A whole festival for coffee you say!? Yes, such a thing does exist and it is right up my street!
Organised as part of UK Coffee Week (which is happening right now FYI), the event showcases the best coffee roasters and shops, food and drink products and even the best baristas in the business with the Coffee Masters. Not just for those within the trade however, LCF is also open to the public to learn more about good coffee, try out the latest products and take part in workshops and masterclasses.
I had the absolute pleasure of a VIP ticket to enjoy the festival this year at a trade day, so went along with some of my best barista pals. Goals for the day? Actually drink some coffee – believe it or not, I barely even sipped an espresso at last year’s event.
The VIP experience
VIP ticket holders had two day access to the festival, a free cocktail in the VIP lounge, food from the outdoor VIP area and a tote bag of goodies – including the London Coffee Guide 2017.
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee
I’m pretty fond of Union already, having worked with their coffee for the best part of two years. That, plus the friendly team that are keen to impart coffee knowledge, and a direct trade model of coffee farming.
As you may have guessed, Union roast their coffee by hand. This means smaller batches for consistent quality and great coffee. Attendees got a chance to watch the roasting process as founders Jeremy and Steven demonstrated, showing the transformation of the coffee bean across different stages. Sadly I don’t have a photo of this, as it’s always a busy demonstration!
Next we had the chance to prove our expertise with a cupping challenge. Four different filter coffees were provided, with the challenge of identifying each brew’s flavour profile (these were provided) by taste and smell. And would you believe all four of us managed to do it!
Small Batch Coffee Roasters
If you live in Brighton, I’ve no doubt you’ll already be very familiar with Small Batch. In a way, our city is so saturated with good coffee that we take it for granted a little. But a quick stop and a chat over at the Small Batch stand resulted in one of the best double espressos I have had for some time. I definitely tend to favour a sweeter espresso, and the Burundi did not disappoint with its sweet, and slightly acidic, berry notes.
A festival would not be complete without street food, and there was plenty on offer at LCF. My eye was immediately drawn to Arancini Brothers, and mind made up before I could so much as glance at anything else.
I’m a little bit obsessed with arancini, and these guys make it into an actual burger. So I went for the mushroom arancini burger with cheese and special mayo in an organic brioche bun. Dear lord was it good! Creamy and rich, yet not overwhelmingly so, with a beautifully soft bun. Two of my friends had an incredible looking bacon chilli cheeseburger, which I was desperate for a bite of – I can confirm that this was also delicious. I’m now set on scouting some of their stores for a full review.
… and lowlights
Last year, Starbucks actually had a really interesting presence at LCF as they debuted Teavana to the UK. This year… was not so great.
They’ve jumped on the cold brew wagon and were handing out whatever the hell these things were. A cold brew topped with lots of cold foam – an iced macchiato maybe? I don’t know, but either way it totally sucked. The coffee tasted awfully burnt and bitter, which is strange as it should retain a natural sweetness, and the foam did absolutely nothing for it. Needless to say it was binned.
Marks & Spencer
We were really surprised to spot a rather premium looking M&S stand churning out pourovers. I mean, you can show off with a V60 all you like, but I’ll be damned if I walk into an M&S Cafe and see this actually happening in store. That, and even with the pourover brew method, the filter still tasted like standard office coffee. Which is not good.
Samples samples samples!
As you can imagine, samples are pretty much handed out left, right and centre. I can’t tell you how many different filter coffees, iced and chai teas, hot chocolates and milk alternatives I tried on the day. The variety was quite helpful for the inevitable caffeine shakes, though. Even better, there are a fair amount to take home, too! I’m particularly excited to try out my Jaz & Jul’s single origin Brazil 70% hot chocolate, as I’m on the lookout for an amazing drinking chocolate.
Not just samples, there are plenty of food, drink and even beauty products to buy and take home. I visited Optiat and bought one of their rebranded coffee scrubs – I loved it so much after last year, I couldn’t wait to bump into them again.
UK Coffee Week and Project Waterfall
At the end of the day, it was all for a great cause. The London Coffee Festival and UK Coffee Week are supporters of Project Waterfall. Project Waterfall are a charity dedicated to bringing clean water to coffee growing communities. Coffee shops all over the UK will be supporting the cause throughout UK Coffee Week – you can find out which shops are getting involved and where your money will go here.
“Coffee is one of the largest and most powerful industries in the world. Over 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed globally each year, and every one of those cups is an opportunity to make a difference.” – UK Coffee Week
Did you go along to the London Coffee Festival this year? Would you consider going in future?