Now in its seventh year, the London Coffee Festival kicked off yesterday in the hip East London quarter of Shoreditch. Once home to the British capital’s largest brewery, this vast converted factory plays host to an international celebration of the bean which, last year, attracted over 30,000 visitors.
Coffee lovers and trade delegates poured in from across the globe to peruse the stalls and stands of over 250 exhibitors. From small mom-and-pop roasters, through equipment manufacturers such as Faema and Mahlkönig, to global behemoth Starbucks, the entire industry finds itself represented here.
In addition to the B2B side of things, there are artisan coffee and gourmet food stalls, tastings, demonstrations from world-class baristas, interactive workshops, street food, coffee-based cocktails, live music, a coffee-related art exhibition and—to end the first day—an Espresso Martini party featuring a live DJ set from legendary London DJ, Norman Jay MBE.
Yesterday’s range of talks included a presentation to a packed auditorium from Professor Jonathan Morris and Luigi Morello from the MUMAC coffee academy in Milan who described their ongoing efforts to have espresso recognised by UNESCO as an item of Italian “intangible cultural heritage.” There were also technical demonstrations from industry experts on topics like “performing the infusion in two steps’ and ‘understanding and measuring brew variables’. Speciality green coffee importers Raw Material hosted a Myanmar, Rwanda, and Colombia “Wush Three Ways” cupping, and a chocolate and coffee pairing from Hotel Chocolat and UCC Coffee went down very well with sweet-toothed attendees.
Visitors were also treated to a spectacular display of skills as sixteen world-class baristas faced off for the prestigious crown of Coffee Master and several thousand dollars prize money. The competition runs over the entire four days of the festival and its disciplines include: Latte Art Challenge (testing a barista’s mastery of milk), the Origin (identifying origins of coffee beans and placing them on a world map) and the Order (turning around a ten-drink order in just nine minutes!).
The festival is also the launch event of UK Coffee Week, which runs April 10–16 and seeks to support coffee-growing communities in the developing world by raising funds for Project Waterfall, a charitable incentive to bring clean drinking water to schools in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya. 50 percent of London Coffee Festival’s ticket sales are donated to the project, so festival attendees can feel good about themselves while enjoying excellent coffee and keeping abreast of all the industry’s latest developments.
—Russell Higham is a UK-based freelance writer.