I was a barista and coffee master for four years, but I never got the chance to attend the London Coffee festival because of the hours I worked. So when Currys PC World offered tickets that coincided with my day off I jumped on the chance.
And I got to go in through the VIP entrance too!
The London Coffee Festival is a 4-day event showcasing artisan coffee with tasting and demonstrations of all the many different techniques you can use to brew your beverage. There is also a huge focus on tea as well as delicious food stalls too.
The first two days of the show are industry days where people in the business and press get to attend before the show opens up to the general public on the Saturday and Sunday.
I arrived at The Truman Brewery just after 10am, where I was given a wristband and a goody bag – see the end of the blog for that! The wristband would get me a free cocktail from the VIP bar but 10am is a tad too early for that! (that said – I did end up drinking a baileys coffee around the 11.30 mark.)
For the first half hour I aimlessly wandered, just getting a grasp of the massive layout – there are two floors packed with stalls and at one point I did get lost.
The first stand I did some serious coffee tasting at was an Austrian company called Alt Wien Kaffee. They have been roasting since 2000 and have been registered Organic and Fairtrade since 2005. The barista asked me what kind of coffee I liked -usually I go for fairly nutty and chocolatey coffee so today I was making an effort to try the ones I would usually avoid – aka fruity coffee!
The first espresso I tried as so sweet and juicy it was like drinking the actual cherry -I got hints of unripened fruit. He then went on to tell me that it was from Brazil – and that it was the Jacu Bird – coffee ( see this description down below.) I had heard of coffee from Sumatra where farmers gather up the droppings of civet cats who have eaten the coffee cherry, then they turn it into coffee, but I hadn’t heard of the same method done with birds. I am glad he didn’t tell me till after I drunk it so that I could look at it completely unaffected.
The second espresso was very sweet and quite sharp. Definitely not something I would drink. I have had experience with African coffees before so guessed correctly the main location, I thought it was Kenyan but it turned out to be Ethiopian.
The third coffee was much more up my street after the first two, with a really rich deep aroma and quite an earthy taste.
I then walked around and passed another stall where I got talking with a guy from Island Roasted, a supplier of commercial espresso machines and hand roasted artisan coffee on the Isle of Wight. Whilst he made a delicious pour over of Papua New Guinea Elimbari (a smooth coffee, keeping with my fruity theme and being a little citrussy.) we talked about their small family run business, and how they had been importing coffee to the island for years but have only been roasting on site for the last 7 or so. “Only the highest quality coffees are sourced, “ethical and sustainable coffees are premium and exactly what we look for as a craft roaster” . They seemed really passionate about single origin coffees and keeping it constantly changing. They are a company that I will definitely keep an eye on.
By now I was ready for something a little different – and found the Doisy and Dam stand. I have had their chocolate many times before but took this chance to try a few new flavours. The Date and Himalayan Pink Salt has knocked the Lemon Poppyseed and Baobab white chocolate off the top spot… for now. I may have purchased a few sneaky bars.
Thursday also had the round one battles for the Coffee Masters barista competition, where the finalists show off their skills to judges and the public alike. The atmosphere around this area was electric, and whenever I passed by I stopped and watched them do their thing for a moment or two. I imagine the final will be amazing.
I didn’t hang about there thought as there was SO much to see and do at this festival, I don’t think you could honestly do it all in one day. I kept getting pulled over and made to try new things ( oh like that was hard?!?)
At home we use a mixture of two things for coffee, either a French press or my little Nespresso machine. I have had one since 2010 and couldn’t live without it. The only thing that has ever really bothered me about it is that the capsules themselves aren’t really that good for the planet. Luckily I can dispose of them at the store near my work, otherwise I just feel really bad throwing them in the bin.
Until now. Since the design for the capsule was released, other companies are taking it upon themselves to design biodegradable capsules with espresso shot quality coffee inside.
Cafes Novell is a Spanish company that has been in business since the 1950’s and is well established. Now they are taking their most popular blends of coffee and putting them in compatible capsules. They held a trial with the capsules in one of their main cafes in Spain without telling their regular customers and 97% of them said that they hadn’t noticed any difference. They made me one and it tasted like someone had just pulled that shot on a traditional machine, not from a Nespresso machine.
I took advantage of the offer they had on and got some for work!
I think during the course of the day I must have had at least 15 shots of coffee. Around 1 I took a break and hit the tea and milk stands.
There was a real mixture of stalls, some about the product and some about the machines and the showmanship that can come with coffee shops. I wish I had managed to film someone making a coffee with a syphon – it’s like a crazy science experiment.
I ended the day with my free – and VERY strong- Espresso Martini in The House of Coffee. after nearly 10,000 steps around the festival my ankle was very happy for the rest.
Above are the contents of the goody bag that we got given on arrival. It included some cold brew coffee, a mini Baileys, some delicious Masala Chai that I had already sampled earlier in the day as well as some magazines and the most recent London Coffee Guide. That is my next few tube journeys worth of reading right there!
Below are some of the freebies I gathered throughout the day from various stands, including some coffee from expert roasters Lincoln and York and some syrups from Monin. I never realised the range of syrups they provide, and how little we see in stores compared to their wholesale stock. I wish they sold their ice tea syrups in supermarkets- it was delicious.
These little sachets are brilliant for travellers as they are almost like little self-contained reusable tea pots. I sampled a few of the flavours and as well as being a genius light weight design the product inside also tastes lovely too!
Tomorrow I will tell you all about the tea side of the festival as well as all the other odds and ends that it had to offer!
It was all too much for one blog post!