The London Coffee Festival 2016: A complete guideCultureFood & drinksNews & features
Coffee has never gone out of fashion and it is now rising to new heights of popularity – if that is possible – as the industry reaches for higher and higher standards of quality. The London Coffee Festival is the hub where all the top professionals gather to promote and celebrate good coffee, but it is also a playground for exploration where coffee-lovers can learn and experiment.
Divided into themed sections, this year the event is bigger and busier than ever, which is proof of the growing interest in the beverage not only as the exciting and ever-evolving force in the business arena, but as an increasingly important staple in the social realm, too. The developing status of coffee and a heightened attention to great taste leads to the enrichment of what is for many people an irreplaceable daily ritual. Since an upgrade of such a frequently executed task is so appealing, many coffee drinkers are now looking to expand their horizons.
What to do
There are many reasons to visit the London Coffee Festival and an endless range of activities clamouring for one’s attention. The Lab programme offers talks, demonstrations and insights into the coffee industry from the insiders’ perspective, while the Milk & Sugar section focuses on art, fashion and design. After a successful first run in 2015, the Coffee Masters competition returns. Running over four days, it sees the world’s best baristas challenge each other in head-to-head contests across seven different disciplines, from cupping and brewing to latte art, and it sets the bar for all professionals in the field. Another highlight of the festival is the last stage of the UK Barista Championship, where the finalists will display their skills in 15-minute slots in front of a panel of judges. The prestigious event promises to showcase an array of exciting creations especially concocted to surprise and impress.
The festival’s coverage is so exhaustive that it reaches beyond coffee, too. Teas, pastries and snacks are all well represented, and there is the new School of Chocolate hosted by Hotel Chocolat. Water, the overlooked but vital ingredient in coffee, is sharing some of the spotlight too. Its role is revalued as a potential game changer that can dramatically affect the taste of the final coffee drink. In terms of culinary experiences, the pop-up restaurant Scandinavian Embassy offers an intriguing menu where coffee is once again the protagonist. Unique delicacies such as espresso-infused oysters or mussels with coffee-flavoured vinegar are further confirmation that the festival covers all fronts and could not branch out more comprehensively as far as edible products go.
A new and important addition to the festival is The Roaster Village, a space dedicated to established and up-and-coming roasters from the UK. Visitors can get acquainted with top coffee brands but they can also sample some of the coffeeshops leading the speciality coffee movement. There is a mix of old and relatively new names including Caravan and their Faema machines, who have quite a following, Workshop, Ozone, Climpson & Sons and other companies presenting their latest blends, and the Gentlemen Baristas team, who also offer cocktails and a Bourbon espresso that is attracting many intrigued visitors.
Other companies have also scheduled fun activities such as the pub quiz competition and coffee tasting lesson by Taylor St Baristas, or the demonstrations for making the perfect cup of Turkish coffee, led by Kahve Dünyasi, which include an introduction to coffee-cup fortunetelling, too.
The future of coffee: Origins and awareness
The common themes that the representatives are eager to highlight concern sourcing, and the importance of going back to the origins, where the relationship with farmers is established. At the other end of the spectrum, there is also an increased interest in the quality of the finished product. The aim is that a cup of coffee provide a fully immersive sensory experience rather than merely satisfy a need for caffeine. Speciality coffee seeks to engage the drinker on a visual and olfactory level as well as providing outstanding taste, and it also invites consumers to become more aware of their choices. By stressing how much care is taken in growing, sourcing, preparing and serving the coffee, the experts are encouraging costumers to take up an equally engaged attitude to coffee drinking, get informed, and accept nothing less than excellence. Educating consumers benefits the industry at large, as good quality can then be recognised and rewarded. In return, customers will be pleased to discover a wider range of possibilities which will expand their enjoyment of coffee immensely.
An unmissable event
The London Coffee Festival is instrumental in promoting such a vision and in providing a platform that allows direct contact between coffee makers, product sellers and consumers. It’s an unmissable event for anyone involved in the industry as it not only provides a snapshot of the current coffee scene but it is also the perfect breeding ground for new ideas to hatch as exchanges between those in-the-know take place. The festival allows a collective exchanging of notes and provides models against which standards can be measured, but it is also a cradle of inspiration for anyone contemplating business ideas and creative projects. In addition, it is of course a real treat for those who simply enjoy coffee and wish to explore their options as consumers. It makes for an exciting day out filled with interactive events, sampling, games and a vibrant atmosphere that is further enlivened by live music and DJs. A plethora of hands-on workshops and enlightening lectures will leave even the most uninformed of visitors with many valuable tips and some new piece of knowledge to ponder over.
Regardless of the level of interest or the extent of one’s passion for coffee, there is something to please, entertain, inform or inspire every single visitor.
Photos: Nick Bennett
The London Coffee Festival is at the Old Truman Brewery from 7th until 10th April 2016, for further information or to buy tickets visit here.