A SEMI-PROFESSIONAL rugby player who only began drinking coffee during lockdown is in the running to be named the UK’s best barista.

Kyle McGhie, from Inveresk, is through to tomorrow’s (Friday’s) UK Barista Championships semi-finals in London after success at the Scottish heats last month.

Despite kicking-off his coffee career less than two years ago, the Stirling Wolves scrum-half is now ranked among the UK’s top 10 baristas.

After seeing a professional contract in Romania cancelled because of Brexit complications in 2021, he found coffee and moved to London to earn his stripes in the coffee game, before returning to Edinburgh to ply his trade at Cairngorm Coffee in June last year.

East Lothian Courier: Kyle McGhie is heading to London for a national eventKyle McGhie is heading to London for a national event

“I want to be the best barista in the world”, said the 23-year-old who has previously represented Scotland U20s at rugby.

“I found coffee at the right time in my life.

“I was feeling low being back in lockdown after seeing a professional rugby contract slip through my fingers for political reasons.

“I became obsessed with coffee and threw myself into it; it was the story of the beans and the process that captivated me.

“I began to explore the flavour profiles and it changed the way I thought about coffee.

“I moved to London to immerse myself in that world, but it’s since being back with Cairngorm that things have gone to another level.”

East Lothian Courier: Kyle McGhie is in the running for a prestigious award. Image: Lindsay Walker/Ebb in Joy PicturesKyle McGhie is in the running for a prestigious award. Image: Lindsay Walker/Ebb in Joy Pictures

It marks a remarkable journey for the former Loretto School pupil, who had only ever tried instant coffee before lockdown.

He added: “Now I start every day at work by tasting up to 10 different espressos to dial them in to make sure they taste as good as possible for our customers.

“I only drink black coffee, as that’s what we’re judged on.

“I can sometimes feel a bit jittery by the time I get to training at night.

“Working at their Frederick Street store, I have access to the best beans, not just from Cairngorm but from the best roasters around.

“I feel like Charlie in the Chocolate factory.

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“It has been a learning curve for me to have the freedom to dial in so many amazing coffees from around the world, which is different to anywhere else I’ve worked.

“We have freedom to bring in amazing coffees and brew them how we want.”

It’s been a big week for the family - Kyle’s sister Francesca made her debut for Scotland during the Women's Six Nations on Saturday.

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While Francesca was on the losing side, she will be cheering on her brother tomorrow.

Kyle, who played rugby for Musselburgh, added: “I’m so proud of her, but we’re very competitive and it’s made me even more hungry.

“Even as a professional, there is a lot of free time in rugby.

“I still harbour ambitions to make it as a professional rugby player, but I think I can do that alongside my work to be the best barista I can possibly be.

“I’ve been playing rugby all my life, but I’ve only been making coffee for two years, and I’m already in the final of the UK championships which is mind-blowing.

“I want to be recognised as the best barista in the world and this is the next step in that journey.

“Your first year is the year you learn the most, then it’s game on.

“To reach the finals this year has been way more than I thought I would achieve. Now I’m ready to compete on the world stage.”

Finishing in the top six tomorrow will mean going on to the finals the following day and the chance to represent Britain in the World Coffee Championships.

Kyle’s fate will be decided during 15 minutes on Friday morning, during which he’ll present judges with espressos, milk-based drinks and his signature drink – an espresso based mocktail inspired by a negroni, which comprises espresso, grapefruit zest and juniper berry syrups, and is charged with nitrogen to create a velvety bubbly texture.

“It tastes just like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange”, said Kyle.