When husband and wife Ed and Caroline Dunbar were handed the reigns to Duffus Estate in 2013, their grand rejuvenation plans immediately began to take shape.
Ed, a chartered surveyor, is the twelfth generation of Dunbar’s to call Duffus home – and with the help of Caroline, the pair have made a lasting impact on the estate.
Not only have they grown their own self-catering business to three properties, the couple has also expanded the estate’s network of paths and opened an outdoor nursery in its woodland, in partnership with Earthtime for All.
But the latest project to be developed by the couple, both 44, is Kula Coffee Hut, which is sited at the iconic ruins of Duffus Castle near Elgin.
Local and sustainable
Kula Coffee Hut opened in May and has been well received by locals and tourists alike, a lot of which is down to the menu that boasts products from various sustainable and local brands.
The couple has already sold 3,754 individual cups of freshly roasted coffee and offers everything from speciality loose leaf teas, hot chocolate and chilled soft drinks and juices, to locally made home bakes and ice cream.
Caroline, who originally resided in a small village near York before relocating to Scotland in 1995, said: “Ed and I believe in supporting local or Scottish where we can.
“We have diligently researched our suppliers to find the best products that are made with a passion for quality, whilst also being able to demonstrate their environmental credentials.
“Many of our suppliers use compostable packaging, treat their supply lines with fairness and look to reduce the impact of creating their products on our environment.
“We proudly stock freshly roasted coffee from Jody and Matt Spence from Speyside Roast Coffee, in nearby Garmouth, as well as Stew ‘n’ Drew’s ice cream from Hopeman and freshly baked pieces from Bijoux in Elgin.
“We also stock Eteaket, from Edinburgh, for our selection of loose leaf, compostable teabags and Coco Chocolatier – another Edinburgh firm – for their decadent 70% Columbian dark drinking chocolate.
We have diligently researched our suppliers to find the best products that are made with a passion for quality.”
“If we can’t source things locally, we are trying to keep things Scottish.
“Kula may only be a small food van but we aim to give our customers a genuinely warm welcome and a great experience. We have received amazing feedback from them.”
The history of Kula
It took approximately nine months for Caroline and Ed to open Kula after applying for planning permission.
Given the increased number of people visiting Duffus Castle, the couple knew the site was perfect for housing the hut, which was designed and built from scratch to their specifications by Tudor Catering Trailers in England.
“When we opened our first self-catering property, Old Duffus Farmhouse, down at Duffus Castle in 2009, the site was always very quiet,” Caroline said.
“As the years have gone past, we’ve witnessed an increased number of visitors to the castle.
“Although part of the estate, it has been under the custodianship of Historic Environment Scotland for many years but is still free to visit.
“We could see there was an opportunity to develop something there but it took Covid to really make us crystallise our plans.”
And just as the hut and the products featured in Kula were carefully researched, so was the name of it, too.
Ed added: “Caroline and I have a passion for food and drink and knew the time was right to launch a wee takeaway, especially now that people are more used to being outside due to Covid restrictions.
“Everything about the coffee hut has been considered, including the name, Kula.
“My late father, Sir Archie, spent 17 years in Africa teaching agriculture. His time in Africa was very important to him and Caroline and I always wanted to recognise this.
“When researching ‘Kula’, we discovered that it means feast or eat in Swahili. It also appears in other languages with lovely meanings such as community in Sanskrit and is used by the yoga community to mean a sense of belonging.
“We really identified with this and felt it summed up what we are trying to achieve at Duffus whilst also paying tribute to the family’s African connection.”