburgh. One of my favourite places to spend a sunny evening is Portobello Beach. It looked like the west of the city and Fife were experiencing some weird cloud cover (hard to capture on my mobile phone camera but here you go anyway).

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A great community organisation was discovered
I visited the Living Memory Association in Leith, a brilliant charity who work across Edinburgh and beyond. Much more about this in the next few weeks, in the meantime you can check out what they do here:

Architecture was admired
I ate lunch* outside Ghillie Dhu in the West End and therefore saw the buildings across the road from a different angle, and not rushing past like normal. Noticed for the first time the ‘B’ on the House of Fraser building (under top window) – I’m assuming it stands for Binns? It was Binns department store for many years and a famous meeting point. People of my mum and dad’s generation (and earlier) met, under the clock, before going for tea or a trip to the cinema. I really like how these reminders of the past are everywhere – if I remember to look.

My aunty skills were tested
I was my nephew’s contact while my sister was away – he’s nearly 17 and pretty self sufficient – so you’d think the ‘next of kin’ role would be not need to be utilised in real life – until he fell while skateboarding and broke his elbow and gashed his head. So to A&E on Thursday night it was, for x-rays, a sling and painkillers, plus a check by the nurse that everything else was okay. Luckily it was (of course he is in pain but it will mend) and my sister is now back  – phew!

I discovered other people also find freelancing can have a lonely side – hooray!
I’ve worked from home since last summer and thought all the benefits that go with that would cancel out any negatives – but boy is it isolating at times. One thing I really miss is that end-of-the-week Friday feeling and going for drinks with colleagues or like-minded people. So it was very exciting to come across Freelance Friday, a group who meet up most fortnights. It was a little strange at first, not least because a) In my ever-elegant way, when I arrived I approached the wrong table of people (slightly confused looking tourists) and b) networking does not come naturally to me (does it to anyone, I wonder?). Then it was really enjoyable. Good to discuss the part liberating, part sanity-testing world of freelance with others (and not just in my own head). Met some interesting people and how nice it was to share conversation and a couple of drinks.

….And more, obviously, but I’ve decided to limit this to 5 things; I’m sure you have other stuff to be getting on with 😉

* Bargainous brunch with an Itison voucher. If you don’t already know of Itison check them out – they have excellent offers from time to time.



Appreciating Independents

Once a week I’ll highlight an independent cafe or shop in Edinburgh I particularly like, or have enjoyed discovering, with a few reasons why plus sample prices.
(By the way I’m not a paid/bribed reviewer, just a curious, impartial consumer who loves seeing quality independent places doing well and adding to the atmosphere of an area).

First up is The Wee Boulangerie, 67 Clerk Street, EH8 9JG. (PLEASE NOTE: they are on holiday from July 7th and reopen on July 15th).


This little artisan bakery, which opened in 2012, is a real gem. Its breads, buns, almond croissants, macarons, tartlettes, cakes, biscuits and even croutons are all made at the back of the shop. As are the fougasse (delicious stuffed bread; usually there’s a veggie option and meat option) and nougat. These two specialities were given their 15 minutes of fame earlier this year, when baker/owner Katia Lebart appeared on ITV1’s Britain’s Best Bakery).

Most products are displayed, very temptingly, on the front counter. A board outside the shop and info on the menu informs customers of the time different breads will be available, so you can buy them pretty much fresh from the oven.
Fresh from the oven

I love the simplicity of The Wee Boulangerie; the reasonable prices; the friendliness of the staff; and the fact nothing goes to waste (see their informative website, for more about that and other things – I like how one of the FAQs is ‘why don’t you sell crisps?).

Today I bought my regular choice: a cappucino (£1.80) and small pain au lait (£1). Lovely as always and well worth the price.
Cappuccino (no chocolate) and Pain au Lait

Convenient, perhaps. Cheap? Not necessarily. Characterful? Hmmm..

Having lived away from Edinburgh for a few years, one thing that strikes me being back is the massive number of chain coffee shops and ‘local’ supermarkets around the city centre. They are everywhere! Moreso than in many other UK cities, and most cities in the likes of Italy, Spain and Germany.

They are such a familiar sight in Edinburgh city centre and its fringes, it is easy not to question their purpose. Indeed, why question it – they offer excellent prices, great choice and long opening hours, right?  The latter is true, and they can be a convenient option for, say, grabbing a jar of spice needed for a recipe, or a breakfast item for the next morning. Last minute stuff. But I’m not so sure about price and choice. The smaller Tesco Metros and Sainsbury’s Locals I live near do not sell any value products and when I’ve needed, say, a bottle of olive oil or a packet of mozzarella, there’s usually only one choice – the premium version – so not only are you not saving money, you probably spend more than intended.

Near where I used to live, in Newington, a second Sainsbury’s Local has opened within a short walking distance of one at the corner of Bernard Terrace, and a Tesco Metro on Causewayside. Do we need all of these?? There’s a great corner shop at the end of West Preston Street, that sells plenty of groceries, newspapers, wine, chocolate, fruit and so on. At the same or lower prices than the new, nearby Sainsbury’s Local. I know because I’ve done my own price comparison (I can be anal like that). The family working there are always really friendly and there’s never a queue.

And, though I have tried, the supposedly super-convenient self-service tills at supermarkets just don’t do it for me. There’s nearly always a delay, whether it’s the bag I’m reusing, because alcohol is being purchased, or that it just seems to be malfunctioning generally. And for all that they could save me approximately 1 minute (but never do), I’d rather have an interaction with another human being.

And as for chain coffee shops – unless you simply adore a particular concoction they sell – I can’t see why you’d consciously want to pay premium prices, nearly always queue, and sit in a not particularly nice atmosphere.

Yet, the more Edinburgh becomes saturated with chains, the more we get into a mindset that this is the only option. They are a safe choice, and, increasingly, the nearest option. Occasionally this is so and, don’t get me wrong, I still shop in them now and then.

But shouldn’t we try to balance our shopping habits? After all this city also has some great independents. The quality ones give us variety, character, choice, plus a satisfying experience as a consumer and member of the local community.

So in this blog, once a week, I’m going to highlight an independent business in central Edinburgh, detailing reasons they are worth a visit, plus sample prices.  First up (in the next post): The Wee Boulangerie on Clerk Street.

Some may be well known, even thriving, places; others might be a little off the beaten track or somewhere I stumble upon by chance. And if you have a favourite cafe or shop you’d like highlighted, please email