Choosing the perfect coffee bean is proving much harder than it looks.
I’ve been advised to look for a big one that exudes “character” and has plenty of definition.
The reason I care so much? I’m at a silver jewellery workshop in which the bean is king.
The one I choose will be used to create my very own necklace, so it’s worth taking a bit of time to hum and haw (and, if you’re like me, give a few beans a good sniff).
I’m taking part in Blairgowrie-based Liam Berge’s very first coffee bean jewellery workshop – which he bills as a “caffeinated evening of coffee and silversmithing”.
Under the 29-year-old’s watchful eye, participants will make their own silver coffee beans, which will then be turned into a pendant, ring or earrings – the choice is yours.
Workshops are held at EH9 Espresso, a speciality coffee shop confusingly not in Edinburgh, as the postcode suggests, but on Dundee’s Perth Road.
There are three other people in my class, and while one girl is a potter, the others are keen on crafting. I, meanwhile, am clueless on all fronts.
The lovely owner of EH9, Fraser Smith, offers me a coffee before I’ve even sat down, which I take as a very good sign.
As I sip away at my cappuccino, I chat through the art of coffee bean jewellery with Liam. It’s a pretty cool niche and a great idea for gifts, or, whisper it, Christmas pressies.
Bouncy castle deliveryman
It’s certainly a far cry from his ‘day job’ as a bouncy castle deliveryman. So, how did he come up with the concept?
He had always been keen on crafts and used his free time during the pandemic to learn some new skills, first, taking a leatherworking course, then turning his attention to silversmithing.
Being a huge caffeine fanatic, Liam soon began incorporating coffee into his creations, and started selling his work, made from cast-silver coffee beans, on his website, coffeebeanculture.com, and in Blairgowrie’s Cateran Café.
Just last month he teamed up with EH9 to run workshops from the funky venue.
Choose your beans wisely
It’s just after 6.30pm when we get started. The first step is, as mentioned, choosing our beans. These are Ethopian, roasted by Cairngorm Coffee Roasters in Edinburgh, and provided by Fraser.
I find a nice, plump, oval bean, with a fairly deep indentation in the centre. It gets the thumbs up from Liam.
The next step is making a mould of our beans using a two-part silicon mix to make a bottom and a “lid” to cover it.
It doesn’t take long for these to set, and when they do, we pop our beans out and peer inside. As I’m not quite sure what to look for, I ask Liam if I’ve got a “good mould”. And yes, it seems I do. The fact is resembles a coffee bean is good enough for me.
At this point, the bean becomes redundant, although Liam tells us we’re welcome to take them away.
Then comes the expensive bit – the silver clay! “That’s £50 a sheet!” exclaims Liam, pointing to a tiny sliver of the stuff.
Not having a clue what silver clay is, I ask. “It’s a mix of silver and a binding agent resembling clay,” explains Liam.
We stick this into our moulds, press the top and bottom together, and gently bring out our beans before placing them on a hot plate to speed up the drying process.
It takes a wee while but it’s a chance to enjoy more coffee – no doubt, my excess caffeine intake was the reason I struggled to sleep that night!
Next up, we need to ‘clean up’ the edges of our beans using sandpaper, so that they’re smooth.
Watch your eyebrows!
Then comes the really fun bit – using blow torches to fire our creations! I’d recommend tying your hair back if it’s long and wearing safety goggles.
It’s exhilarating to watch as the bean glows red hot as the binding agent burns off, until we’re left with a solid silver coffee bean.
It’s Liam’s job to take our beans home to his work bench where he makes ‘jump rings’ (hoops) and solders them on to our necklaces. The final stages involve cleaning the jewellery in a citric acid bath and polishing it so it shines.
Ready for collection
He then boxes it up and delivers it back to EH9 for collection.
As I type, I’ve yet to pick up my creation, but I’m confident it’s going to look absolutely stunning.
Meanwhile, a quick scan of Liam’s website shows all sorts of gorgeous products, including the somewhat quirky ‘vulva’ pendant and earrings.
These are billed as a celebration of femininity, crafted to evoke a “sense of empowerment”. I have to ask Liam – is this a ‘thing?’
The ‘vulva’ range
“Absolutely! I had a custom order for a barista friend to make her one and then after posting a photo of it online, I was asked to make another,” he explains.
“After that happened a few more times, I realised it was a product in itself so I added it to my website and it’s become one of my more popular products.
“Because it’s subtle and a good conversation starter, it appeals to a lot of people – and I even make a coffee bean themed vulva pendant.”
Liam also makes coffee flower necklaces, heart-themed pieces, and memorial ash jewellery.
Another fascinating feature about Liam? He has a tattoo of a zombified Bart Simpson!!
- Liam works with a variety of materials including sterling silver, red bronze, and brass. His coffee bean jewellery range also includes cufflinks, badges and bookmarks.
- His next class at EH9 is on January 11, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Tickets are £50 which includes a coffee. Buy them at coffeebeanculture.com