London Coffee Festival Review

by DannyUK

Attending the opening day today meant that I was able to get my London Coffee Festival review done early so you’ll know what to expect if you intend to visit.

Taking place in the old Truman Brewery a few minutes walk from London’s Liverpool Street station, you be mistaken for thinking that the festival has taken on a venue that’s too big for it. The truth is that the former Brewery, which backs onto Brick Lane and is a mere stones throw away from where Jack The Ripper made his name, is possibly not big enough. Set over the entire first floor, and some of the ground floor, the festival takes in the best of the UK coffee scene.

Welcome to the London Coffee Festival 2014!

London Coffee Festival review 2014 Welcome bags

Not only are there stands from the major players, Costa and Starbucks (though the 3rd largest chain, Caffè Nero, were conspicuous by their absence) there was also room for independent coffee manufacturers, as well as chocolate makers, pod suppliers, accessory distributors and everything in between.

I started with a trip to The Lab, a presentation space set aside in its own room. The first discussion was about coffee shops, how they’ve come on and how they will continue to grow. Put together by Allegra, the specialists in this field, it painted a very positive picture for the industry, and one of continued growth for the next few years.

If you thought your High Street was saturated already, the number of branded coffee shops is set to double in the next four years. Yes, you read that correctly. Double.

The Lab has presentations all day, and although I popped back for the Green and Black presentation “From bean to shop” (Yay, free chocolate!) I decided that I wanted to have a good look round rather than “sit watching PowerPoint displays all day” as one friend put it.

London Coffee Festival 2014 - The Lab

London Coffee Festival 2014 - The Lab April 5th

London Coffee Festival 2014 - The Lab - April 6th

I caught the back end of the Barista cup tasting championship, seeing three men whittled down to a solitary winner (a guy called Jason, but not idea where he was from) who will now jet off to somewhere Down Under to represent the UK in the world finals.

I then moved on to the Costa and Starbucks sections, which were both manned by staff who were polite, chatty and knowledgeable. There were so many stalls to see that in all honesty I had to decide which ones to spend time at above all others.

Although I found the demonstration of retail coffee machines interesting, it was never something I would be taking up, and as such my interactions were based primarily around retail shops, home-brewed gourmet coffee and the umpteen chocolate, cookie and sweet suppliers that were dotted around. Off the top of my head, I could have spent a lot more time with hot chocolate suppliers, tea manufacturers and accessory makers, though there really wasn’t enough hours in the day.

The strange thing is that for all of the stalls that were there, some were noticeable by their absence. I’ve already mentioned Caffè Nero, but the biggest up and coming chain, Harris & Hoole (backed by Tesco, no less) weren’t there, neither were the likes of franchise-based Esquires Coffee. The big home pod manufacturers weren’t represented either, with Nespresso, Dolce Gusto and Tassimo all absent. There was an independent pod supplier there though, it has to be mentioned.

London Coffee Festival 2014 - Matcha Green Tea

It’s not just about coffee - The Matcha Green Tea stand…

London Coffee Festival 2014 - Other tea stands

… and various other tea stands at The London Coffee Festival 2014

There’re a couple of things that can be done to improve the festival. Namely making more room for some of the stands, as when they had people talking to stall holders there was next to no room left for anyone to squeeze by. A little bit of air con wouldn’t go amiss either, as even in just a T-shirt, I was swelteringly hot in what was rather tepid April weather outside.

London Coffee Festival 2014 - Ozone Coffee

Ozone coffee

For that reason, the Espresso Martini Bar was a welcome stop, and though a pint of lager was truly tipping the scales at London prices of £5, it didn’t stop a queue of people (mainly men to be honest) starting early.

The rest of the day was spent hopping from stall to stall, chatting to coffee makers, sweet talking chocolate distributors and generally trying to earn my train fare back in free products (I failed).

London Coffee Festival 2014 - Green and Black chocolate

The festival is open for three more days and if you’re another to do with coffee, from the Managing Director of a big chain, through being an independent bean supplier to just being a lover of coffee like myself, then this show is for you.

Catch it Friday, Saturday or Sunday 4th-6th April, caffeine lovers will be able to spend all day there, and if you find yourself getting bored, you’re a stones throw away from a Jack the Ripper tour.

Ticket prices start from £11.50 for adults if booked online, or £14.50 on the door.
The official London Coffee Festival website is here.

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