I find myself wiser this year, I come prepared. Tickets at the ready and a preemptive arrival early enough to beat the lengthy queues that swiftly find themselves weaving through the back streets of Brick Lane long before the gates fling open, I arrive in time for a pre Coffee Festival coffee at Nude before standing in line a mere 8 revelers from the front. Had the festival line up and map been released online before the day I’d even know exactly where to… what, pitch my tent?
Let’s not beat about the muddy field here. Whether primarily consumer or trade targeted, attending ‘Trade Sessions’ at these ‘festivals’, ‘shows’, nay, sales pitches are a necessary evil that comes with the job – cliquéy affairs, often irksome, at best there are those which on the rare occasion I attend with an amount of pleasure and the London Coffee Festival (admitted, through gritted teeth) I typically put in such bracket.
This year, however, time does not allow for a pleasurely perusal of the 100’s, 1000’s, hell it could be millions for all know, of caffeine and non-caffeinated peddlers that have set up camp to push on me their wares; my 2 hour window is short for such a behemoth and as I enter the labyrinth my 3 goals are clear; What’s New?; What’s trending from last years ‘What’s New?’; and, where the hell am I going?!
The grumble that now proceeds from the latter of these three goals we shall leave here in this foreword, but grumble I must. For if it’s not possible to establish before arriving where you’re going once inside the festival, it is of course vital to establish this pronto in order to achieve goals one and two in any amount of time that a trade session should be viable to achieve within a venue this size – The Old Truman Brewery is not exactly vast, unless you don’t know where anything is once inside than you may as well be Theseus without a ball of string.
As I approach the wisdom of a more middler age in my life I have generally found navigating such affairs can be established in a number of ways, most effectively through use of a simple map, guide or festival planner. But not today. Or not this morning at least. Despite having a whole year almost to the date since LCF16, the festival maps have not yet arrived on site and ‘should be here in half an hour’ (they weren’t), or so I’m told by the chirpy girl on reception who breaks me this news. Glad someone’s had their caffeine. And that is that. Thank you LCF17. I must now irksomely drag myself through your warren of pushy commercial traders until I randomly, or perhaps not, stumble upon your yet unbeknownst Minotaur. Cheers.
Beans. Machines. Softs and snacks.
Much the same as last year.
Coffee on tap
With our antipodean friends from down under and New Zealand successfully charting the rise of the third wave barista coffee, firmly pinning it on the coffee map of time, and the Dutch and Japanese cold brewing the stuff since the 1600’s, the New Yorkers pour coffee cold and freely out of taps more than any other city I know.
Whilst here in London we can’t lay claim to owning any particular coffee serve or movement, we do find ourselves in a rather unique and convenient position when it comes to fusing (pilfering) the progressive offerings from the coffee and non-coffee alternative scenes around the world and bringing them altogether into one giant melting pot of our own.
In New York, ask even the trendiest Brooklynite for a flat white and, bar the well travelled and super coffee savvy, you’ll likely be faced with a look of bemusement and confusion; the serve is still largely unknown in the states and is yet to cause so much as a storm in a teacup. Ask, however, what’s pouring from their taps and expect a typically New-York-snappy coffee offer ranging from straight up cold brew to Nitro (cold brew pouring much like Guinness) to cold brew already sweet and whitened. Get it out and get it quick.
Here in London, whilst the flat white needs no introduction, coffee on tap is also landing and though Shoreditch Grind had limited success last year with Nitro cold brew on tap popping up for a brief period of time before coming off again for reasons unknown, both Sandows and Frank & Earnest were in full force at LCF17 showcasing their Nitro coffee offerings; where Frank and Earnest are perhaps leading in terms of being ‘market-ready’ with their sharply branded taps and neatly stacked rows of pre-canned ready to drink nitro coffee to take home, Sandows by far lead in quality when it come to the serve. Expect to find coffee on tap popping up more permanently in many a trendy London café bar over the next year.
An alternative ending
When it comes to coffee alternatives, both New York and Melbourne are well seeded with options for the health conscious and caffeine sensitive. Here in London we are now too, and whilst 2016 saw the rise of the turmeric (and matcha) latté in he UK, this year continues to see it grow into a stalwart addition to coffee shop menus, no doubt assisted by the plethora of turmeric suppliers seen at LCF17 bringing in their pre-mix spices from Asia to the market – “just add milk or your favourite non-dairy alternative”
Kombucha – the non-alcoholic, fermented green or black tea with supposed probiotic health qualities that originated from North East Asia over 2000 years ago– is another coffee alternative that our American cousins can’t get enough of. Here in London, albeit early days, it’s another category which is slowly but surely gaining popularity and for good reason. As well as supposedly being ladened wih probiotic goodness that good aids the digestive system, for those of us partial to but perhaps wanting to avoid an alcoholic drink, the fermentation process gives the tea a familiarly satisfying depth of flavor and, whilst Kombucha is still some way behind the exposure seen by turmeric and matcha, with our own newly converted Veggie Pret down the road from the Gorgeous office now pouring sparkling Kombucha on tap, it’s fate as a drink for the trendy ‘healthier minded’ set is surely sealed.
Trying to find the exit
Don’t even go there.
By Barnaby Ingram